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New name, structure, leadership, focus set for LifeWay Bible teaching-reach

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A new name, organizational structure, leadership team and focus on target groups in Southern Baptist churches has been announced by the director of the Bible teaching-reaching division of LifeWay Christian Resources (formerly Sunday School Board) of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Bill Taylor said his division is changing its name to Sunday school division to draw on the rich heritage of the Sunday morning Bible study ministry while expanding its concept to a “seven-days-a-week experience.”
The Sunday School Board changed its name to LifeWay in June after approval from messengers to the 1998 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. But while its varied program assignments and resources made “Sunday school” an outdated name for the publishing and ministry entity as a whole, Taylor said “it remains a viable term for our division. There is no more recognizable name for describing Bible study ministry in Southern Baptist churches. Our job is to help our churches move the rich heritage of the name forward into an effective 21st-century ministry.”
Also, Taylor said, effective July 8 the newly named division is being organized into five departments — one targeted to pastors, ministers of education, Sunday school directors, associational and VBS leaders and four others focusing on Sunday school ministry with preschoolers, children, youth and adults.
Jay Johnston, formerly manager of the adult training and enrichment section in the discipleship and family development division, will direct the FAITH Sunday school ministry department. A 12-year LifeWay employee, Johnston earlier served as associate in the family life department of the Florida Baptist Convention.
Four division employees will direct the other departments. Rick Edwards, manager of the adult biblical studies section, will lead the adult Sunday school ministry department; Richard Barnes, manager of the youth biblical studies section, will direct the youth Sunday school ministry department; David Morrow, manager of the children’s biblical studies section, will direct the children’s Sunday school ministry department; and Tommy Sanders, manager of the preschool biblical studies section, will direct the preschool Sunday school ministry department.
Louis Hanks, director of the biblical studies department, will become associate division director.
“Data is showing Sunday school is still the way to reach the largest numbers of people in the shortest period of time,” Taylor said. “It continues to be the main arm of outreach and organizing ministry in the local church. This division structure allows us to provide targeted help to key groups such as pastors.”
The introduction earlier this year of the FAITH evangelism strategy, a joint project with the North American Mission Board, “has brought pastors back to the table in Sunday school leadership,” he said.
In addition to envisioning Bible study taking place any day of the week to meet people’s needs, Taylor said the concept of Sunday school as a seven-day-a-week experience will be required for effective ministry in the 21st century.
“I don’t restrict Sunday school to a day,” Taylor emphasized. “Sunday school is the only organization that ministers to the entire family at the same time. It functions seven days a week through ministry care, crisis ministry, evangelism and tying in to discipleship. Sunday school is an organization and process that can be used in any size of church.”
Taylor said the Sunday school division will release in 1999 a series of books for general officers and age-group leaders on Sunday school ministry in the 21st century. Improved curriculum for all age groups will be unveiled in 2000.
As part of the 21st century ministry and curriculum redesign, Taylor said a new definition for Sunday school has been developed, describing it as “the foundational strategy in a local church for leading people to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and for building Great Commission Christians through Bible study groups by engaging people in evangelism, discipleship, ministry, fellowship and worship.”
Within the next few years, “we’re going to see Sunday school in Southern Baptist churches stronger than anytime in the last 50 years,” Taylor predicted.

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  • Linda Lawson & Chip Alford