Dear pastors who faithfully equip the saints for the work of the ministry,
When I first began teaching Sunday school 30+ years ago, our classes met year-round and class time was typically an hour and a half in duration. Needless to say, it was quite a challenge to retain teachers year after year, and the summer months proved particularly difficult. Then, our church decided to take the summer off from the regular Sunday routine. It was a wonderful time of rest and refreshment for our volunteers. We came back eager and energized in the fall. Hence, a 40-week Sunday school year served to benefit both teachers and students.
But now I have seen a new trend—one that is very concerning. In a growing number of solid Bible churches, Sunday school for children is being minimized and marginalized. How so? Children’s Sunday school is meeting for fewer and fewer weeks during the year, and the duration of class time is shrinking. (This was happening even before COVID-19). Consider that the children I taught three decades ago had about 60 hours of formal Bible instruction in Sunday school every year (a typical class was 90 minutes in length). Now, their children might have only about 22 hours—fewer weeks and shorter class time. Furthermore, the actual time spent in biblical instruction is shrinking within those hours as time is given to other activities like crafts, games, observing birthdays, etc. Will this trend serve to help or hinder us in fulfilling this mission?
…from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:15-17)
That is not to say that Sunday school is the end-all for the comprehensive discipleship of children. Their participation in the weekly corporate worship service is essential for their spiritual formation along with regular biblical instruction in the home. But the former does not necessarily equate with teaching the doctrines of the Christian faith in a precept-by-precept, age-appropriate manner. And the latter is often neglected in many homes. Sunday school, when undergirded by a glorious vision for the faith of the next generation and given a proper time and place within the wider ministries of the church, is a sacred endeavor. The shepherds have faithfully equipped thousands of us to proclaim to the next generation the “glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done… so that they should set their hope in God” (Psalm 78:4b, 7a).
So dear brothers in the Lord who carefully shepherd us, please prayerfully consider both the quantity and quality of your children’s Sunday school. Without adequate quantity (time), we will be hard pressed to offer the kind of quality needed to teach the next generations the most important truths in the universe!