What’s Happening to Sunday School?

Now we continue our look in the I would encourage all to subscribe to the African American Pulpit Spring Edition of 2007. As noted before, that issue is dedicated to discussing 21 trends in the contemporary Black church.

Theme or Story

The second trend that Martha Simmons speaks of is called: “From Sunday School to Theme-based Christian Education Classes.” Simmons notes that in traditional Sunday School classes the children were taught Bible stories like David and Goliath as well as other components of the Bible like the 10 commandments and the Lord’s Prayer. She then notes that the teens and adults were taught how to apply these to their daily lives.

However in recent years we are seeing a trend towards dealing with themes versus the fundamental stories upon which the African American community has always depended on. So you might have a Sunday School theme on Gospel Finance or Being a Good Parent. These themes will help people to get something valuable from the study of the Bible.

Is Theme Based Education Enough?

Such studies might be fine in and of themselves, but Katara Washington states:

While I applaud churches for addressing the various needs of the congregation and offering myriad options, I think we should be careful that we do not replace some of the rudimentary, foundational lessons often taught in Sunday school. Often, topical classes focus on issues people face today but do not fully explore biblical lessons. People in these classes are missing out on the study of the entire Bible and are often focusing more on their issues than the Word. While people need the application mode of study to transform their lives, I think we also need to know what the Bible says before we can adequately apply it to our lives to be transformed.

I would concur with Washington’s reservations and also state that where would we be without the stories. Certainly we must have some guidance on application of the stories, but as I noted in another post, African Americans have lived in the Biblical story.

Perhaps we can do a mixture of the two approaches. We need application, but as Washington states, we also need a deeper knowledge of that which we are trying to apply. Perhaps we can take a page out of the Book of the greatest Black Preachers. They always made the story come alive. Perhaps there is no dichotomy between the two theme and story, we just need to tell the story better? At any rate, we cannot leave the story behind in our quest to be relevant.

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Sherman Haywood Cox II

Sherman Haywood Cox II is the director of Soul Preaching. He holds the M.Div with an emphasis in Homiletics and a M.S. in Computer Science.

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Harold Smith - April 19, 2007 Reply

I attend Sabbath School in the Adventist system. Because there is a prescribed “quarterly”, there shouldn’t be much deviance from fundamental Bible lessons and principles.
What I don’t like is when it is a special Sabbath and the Sabbath School is replaced with a preacher and sermon. I think Sabbath School time should be sacred, despite what else is going on. If people want multiple sermons in a day, they can schedule afternoon services.
What is sad is when individuals use their position as teacher to preach instead of teach. They take the text from the 1st day’s lesson as a springboard into a 45 minute sermon without touching the rest of the lesson.

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