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Steve Parr: Does Sunday School Still Work?

"IT DOESN'T WORK!" I HAVE heard this statement often in my ministry. A leader is doing all that he or she can, or at least all that he or she knows how to do, and yet the Sunday school is struggling. A Sunday school teacher works hard at preparing and delivering a lesson and wants the class to grow; however, no guests are ever present. I have had the privilege of leading Sunday schools to grow and helping others for more than twenty years. Sometimes a pastor or Sunday school teacher will speak with me following a presentation to explain why the tools I have just shared with him or her will not work. However, I can point to not only dozens but also hundreds of churches that have growing Sunday school ministries. Sometimes the growing Sunday school is in the same community as the person who has expressed to me that it does not work.

I once read an interesting metaphor describing church strategies. It noted that Dakota tribal wisdom says when you discover you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount. However, churches often find themselves trying other strategies. Consider the following ten ways that churches and organizations deal with the problem of riding dead horses:

10. Provide additional funding to increase the dead horse's performance.

9. Provide training to teach people how to ride dead horses.

8. Appoint a committee to revive the dead horse.

7. Change the person riding the dead horse.

6. Say things like: "This is the way we always have ridden this horse:"

5. Appoint a committee to study the dead horse.

4. Harness several dead horses together for increased speed.

3. Pass a resolution declaring: "The horse is not dead:"

2. Arrange to visit other sites to see how they ride dead horses.

1. Buy a stronger whip.

Is the expectation of growing a Sunday school today the equivalent of riding a dead horse? If it does not work, then why is it working in so many churches? Dr. Thom Rainer, while leading a team of researchers for the Billy Graham School of Evangelism, conducted a study of North America's most effective evangelistic churches. The results revealed that a Sunday school strategy, or its equivalent by another name, was a common component of the churches' plan for reaching the community. He concluded: "If any program-based methodology proved to be a dynamic tool for these evangelistic churches, it was the Sunday school program. Most of the leaders of these churches were amused at the prophesies of the decline or death of Sunday school. When we asked them why such predictions were being made, they had a unified response: The problem with nonevangelistic Sunday schools is not the program itself; the problem is failure to use the program as an intentional evangelistic tool"'

Steve Parr. Sunday School That Really Works: A Strategy for Connecting Congregations and Communities (pp. 15-16). Kindle Edition.

Steve Parr is speaking as part of the All Star Sunday School Training Team. To attend an event, or host an event. see http://allstarsundayschool.com/