Helping Deacons Understand Sunday School Effectiveness
Sunday School is such an integral part of the local church, deacons sometimes take it for granted. When that happens, there is danger that Sunday School effectiveness might not be all it should be. But what constitutes an effective, healthy Sunday School program?
TRADITIONAL MEASURES OF SUNDAY SCHOOL EFFECTIVENESS
Most deacons think of Sunday School effectiveness in terms of growth: how many new members are enrolled and how many new classes are started. Growth is an important dimension of Sunday School effectiveness, but there is more than one kind of growth. Sunday School effectiveness must also be measured by the spiritual growth of members.
Sunday School effectiveness often is gauged by regularity of member attendance; but what about regularity of member prayer, Bible study, and family devotions?
Fellowship and rapport among class members is another way many deacons measure Sunday School success. But what about fellowship with nonbelievers? How often are Sunday School leaders and members held accountable for their commitment to evangelistic fellowship with friends, neighbors, and relatives?
A key Sunday School responsibility for many deacons is follow-up of church visitors and new members--for their needs for personal discipling or counseling. These aspects easily are overlooked.
THE SPIRITUAL HEALTH OF SUNDAY SCHOOL
Effective Sunday Schools produce spiritually healthy Christians who help build up the body of the local church. Classes can be big, active, and well-attended; but unless they boost the spiritual vitality of the church, they are not effective. The "bottom line" for deacons is: what spiritual fruit is produced in Sunday School? Are members more spiritually mature and alive as the result of attending Sunday School?
Deacons should be aware that Sunday School undergirds the local church in four foundational ways:
Deacons should view Sunday School as a living laboratory for Christian growth and service. Without an effective Sunday School ministry, the church would lose its dynamic launching pad for growth, both numerical and spiritual!
WEEDS IN THE
An unfortunate fact of life is that wherever something starts to grow, weeds begin to crop up. Weeds crop up in Sunday School classes, too, choking off spiritual growth and vitality. Deacons need to be aware of troublesome needs in the Sunday School patch:
WATCH OUT OF SUNDAY SCHOOL POLITICS
Politics in Sunday School? The question may sound cynical; but it is a fact of life in many Sunday School programs. Sunday School politics take place when people (unconsciously) make selfish demands on their classes. They want to be entertained, catered to, or put in the spotlight. Political Sunday School members are there to be served and to have their own needs met. This becomes apparent in subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle!) ways to teachers, directors, and staff, as members vote with their feet, their money, and their willingness or unwillingness to participate in class.
In our instant-gratification, consumer-oriented society, some people think of the church as just another organization to serve them--along with the fast-food outlet, cable television, and microwave oven! Politically motivated members give themselves away with such familiar refrains as:
"Can't we get
a more interesting teacher? So and so sure is boring!"
"Must we study those books out of the Old Testament?"
"When's our next Sunday School party? Let's plan it out during class time today!"
"Why does the singles class always get to meet in the best room? When will our class get its turn?"
Admittedly, we all have our needs and we want Sunday School to be an enjoyable and stimulating hour. Sunday School, however, is not a consumer product to be consumed for self-gratification. It is a place for us to grow in spiritual fellowship and service--a place for us to also help meet the needs of others. Let's explore this sharing and caring aspect of Sunday School.
WHOLE MEASURES OF SUNDAY SCHOOL EFFECTIVENESS
Healthy Sunday Schools are spiritually whole; they achieve a dynamic balance between several contrasting, but complementary, elements. Deacons can evaluate overall Sunday School effectiveness by how well these elements are balanced. Let's look at the most important of these in the Sunday School "equation":
There is no magic formula for effective Sunday Schools. No one structure, programming philosophy, or curriculum approach is best. It all comes down to the basics: fellowship, discipleship, inreach, outreach, unity, diversity, serving and being served. Balance is both the challenge and the blessing.
Deacons should rededicate themselves to Sunday School effectiveness. Surely God cannot call leaders in the local church to a more important or fulfilling task!