More than 40 years ago, Polla and I attended Ridgecrest Baptist Conference Center in North Carolina. I was a young pastor with a deep desire to reach people with the Gospel and grow the church. During that week at Ridgecrest, my mind and heart were captured by the strategy of Sunday School. It was clear that this tool called Sunday School was designed to bring people into a setting where the Good News could be shared. I walked away from that event convinced that if I could organize my church’s Sunday School and train leaders, we could reach people for Christ.
Sunday School is designed to connect people to Jesus. While Sunday School teaches the Bible and provides opportunities for relationships with others, its focus must be on connecting people to the Savior. Indeed, when a Sunday School gets satisfied to have “us four and no more,” we cease to fulfill the primary mission of Sunday School and the church.
It is easy to be complacent as a Sunday School leader and teacher, and it doesn’t take much to become a closed group. I remember a ladies’ class in one church in which there were four fine, godly ladies in the class, and each had their place in their padded chairs around the table. I kept taking ladies into the class and before long, they would return to me wanting to know if there were other classes they could attend. Were these four godly ladies unkind? No, they just had close relationships and weren’t interested in others becoming a part of the group.
Somehow, we must move evangelism to the center of our Sunday School groups. We must never be satisfied that we have our group present; we must always be thinking about the person who is not present. One suggestion I have is that teachers place an empty chair in the room and leave it empty just to emphasize there is always room for one more.
Sunday School needs to focus on the Gospel. One of the ways to do this is to have your class members share their testimonies. Why not ask members of your class, one member each month, to share a personal testimony of how they came to Christ? Once you have heard from all members of the class, start over and ask one person each month to share what Christ is doing in their life presently. Testimonies are powerful tools in the hand of the Holy Spirit to stir people to repentance and faith and are also encouraging to others. Testimonies keep lostness on the heart of the class.
Many classes take time to pray for a myriad of prayer needs each week. Most of these prayer needs regard health and life situations—all deserving of prayer. What if you took time every few weeks to concentrate your class prayer time on lost people? Pray by name for people who need Christ. God will answer your prayers, and your class will begin to see children, husbands and wives, parents and friends come to Christ. It will light a fire in your class members’ hearts.
I have another idea. What if all preschool and children’s workers would take time to visit the parents of the children on their rolls? Parents are very welcoming of people who care about their children and invest in them. Here is a grand opportunity for you to share the Good News and impact the lives of your class members through their parents. Or, what if youth workers dedicated themselves to sharing Christ personally with every class member and then sought opportunities to share with their parents?
Connecting people to Jesus is not hard, but it does require prayer and intentionality. Sunday School minus evangelism will become inward and comfortable. However, when Sunday School is focused on connecting people to the Gospel and Jesus, new life is breathed into the organization and the church. The birth of spiritual babies brings joy and new life.
Is your Sunday School connecting people to Jesus? If not, it is time for an overhaul!