News Articles

Raising class from the dead requires teacher’s leadership

RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–“Here Lies Our Dearly Departed Class” might well be the sign on the doors of some Sunday school classrooms across the Southern Baptist Convention.
Like people, Sunday school classes can die due to lack of nourishment or stimulation, Mackie McCollister believes.
A consultant in median and senior adult work for the Baptist General Convention of Texas, McCollister told participants in the “Sunday School for a New Century” conference at LifeWay Conference Center Ridgecrest that dead or dying classes should not be left alone.
The conference, July 19-23 at Ridgecrest, N.C., was sponsored by the Sunday school group of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
“Sometimes there is a time to bury a dead class,” McCollister observed, “but hopefully that is a last resort.
“Among reasons classes die is lack of caring and ministry by members for each other,” he said. Additional factors may include lack of lesson preparation by the teacher, once-a-year fellowships, unmet needs, no visitation, burned out teachers who do all the work, no new members, more discussion time spent on sports or other subjects than on the lesson and viewing Sunday school as a time to get together with friends rather than a time of Bible study.
Some classes that are not at the point of burial can be returned to health, he said. Citing a list of “Tips for Bringing Classes Back to Life,” prepared by Randy Millwood, a professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, McCollister encouraged teachers to resuscitate “paper classes,” those that exist only on a printed class roster.
Among the pointers:
— Evaluate — “Are we doing what we’re supposed to be doing?” McCollister asked. “Am I contributing what I’m supposed to be contributing? Are the lessons effective?”
— Build relationships — “People sometimes come to Sunday school as much for the relationships as for the study time,” he observed. “Fellowship and ministry are important. For some, the only hug they get all week is in that class.”
— Have an atmosphere change — Be creative, consider more informality, do different activities and be enthusiastic, he said. “It’s a privilege to teach God’s Word. Let them see you are committed to it.”
— Move Bible teaching to Bible study — The focus in Bible teaching can become the teacher. The focus in Bible study is the learner who discovers meaning from study. Input from members who find the answers themselves can be more meaningful than spoon-fed teaching.
— Become equippers, not doers — “Involving the class is so important,” McCollister said. “Give everyone a responsibility — ministry, telephone calling, note writing. Equip people so they feel responsibility.”
— Evangelize — “We rarely visit anyone who is not a Christian,” McCollister observed. “And we rarely have anyone in class who is not a Christian. Yet Sunday school is a church organization that is designed to have unsaved persons as members. Sunday school is where people meet Christ.”
Even if a class is not dead, it may be “happily in a coma,” McCollister concluded. “It’s so easy to feel relaxed and happy while we are dying.”

    About the Author

  • Charles Willis