I have had months to watch the impact of the pandemic on classes, Sunday Schools, and churches. The pandemic provided many challenges and many opportunities. It uncovered the value of revolutionary Sunday School actions and the failure of Sunday Schools that were only going through the motions. One reality has become clear. As we move past the pandemic, there is a great need for rebuilding classes and Sunday Schools.
What do I mean by “rebuilding”? I use that word intentionally to point out that Sunday School will not return to the way it was before the pandemic on its own. Too much happened during that period of time. Too much time has passed. And too much neglect occurred before and during the pandemic. It will necessary to build the Sunday School in many of the most basic ways in order to stem the decline and turn around the Sunday School to be on mission and to grow.
The reality is that rebuilding after the pandemic will require similar effort and focus to that required for starting a new Sunday School. I challenge you to take out a sheet of paper to jot down what decisions and work might be necessary if you were starting a class or a Sunday School. That same work is ahead of many of our classes and Sunday Schools!
Why Rebuilding Is Needed
Why is rebuilding your Sunday School needed? Consider the following reasons to rebuild:
- Attenders dropped out. Many have practiced not coming to Sunday School for so long that they will not return.
- Teachers quit. Many of our teachers are senior adults. Some have fragile health. I am hearing about 25% of teachers do not plan to return. More teachers quit than replacements enlisted.
- Classes ended. Some classes have not met in person or online during the pandemic. Some stopped meeting permanently. Typically numbers were small, care was poor, and often age and health were factors.
- Planning stopped. Without planning, maintenance mode almost always leads to decline in vision, goals, quality work, and attendance. (Some churches continued planning through online meetings.)
- Goals declined. Most goals had to do with handling realities due to the pandemic. Few goals had to do with vision or growth.
- Training stopped. New leaders started without training. Existing leaders, who benefit from reminders about the need for balanced and quality work, have stopped leading in some basic ways due to the lack of training. (Again, some churches provided training online.)
- Outreach declined. Due to limited space and uncertainties, outreach invitations and events occurred less frequently. This has become a bad habit for our people who were already not inviting enough.
- Care reduced. While some classes mobilized care through phone, mail, and electronic means, some classes simply stopped making contacts. Out of sight produced out of mind.
- No new classes started. With so many uncertainties, almost no classes were started, no leaders were enlisted, and no people were invited.
Next Steps to Rebuild
After prayer, a key first step is to realize that rebuilding will be necessary. And that effort should not be done alone. I recommend gathering a leadership team to pray, evaluate, and make plans. A Sunday School retreat may be very beneficial for your class or Sunday School. Many great retreat questions are included in the post, Sunday School Retreating to Move Forward. Don’t look back. Instead, look forward. Be expectant. Join God where He is at work. Reach out. Care. Discover, mobilize, and train leaders. Start new classes. Watch Sunday School bloom and grow! Be revolutionary!