A rich and abundant life is built on relationships. God has created us for community. People, saved and unsaved, desire and thrive in an environment where interaction with others is mutually advantageous.
When one becomes a follower of Christ, he gains not only a relationship with the Savior, but also a relationship with His body, the church. The New Testament word for this body life relationship is “koinonia.” It carries the idea of fellowship, common bond and inter-relationship. Immediately after the day of Pentecost, Acts 2:42 describes the new believers as living in koinonia with one another. The picture is of people in a deep connection with one another that is demonstrated by living life together.
Sunday School is the primary strategy of the church to connect people to His community. Through Sunday School, we are part of a smaller, more intimate group that knows us by name and shares life with us. Even in the largest churches, we can develop close relationships with others through Sunday School small groups.
This function of the Sunday School is central to living the Christian life. We are saved to live in community with others. The body is designed for us to share in the deepest experiences of life. Paul speaks of the body often. He makes no small matter of this shared life. The body is designed so that when we weep, there are others to weep with us. When we rejoice, we are not to rejoice alone, but to do so with the rest of the body, singing harmony.
My observation across the years has been that this connectedness to one another is the genius of Sunday School. As a member of a Sunday School class, you never face life alone. When a child is born, it is your Sunday School department and class that visits the hospital to rejoice with you. It is the class that brings meals to the home. When tragedy strikes, it is the Sunday School class that shows up at the home to sit with you. Your class is the group that prays for you in times of crisis and distress or when you need direction from the Lord. When a child wins an award and you need a place to express your pride, there is someone who gladly listens.
In a real sense, Sunday School leaders become associate pastors. They serve as pastors of their small group. They know their flock. They know their needs and hurts. Successful leaders invest their lives in ministering to the flock of God placed in their charge. A Sunday School leader extends the ministry of the pastor and staff. A wise pastor understands this truth and serves as the leader of Sunday School. He knows these leaders are vital to his ability to meet the needs of the flock.
One of the secrets of the small group is accountability. A person can attend worship, and few people in the church know they exist. They can miss for weeks, and no one will contact them or encourage them. Sunday School is organized with accountability in mind. In a small group, the others know when you miss and they check on you.
Sunday School departments and classes that soar are those that make much of relationships. We all need a place where everybody knows your name, a place where somebody cares whether you live or die, a place where someone cares enough to keep you accountable. We all need connection to the community of Faith. That place is Sunday School.