Failure will certainly come by neglecting the things listed earlier under “Fundamentals.” This would be failure by omission. Failure also occurs by commission; that is, we practice things that are unhealthy for our Sunday School.
1. Closed Curriculum
Closed curriculum is any literature that builds from one week to the next in such a way that would be inappropriate for new people to join a few weeks into it. You cannot practice open enrollment with closed curriculum. The number one task of Sunday School is to reach people, so why would you use a curriculum that discourages people from joining? We want Sunday School to be an “open door” ministry that is “open” each week. There are many great curricula that should be used in closed discipleship groups but not for Sunday School. The only exception would be to start a new class around a subject matter that would draw people not currently in Sunday School. Use this curriculum for one quarter only and then convert the class to an ongoing class using open curriculum and provide them a list of prospects to pursue. Any ongoing Sunday School class that is closed to new people is using rabbit ears for reception instead of high-definition technology.
2. Master Teachers
Some churches have decided that it would be best to take a handful of their best teachers and put everyone into their classes. The rationale is that people would receive the very best teaching available. On the surface this looks good, but this approach has many flaws.
• This approach eventually forces all classes to be large. Some people do not like large classes, and this would discourage them from getting involved.
• This approach diminishes the ability to incorporate different teaching methods. The larger the class the more a teacher is forced to lecture. Many people are kinetic learners and thrive on personal activity.
• This approach does not develop more teachers. If only the best teach, then no one else is afforded the opportunity to grow as a teacher. Even the great teachers needed time to develop. If a master teacher system were practiced, eventually you would run out of teachers.
• This approach reduces the number of teachers, which reduces the number of classes, which reduces the size of your workforce. There is a trickle-down effect. Limiting the number of teachers ultimately reduces the number of outreach leaders, care group leaders, etc. You take an army and whittle it down to a squad.
• This approach hinders relationship building—the larger the group, the more lecture; the less interaction, the less relationship building.
• This approach is detrimental to people opening up and sharing hurts and needs. The smaller the group, the more open and transparent people are. Conversely, a large class generates people who are less vulnerable. Imagine this scenario: A couple just found out that their teenage son has been smoking marijuana. They are devastated; they are hurting like never before. They come to Sunday School needing friends to put their arms around them, love on them, and pray for them. When the time comes to share prayer requests, they are uncomfortable exposing this to such a large class. So they keep it to themselves. They leave Sunday School that morning carrying the same pain as they entered with because they were never placed in an environment conducive to make this known. Therefore, it is imperative that large classes have time for care groups to meet!
A healthy Sunday School should pursue the three purposes that form the foundation of a high-definition Sunday School, follow the five fundamentals of a high-definition Sunday School, and avoid the two failures of a standard-definition Sunday School. A Sunday School that builds on these principles positions herself for an explosion of growth instead of an implosion.
Taylor, A. (2009). Sunday school in hd. Nashville: B&H.