The Sunday school is a tool, and I love tools! Hand tools, gardening tools, mechanic’s tools, and especially power tools. They’re great—if you know how to use them. The Sunday school has the potential for being one of our church’s greatest tools as we fulfill the Great Commission. However, in many churches, the Sunday school merely occupies space on the ministry-shelf. It’s like a valuable tool sitting in the garage of a homeowner who has no idea how to operate it. Here are five functions of the Sunday school:
1. Reach People of a Specific Age Group with the Gospel
Since the Sunday school is arranged by age group, each class receives the responsibility for reaching those in their community from their group. Single adults, young couples, teenagers, senior citizens, and elementary students all know others they can invite to church.
2. Connect People in Relationships
Studies show that after someone visits a church, they are six times more likely to stay long term if they connect with a smaller group within the church. This should not surprise us, since sharpening relationships were the norm in the first century church (Acts 2:42–46). The connection process starts with enrollment and grows stronger when we spend time caring for people’s needs.
3. Teach Bible Truth for Life Application
The stage-of-life divisions allow teachers to apply the lessons more narrowly than in a larger group, meeting the unique needs of each group. The smaller setting also provides an opportunity to naturally involve students in the lesson, using interactive methods.
4. Lead People toward Maturity through Discipleship and Church Life
The Christian life is a journey of growth (Ephesians 4:13-17), and Sunday school leaders point the way forward. I urge you to partner new Christians with mature Christians for one-on-one discipleship. In addition, teachers should encourage class members to participate in revivals, retreats, and other special church services where their faith will be strengthened.
5. Develop New Leaders by Providing Opportunities for Service
Each Sunday school class has been called upon to meet each other’s needs and bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). More specifically, the class leader should divide the work of the class among assistants who will help with tasks such as greeting, phone calls, activity planning, discipleship, refreshments, follow-up visits, and class record keeping (1 Peter 4:10).