Name two schools that never have graduates: a school of fish and Sunday School.
Two sad things here – number one, it’s true and number two, at least the school of fish GOES SOMEWHERE. What was once a great educational tradition have become a devotional social club, often heavier on the social than the devotional.
This is wrong.
This is NOT how things should be.
This CAN BE CHANGED.
For waaaay past too long we’ve treated Sunday school as a thing we do that we aren’t sure why we do and will do any old way available. We allow classes to study the same quarterly for DECADES and wonder why they never seem to progress. If the body is still warm and won’t say no it becomes the class teacher – never mind that ‘read the Bible’ is still number 17 on the person’s bucket list – and they are still on number 2!
There’s no reason to settle for sub-par instructors and shoddy curricula – welcome to the age of the Internet. There is a ton of free stuff that surpasses some of the curricula presently in use in many churches across the land. But why settle for ‘better than milk sop’? We spend real money on curricula that has been failing our people for generations – why not put that money into video/streaming with excellent instructors and great material?
A class administrator can handle the particulars – and many ‘instructors’ are little more than administrative aides to their classes now. Now instead of trying to figure out how to make Psalm 124 relative to modern life because the quarterly says that’s what the class is studying for the week, the person only needs to make sure the TV is hooked up properly and everyone has a good seat – relief which many, if not most, of the press-ganged Sunday School teachers of today will welcome.
BUT – if you are paying attention, you’ve already caught the problem – how do you sort good curricula from bad?
Three strategies, from worst to best:
- Do your homework and form a committee. Make sure the Pastor is on it – he’s probably the only one who has ever taken a for credit theology course. Advantage: Least expensive option. Disadvantage: Requires a LOT of time to do well
- Go to your denomination or a seminary for recommendations. Advantage: They are experts and the curricula will match your doctrinal creeds. Disadvantage: They are experts who don’t know your congregation and the curricula may well exceed your congregation’s initial capabilities.
- Hire a Christian Education Director. Advantage: they will be onsite, have a chance to learn your congregation and design curricula and goals around your congregation’s abilities and needs. Disadvantage: Your church may not be able to afford a new, full time staffer.
Number three is the best bet – and the obvious solution to ‘we can’t afford to hire anyone’ is to contract the work. Instead of hiring a full time staff member initially, find someone who will take the initial curricula design on contract.
Number two will work – but you will need to work extra hard to sort through the recommendations for a good fit to your congregation and its needs.
Number one almost certainly will NOT work. Think about it, if this worked, how did you end up studying out of quarterlies in the first place? If you are strongly motivated and willing both to really work hard and to fight for your principles, you have a shot of making this work after all. But getting committees to actually accomplish anything is a skill set all its own – managing it with both your sanity and your relationships still intact requires nigh on miraculous intervention.
Last point – which should go without saying but I’m gonna say it – if God be for you, who can be against you? The project of re-directing your church’s education program – or re-creating it – had better be His plan and bathed in constant prayer. Otherwise, stick to the quarterlies – they do less damage.
But are quarterlies really the best God has for your church?