This is day 8 of 31 Days of Missionary Sunday School
A great friend and fellow minister of education by the name of Joe Sherrer said, “The job of every Sunday School and Small Group Leader is to teach “TOM”, reach “TOM”, and minister to “TOM”.” The goal is to focus on helping Tom’s (Courtney’s, Brandon’s, etc.) come to know Christ, follow him in believer’s baptism, and become that fully devoted follower of Christ.
David Francis declared that “The Sunday School movement has always had two streams, the church school and the missionary school.” Growing up in the sixties, my mom taught a young adult Sunday School class each Sunday and often taught a weekly Bible Study at the community center in a local housing project. Classes were also held at the local nursing homes and in the city’s prison. My home church had both/and mentality. They had a church school and a missionary school.
Can we rediscover this both/and approach? In today’s rush to change, many church leaders are choosing to forget the past and are rushing toward the cliff of the cutting edge. At a conference, George Bullard began his Saturday address with the concept that what is needed is not “either-or” thinking but “both-and” thinking. A little rationality, such as “both-and” thinking, could go a long way in reaching the “TOM’s” in our community who don’t know Christ.
Every church regardless of type must have a way to move people from the larger environment or worship service into a small group where relationships are built. The Sunday School organization at its best is simply a group of small groups called classes where teaching, outreach and ministry take place. Both/And thinking recognizes that Missionary Sunday Schools and Bible studies are an extension of your church’s Sunday School ministry, not a replacement for the church Sunday School or Small Group Ministry.
In 1945, J.N. Barnette, wrote in The Place of the Sunday School in Evangelism, “The home base is necessary and the stronger the home church is, the further the work of that church can be extended. However, it is not necessary for a church to confine its work to one organization or to one building. A church can have a number of Branch stations. Many of the present churches can multiply their evangelistic opportunities by establishing and maintaining one or more additional Sunday Schools.” Barnette was practicing Both/And thinking.
Both/And Thinking is needed today, because the truth is most of our adult classes in our existing Church Schools are absent the one essential ingredient to evangelism: lost people. In other words, if lost people are hesitant to come to Sunday School at the church, let’s practice both/and thinking and plant a missionary school to reach, teach, and minister to the “TOM’s” where they live and work.
The apostle Paul exhibited both/and thinking when he wrote, “I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some. Now I do all this because of the gospel, so I may become a partner in its benefits. (I Cor. 9:22-23).”
Remember: The job of every Sunday School and Small Group Leader whether they teach in church school or a missionary school is to teach “TOM”, reach “TOM”, and minister to “TOM”.
Dr. Mark Miller, State Sunday School Director, Tennessee Baptist Convention