This is part 4 of a series of posts from David Francis’ Missionary Sunday School. Click here for a free download of the book.
The missionary Sunday School is satisfied only when everyone within its reach has access to a Bible study group appropriate for his/her age, stage of life, and ability to learn. Until that happens, there is always more work to do.
It amazes me that some people reject the idea that Sunday School is for Every Person. Sometimes it’s subtle (sometimes it isn’t!), but the statements tend to sound like excuses: Those kids will bring down our kids. God established parents to be responsible for training their children. They’re just not interested in spiritual things. They have a tough time relating to us since they don’t know much of the Bible. Let’s be honest. Behind each of these righteous reasons is rationale for not engaging the lost in spiritual dialogue. You might be surprised to learn that some of these modern objections to Sunday School are as old as the movement itself. At their essence, they all challenge the idea that Sunday School is for Every Person.
“Our” Kids and “Those” Kids
This objection has many corollaries but essentially it boils down to this: “We don’t need those kids in our church, and certainly not around our kids.” Sunday School had its start as a missionary ministry to “those” kids. Sunday School bus ministries, popular in the middle of the last century, were about “those” kids. Today’s Sidewalk Sunday Schools are about “those” kids. Vacation Bible School and summer camps were and are about “those” kids. This is not a new objection.
Not “Little House on the Prairie”
Most of us have a romantic view of life in pioneer America. The people in our history books were exceptional. People of vision became leaders, just like today. They just weren’t the norm! Most of the people in frontier America as well as the growing cities in the original colonies were neither educated nor cultured. The Wild West really was wild. Life was extremely hard. The challenges of starting a Sunday School on the frontier in the 1800s were at least as difficult as the challenges of starting one in an urban apartment complex today. The good old days weren’t. Life was hard. People were unfair. Immigrants were flooding in from all parts of the globe. Just like today. Into that epoch came a powerful force for transformation: the Sunday School. I believe it is still a powerful force today. And should be accessible to Every Person. But you don’t have to reach Every Person all by yourself. You can focus on your people group.
What’s Your Assigned People Group?
If you were training as a modern missionary, you’d likely be assigned responsibility for reaching, teaching, ministering to, and planting churches among a people group. If that people group had no effective Christian witness or lacked access to the Bible in its language, you would be a missionary to what is known as a UPG—an Unreached People Group. While few Sunday School classes will have the responsibility for an entire unreached people group, every class in a missionary Sunday School has an assignment for an under-reached people group. The name of the group will even reflect who it is they are trying to reach. They want to make sure that even those they are trying to reach know they exist for them. What people group is your class assigned to reach, teach, and minister to? How does the people group you are trying to reach know that you exist for them?
David Francis is Director of Sunday School at LifeWay Christian Resources. Before joining LifeWay in 1997, he served as minister of education at First Baptist Church in Garland, Texas. David and his wife, Vickie, love teaching preschool Sunday School and are helping start a new adult class in their church in Hendersonville, Tennessee.