“Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”
Like the Methodist Church, the Sunday school movement has its roots in the 18th Century Anglican Church of Great Britain. Originally the intent was to provide basic education for children who could not afford to attend costly private schools. As public education became more available, Sunday schools began to focus more exclusively on religious instruction. Many denominations rallied around the concept and by the mid-19th century, Sunday school attendance was a near universal aspect of childhood. Even parents who did not regularly attend church themselves generally insisted that their children go to Sunday school. Many parents believed that regular Sunday school attendance was an essential part of childhood. As children went to Sunday school, many adults also attended and many churches saw gains in adult Bible study groups. “The trend for permissive parenting in the 1960s, however, meant that a widespread culture of insisting that children go to Sunday school whether they want to or not (especially when the parents were not themselves going to church) was abandoned.” [Timothy Larsen, Wheaton College] Attendance by adults in Sunday school classes declined exponentially as children dropped out.
Some might read this and sigh, “Oh those were the good old days.” Others might read this and hear a challenge. The concept of religious education is still valid and essential to our growth as Christians. Whether you are a child, a teen, a young adult, or a mature adult – religious education is vital to your walk with Jesus. The question for us is: What does religious education look like today?
Our church has a vital and growing Sunday school program and I would never suggest that we should do anything to jeopardize that. Our congregation is served well through the many classes we offer on Sunday morning. However, there is a large portion of our congregation who is not being served in the traditional way. How can we do better? What might we offer that would not only provide education, but would also invite and encourage new people to come to our church because of something new that we’re doing?
I’m sure that each of us knows someone who is not connected to any Sunday school group or Bible study. What if we were to reach out to these people and begin to develop new study groups that would meet in private homes at a time other than Sunday morning? What if these groups were to include new people who do not now attend church here or anywhere? What if these small groups became a whole new way to teach and fellowship together? What if these groups helped more and more people develop a closer relationship with God? What if our church was able to reach more people and younger people and make and nurture disciples for Jesus Christ? What if…?
This is certainly not a new idea and it is not my idea. This idea is working in churches all over America right now. Sunday morning I talked about meeting God on holy ground and then setting out on whatever mission God sets before you. At lunch after church my fortune cookie said, “Now is the time to try something new.” While I hold no stock in fortune cookies, I do believe that God has placed a challenge before our church. We are called to make disciples and grow; we are called to be the church in Sand Springs; we are called to move forward, never backward. Maybe God is leading you to lead a group, participate in a group, or simply offer your home as a space to meet. Please consider hosting a group like this in your home. Maybe this is the miracle mission that God has in mind for you as you step onto Holy Ground. Every tool you need to make this work is available to you from the church; you just need to say “yes”. Oswald Chambers says: “We have to take ourselves by the scruff of the neck and shake ourselves, and we will find that we can do what we said we could not. The curse with most of us is that we won’t.”
Say yes to Jesus this week,