Bob Mayfield: Sunday School's purpose in 140 characters

To be effective, every small group in the church must have the church’s mission as its primary reason for existing. Your group should not exist as an entity unto itself. Instead, your class is a vehicle your church uses to fulfill the Great Commission and take the Gospel to your Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and every corner of the planet (Acts 1:8). Understanding your purpose helps make starting a new group a joyful moment rather than a sorrowful one. Knowing your purpose makes sending group members to serve in other areas a pleasure instead of a pain! Knowing your mission makes personal care of your group a privilege instead of chore! Knowing your mission keeps your eyes on the field of lost souls that you and your group are in contact with every day.

When leading a Sunday School seminar, I often ask the participants what is the mission or purpose of Sunday School. Usually I get a definition of Sunday School that includes things like Bible study, ministry, and fellowship. These are the functions of a Sunday School and help define what we do when the group meets, but they are not its mission. The mission of Sunday School is to carry out the church’s Great Commission mandate to make disciples – in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. Sunday School is how your church is organized to do its mission. Ultimately, a mission statement is nothing more than a statement, until the church organizes itself to actually do its mission.

Twitter has become a well-known way to communicate. One “tweet” is limited to 140 characters. The mission or purpose of your group should fit on a tweet… and have room to spare!

Knowing your mission brings greater pleasure in being part of the big picture. Your group is not meant to be an island unto itself. Instead, your group is part of your church’s overall strategy to disciple all ages of people and all people groups in your neighborhood. If you are an adult leader; the preschool, children, and student Sunday School groups depend on you to grow the adults in your group to become new leaders in these areas. Together with the other classes in your church, you are able to effectively minister and disciple every member of the church.
Imagine a church that has to design and sustain a different structure and organization for all of its various ministries. Missions operates out of one sphere. Stewardship is in another. Discipleship takes place here. The personal care of church members is handled in another way. Bible study is done at this time. Prayer needs are discovered and prayed for at yet another time. Oh, and if you want to make a few friends, well we have another program for that! Children are discipled at one time and parents at another. Since all of these activities are important, try fitting them all into your personal calendar every week! Now imagine trying to staff and lead all of these different, but critical organizations of the church. You may not have to imagine this church at all; this illustration might be reality for your church.

Now imagine all of these important ministries of the church taking place in your group. In fact, you may not have to imagine it at all. It may already happening. A well organized Sunday School class will effectively meet these needs. Rather than bouncing people around and keeping them in a state of confusion about where to go for what ministry and when, Sunday School takes all of these critical components of the church’s mission and organizes them in an efficient, timely way so that people can grow into the image of Christ and still have time in their schedule for family and friends.
Put a diagram here with a big circle around the words in the above diagram, but organized and with “Sunday School” in the middle.

Bob Mayfield is the author of several books related to Sunday School. He is the Sunday School and small group specialist for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. He will be speaking at several of our All Star Sunday School Training events.