What’s the importance of Sunday school? Read on for insights about the life-changing nature of this nurturing program!
A friend who’s an amazingly effective Bible teacher once told me his church turned him down to teach children’s Sunday school. The reason, in effect, was that he was too gifted. The church wanted him to teach adult discipleship classes instead. In other words, they didn’t want to “waste” him on children’s Sunday school.
That’s one of the saddest, most self-destructive statements I’ve ever heard from a church.
The Importance of Sunday School: How It Transformed Me
I’ve often said I wouldn’t want to have to choose between my seminary education and my childhood years in Sunday school. But if forced, I’d choose Sunday school each time. Now that’s saying something! After all, I believe strongly in seminary education and devoted most of my ministry to it. I’d never want to give that up. But as important as theological education was for me, Sunday school was more so.
Nothing about my Sunday school experience would be commended by a seminar on children’s development or Bible teaching. My teachers weren’t theologically trained, and probably none could have explained the hypostatic union or the Pauline doctrine of election.
Neither were the kidmin teachers pedagogically equipped. Some just had us go around the room taking turns reading, monotone, from the curriculum shipped from the denominational publishing house. Sometimes the biblical text was incomprehensible to us, because we were, at the time, a King James Version-only church. (This wasn’t out of some theological conviction but because we didn’t know about other translations.)
Yet Sunday school transformed my life. I needed the slow repetition, over years and years, of God’s Word. What I sometimes find among Christians is knowledge of systematic theology in one tribe or of biblical moral principles in another—without knowing the narrative of the text itself.
Some Christians know how to argue their view of whether Romans 7 describes pre- or post-conversion experience but don’t know the difference between Rehoboam and Jeroboam, between Abigail and Michal. We would all—as gospel Christians—affirm the entirety of the Bible as necessary and profitable, but still might, if we’re honest, think that knowledge of the text’s details—rather than the theology or life principles arising from it—is more about Bible trivia than the Christian life. If so, we are wrong.
Love the Lord Your God with All Your…Intuitions
We sometimes assume the Bible is profitable to us because we know how to search for the right passages at the right moment. Someone in the church is teaching that sinless perfection is possible? Well, we know how to get to 1 John 1. We feel guilty for sin? We know how to find Psalm 51. We’re depressed and discouraged? We can go to Jesus in Gethsemane.
That’s all good and valuable. But it’s not as important as having the whole Bible shape our intuitions.