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Pastors list Sunday school realities, hopes for new strategy, resources


RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–Pastors participating in leadership conferences July 19-23 at LifeWay Conference Center Ridgecrest acknowledged dissatisfaction with the state of Sunday school in their churches and shared their desires for a new strategy and new curriculum to be released in 2000.
“Sunday School for a New Century” conferences were sponsored by the Sunday school group of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Meeting in small groups and reporting their thinking to their peers at the North Carolina conference center, pastors agreed that Sunday school strategy and curriculum must be refocused to return to a meaningful marriage of Bible study and evangelism.
Among the common characteristics that emerged from examining the realities of Sunday school in their home churches were:
— A stated desire to focus outward, but, in practice, a consistently inward focus, with little real indication of change.
— Homogenous membership, with little socioeconomic variety and closed social communities within the congregation.
— Static classes with traditional teaching, lack of outreach and lack of commitment to purpose.
— Plateaued growth, with large classes of persons who are satisfied with the status quo.
— Teachers whose understanding of their role is teaching only.
Topping a list of their desires for Sunday school in the 21st century was flexibility in time and location for smaller groups, based on the realities of work weeks that do not always permit persons to participate in Sunday morning church activities. Other commonly discussed hopes were:
— Lessons that are transforming and that are applied by the teacher and the members after the lesson is studied.
— Teachers who break out of traditional roles to new understandings about outreach and ministry for the group.
— An openness to new people, including the unchurched, along with a focus on beginning new units.
— A strategy rather than a program.
— A family focus.
— High-tech options for teaching styles and resources.
Ken Marler, a consultant in LifeWay’s Sunday school group, told participants the 21st Century design for Sunday school includes the biblical mandate for building Great Commission Christians through transformational Bible study, partnering with parents in biblical instruction, developing leaders whose lives are a living example of the lesson and understanding the essential partnership of Sunday school and evangelism.
Defining transformational Bible study as “helping people live God’s Word,” Marler urged participants to “pray that your church will be spiritually transformed.”
Sunday School for a New Century will include two curriculum series for each age group.
The new series, “Family Bible Study,” will offer 91 choices and will include curriculum for all age groups based on a common Bible study theme.
Additionally, LifeWay is launching a new undated curriculum series for youth, “LifeTrak,” and a second dated curriculum series for children and preschoolers, “Bible Foundations.” Also, the “Explore the Bible Series” for adults and two undated resources for high school seniors and sixth-graders will continue to be available.
The Life & Work Series, the Youth Explore the Bible Series and the Family Bible Series will be discontinued.

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  • Charles Willis