Sunday School Health Checkup, Part 1

Wednesday 2nd April, 2008

Maintaining health requires both response to illness and pain as well as prevention. A certain amount of self-assessment and self-mediation is possible. We can take our own temperature, blood pressure, and blood sugar (for diabetics). We can administer medicine for a cough, runny nose, dry eyes, upset stomach, dry scalp, and athlete's feet. And we all know that eating right, getting enough sleep, and exercising are good for us. We know we should wash our hands during cold season, wash our hands before preparing food, take a flu shot, bundle up in the winter, and avoid getting sunburn in order to stay well.

A thriving, growing Sunday School also requires both response to sickness as well as prevention. Dr. Chuck Lawless, Dean of the School of Evangelism and Church Growth at Southern Seminary, has written a great article entitled Questions to Diagnose Your Church's Health. In the article, Lawless offers eight great questions which can be applied to the Sunday School and can help you to conduct your own Sunday School health assessment. In Part 1, I will share the first four of his eight questions in all capitals (with "Sunday School" substituted for "church") followed by my commentary:

  • IS THE SUNDAY SCHOOL'S TEACHING BASED ON THE BIBLE? Any power that Sunday School has comes from God. By itself, Sunday School cannot change lives, but through God's Word millions of lives have been changed. I am aware of many Sunday Schools which teach the books of great men and women. And even if these great writers have focused upon God and His Word, they are another generation removed from direct interaction with the Bible. Do your teachers lead learners to seek God personally in Bible study? Are private devotions encouraged? Are teachers encountering God as they prepare life-changing lessons from God's Word?
  • IS THE SUNDAY SCHOOL A PRAYING SUNDAY SCHOOL? A prayer-less Sunday School will be powerless. It will be without direction. It will be inconsistent. It will not have the attractive power that is available when Sunday School teachers and members pray together about and for the Sunday School. A natural focus will be people and their needs--to grow as disciples, to step out in leadership, to accept Jesus as Savior, to experience life-change, to have needs met, and more. Are special times set aside to pray for Sunday School? Are leaders and members gathered and called to pray? Do individuals pray for their lost friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors?
  • IS THE SUNDAY SCHOOL DRIVEN BY A GREAT COMMISSION FOCUS? What is the focus of the Great Commission? Make disciples of all nations? How is the Great Commission to be carried out? We are to baptize and teach them to obey Christ's commands. Sunday School is a natural place for reaching out, caring, and teaching for obedience. Yet in many Sunday School's the focus is on each other. A fresh outward focus is needed. A mission is needed: the Great Co-mission! What are your classes doing to focus on people not already on the rolls? Are new classes being started (since they tend to be more evangelistic)? Are guests invited to homes and to class fellowships?
  • IS THE SUNDAY SCHOOL REACHING NON-BELIEVERS? An evidence of a Great Commission focus is lives being changed, especially non-believers becoming believers. Andy Anderson used to say that only 1 out of 342 lost people who attend worship only will accept Jesus as Savior in twelve months while 1 out of 3 lost people who attend Sunday School will do so! Are lost people visiting your classes? Are they on your rolls? Are evangelistic lessons taught? Are members inviting lost people to class fellowshi ps, to class, and to worship? Are members praying for and lovi ng lost people to Jesus?

How is your Sunday School doing? Is your Sunday School sick in some area or in need of some preventative steps? Take action now to correct any problems preventing your Sunday School from experiencing full health! In Part 2, I will share the last four of Lawless's questions: (5) Is the Sunday School keeping the new believers who join? (6) Is the Sunday School both locally and globally minded? (7) Does the Sunday School have a strategic plan for future growth? (8) Are leaders committed to the ministry of the Sunday School?  Prayerfully check your Sunday School's health. Be revolutionary!

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