We Must Rethink Sunday School
Reform Sunday School as an Education Service to Your Community
It may be strange to see Sunday school on this list of things we must change for our churches, but we should carefully reexamine it. Do you know the original mission of this Sunday program? It was to teach poor children how to read. And the church used the most accessible book to them, the Bible. It was a pleasant side effect that in teaching children to read, this Sunday educational program also taught them about God through the Bible.
By the time public schools came into existence and took over this job of teaching children how to read, Sunday school had become entrenched in churches. Instead of realizing they had accomplished their objective and shutting it down, they shifted its focus to teach the church’s children about God. It didn’t matter that this was the parent’s responsibility (Deuteronomy 6:6–7, Proverbs 22:6, and Ephesians 6:4). Though parents can supplement their efforts with other resources, let’s not depend on Sunday school to be one of them.
English as a Second Language
We could use this as justification for shutting down our Sunday schools, but a better approach might be to reform this practice from the internal program that it has become back into a service effort to help those in our community, just as was the original intent. One example that would apply in many areas in the United States is to look at teaching English as a second language (ESL). Though many ESL programs already exist, they don’t reach everyone. Beyond ESL classes, meeting any unmet community educational need would fit nicely. Regardless, the church should reform their Sunday school practice to address needs in their community.
Parents should resume their biblical role to tell their children about Jesus. They are the primary spiritual educators of their children. This removes the need for Sunday school, which we can re-envision as a program to help those in our community.
Read the next post in this series about things we must change in our discussion about Christian unity and loving others.
Read more about this in Peter’s upcoming book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available wherever books are sold, December 13.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical spirituality to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.