This post is one of a two part blog post. Look for the second post July 17, 2012.
In college, a buddy and I decided that we should take up golf. So, I bought a well-used partial set of clubs from someone who already had the good sense to quit the game, supplemented them with sticks from the bargain barrel at a local golf store, and went to the course. Soon, my friend and I were addicts who couldn’t wait until the next opportunity to get in a round. I wasn’t a good player, but that didn’t stop me from giving it my best shot week after week.
After a year or so, I came to the conclusion that the reason for my struggles on the course was that I was playing with inferior equipment. I convinced myself that with a shiny set of pro-line golf clubs, my game would improve overnight. With new clubs, I believed my slices and shanks would give way to fairways and falling scores.
Unfortunately, only a few outings with the new equipment revealed that my ability to play bad golf was not limited by name brand or club design. In order to see significant improvement, what I really needed was not new equipment but new skills. In the hands of an untrained player, the equipment makes little difference.
Curriculum choices for Sunday School are as plentiful as brands of golf equipment. One temptation for churches looking for a way to improve their efforts in Sunday School is to change over to a new study line, believing that the problems of declining attendance, ineffective teaching, unchanged lives, and stagnant class rolls must be due to the teaching materials used from week to week. However, simply changing the curriculum used in Sunday School will rarely result in significant change because of these factors:
- Curriculum changes do not equal increase in teacher skill. Certainly many curriculum lines strive to include better teacher helps, learner guides, lesson plans, and other supplements. However, most also admit that they provide much more material than is intended to be used in a single class session. Teachers need training on how to pull from the material provided and assemble lessons that are faithful to the Scripture, applicable to their context, and designed for participation that leads to life change.
- Curriculum changes do not substitute for creating ministry systems that that are essential to fulfilling the other functions of the Sunday School. For example, changing curriculum will not address ways that classes can do a better job of meeting member needs, noticing and contacting absentees, and participating in outreach/evangelism.
- Curriculum changes do not by themselves help churches see the bigger picture of Sunday School as a strategy rather than as a program. In fact, promoting a curriculum change as the cure-all answer may give the impression that Bible study is the sole function of Sunday School. To be sure, Bible study is a central function, but certainly not an isolated one when Sunday School is viewed as a key strategy for ministry care, service, and evangelism.
So is it wrong to change curriculum in Sunday School? Of course not! In fact, in some instances changing curriculum might be exactly what is needed. In my next post, I’ll share my thoughts on why I believe this is also true.
David Bond serves as Adult Sunday School Strategist for the Evangelism and Church Growth Team of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.