Our guest writer today is Bret Robbe. Bret is a former pastor and is currently the Director of Leadership and Adult Publishing for LifeWay Christian Resources. Bret is passionate about Bible study curriculum that is biblical and that also teaches the whole story of God’s mission to redeem humanity. I think that you will be challenged as Bret addresses in a straightforward manner the issue of having an overall game plan for your class’s Bible study.
Think about the last time you visited a bookstore in search of a specific book. Maybe you needed it for your work, or to help you improve some aspect about yourself, or perhaps you wanted it for purely recreational reading. What would you have thought if you located a copy, took it to the checkout counter, and watched in horror as the sales clerk placed it on a cutting bar and cut it right down the middle? You’d want the whole book, not half of it! The answers you sought and the guidance you needed may very well have been contained in the half that was thrown away by the clerk. You’d want to be able to read the entire book, draw conclusions, and use the information to benefit you. You’d demand to have the whole book!
What does that kind of scenario have to do with Sunday School? Actually, quite a bit. In fact, it may be one of the more important topics that churches are facing today in regard to their Sunday School ministries. With increasing frequency, more and more teachers and class members are determining the curriculum they want to study, and in some churches the “sticky church” approach is being mandated by pastors to the Sunday School classes (the “sticky church” strategy is to discuss the pastor’s sermon in a small group setting). While these approaches to curriculum may sound very democratic, empowering, or cost-effective, there are serious consequences to consider when curriculum is not used that provides for a strategic, balanced study of “the whole counsel of God.” Sunday School classes may be throwing out significant portions of the Bible as they select curriculum that does not provide for a balanced study of the entire Bible. Three significant consequences are:
1) Imbalance – Sunday School classes don’t get “the whole counsel of God” if there is no balanced approach to studying Scripture from both the Old and New Testaments. If you aren’t going to study the entire Bible over a period of time, adult learners will find themselves learning only a small percentage of the Bible. Remember the bookstore illustration? No one would be satisfied with half a book, but in some Sunday School classes, that’s exactly what they’re getting…half The Book. They aren’t receiving instruction in the entire Bible because a poor curriculum strategy was adopted at one point in time.
2) Pet Topics – Prophecy, the book of Revelation, or a particular doctrine…each one is a potential focal point for a Sunday School class over an extended period of time if it is a topic that either the teacher or the learners feel very passionately about. I recently heard one Minister of Education ask the question, “Who am I to tell him he can’t teach the topic he wants to?” in regard to a Sunday School teacher who said that God told him to study a particular pet topic in the classroom. Pet topics increase the likelihood of imbalance in the study of God’s Word. If you turn a child loose in a buffet line, they’ll eat all the macaroni and cheese, pizza, and cookies you’d let them eat. If you turn a teacher loose to study whatever topic is near and dear to his heart, the class members will have a similar buffet experience…they’ll be “eating” the same topics over and over again, and we all know that will produce spiritually imbalanced, unhealthy believers.
3) No Strategy – Perhaps this is the most glaring weakness of all when curriculum is chosen that doesn’t provide a balanced approach to studying God’s Word. Sunday Schools need curriculum that is strategic in developing adult learners who are spiritually balanced and being transformed by the power of God’s Word. The LifeSpan strategy addresses this head-on.
LifeSpan is a promise backed by a plan. LifeSpan, a strategy developed by LifeWay Christian Resources, provides a strategic, coordinated approach to study God’s Word “from birth to heaven” (that’s the promise: balanced study of God’s Word over the lifetime of the individual). Preschoolers are taught 8 foundational biblical concepts, and additional biblical concepts are added during the childhood years, student years, and finalize with 15 biblical concepts studied by adults of all ages. Special care is given to the development of each curriculum line’s scope and sequence so that learners experience a balanced diet of Old Testament and New Testament studies.
A final benefit of LifeWay’s adult curriculum is that it incorporates four key spiritual outcomes called Connect-Grow-Serve-Go. While adults are receiving balanced instruction from the entire Bible, they are also challenged to live balanced spiritual lives as they:
1. Connect – relationally with God and others
2. Grow – in their understanding and application of Scripture
3. Serve – in leadership positions in their class and church
4. Go – into the community to serve others and share Christ
The Connect-Grow-Serve-Go elements are built into LifeWay’s adult lessons. For instance, in the Bible Studies for Life series, entire lessons are identified as either Connect, Grow, Serve, or Go lessons. In Explore the Bible, CGSG icons call attention to the ways adult learners can apply Scriptural principles to everyday life.
Without balance you and I cannot walk. Without balance tires become dangerous and create mechanical problems for our cars. Without balance no athlete can perform at his or her peak. Without balance your Sunday School curriculum will produce results that will be far from ideal. Consider your curriculum strategy and whether or not it is producing spiritually balanced believers. If you come to the conclusion that you may not be providing the very best in balanced curriculum, consider one of LifeWay’s adult series like Explore the Bible or Bible Studies for Life. You’ll make it possible for adult learners to begin to regain their balance as they understand and apply principles from the whole counsel of God, and you’ll give them the opportunity to have spiritually balanced lives as they Connect, Grow, Serve, and Go.