“Going Back to School” part 1 by Joshua Fuentes. You can check out his website at www.millennialchristianity.com.
I am a part of group on Facebook called Youth Pastors Only. A few months ago, the topic of Sunday school was raised, and I noticed it seemed like a lot more student ministers have a negative view of Sunday school than a positive one. I find this unfortunate because I am a huge Sunday school advocator; however, I wasn’t always this way. In fact, if you would have met me a year ago, I would have been in the “why won’t you just die already” camp! So these are my thoughts I had to process through on a question, I believe, plagues many youth ministers: what am I supposed to do with Sunday school?
Let’s be honest, Sunday school is like the weird family member who shows up to the annual family reunion. We let them stay because they’re family, but we try not to interact with them too much because we’re afraid of what they’ll say to embarrass us. For the sake of the analogy, all ministries usually have five parents: worship, fellowship, discipleship, evangelism, and missions. Under each parent is a child: small groups go under discipleship, Sunday morning and midweek services go under worship, the annual food fight goes under fellowship, outreach events go under evangelism, and mission projects go under missions (duh). And of course, the kids will sometimes hangout with each other at a different parent’s house (crossover events).
If you haven’t noticed, Sunday school has been left out. So where would you put it? Who’s its parent: discipleship, evangelism, worship, missions, or fellowship? What I have learned is Sunday school was created for the purpose of evangelism. Sunday school was designed for believers to fellowship, learn about the bible, do missions together, and provide opportunities to invite friends, who don’t know Christ, to come to church on Sunday mornings.
When I learned about his, I was shocked, and I began to look at Sunday school in a brand new light. Furthermore, I started to see Sunday school for what it really was… a small group, which forced me to rethink my thoughts on how I’m using small groups in my student ministry. I finally had to ask myself this question: if Sunday school is the first small group the modern American church had, and its purpose is for evangelism, what if we’ve missed the whole point of small groups all together? And instead of using our small group time for discipleship, we should really be using it for evangelism.
So what would cause this to happen? How could we have lost the meaning of Sunday school, and the entire point of small groups for that matter? And of course, with any hard question, there’s always a hard truth that follows it. In my opinion, the cause for all the confusion is because we made discipleship a parent in our ministries, when we should really view discipleship as the family reunion that brings all the parents together. We became so broken over how we were only producing Christians with shallow faith; we thought the best way to fix this problem was to create another bible study time. And the sad truth is, even with our “discipleship times” we are still seeing our students leave our churches, never to step foot into one again.
In the end, the core reason why Sunday school has become the awkward child in our ministries is because we made a category that was never needed. Furthermore, we need to start considering: fellowship, missions, evangelism, and worship as our discipleship times. With all that said, I think we need to be very honest with ourselves, and realize just because our students are involved in a small group discipleship time, doesn’t mean they’re anymore further along in their faith, than the student who only shows up to Sunday school. Furthermore, we need to be willing to put all our efforts into each components of our ministries, because it takes all of them working together to make a complete disciple.