In Questions about Making Disciples Through Sunday School I asked twenty questions about Sunday School’s ability to carry out the Great Commission mandate to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20). This post responds to the question twelve:
Would increasing the length of time for the Sunday School session have greater disciplemaking results?
I have been in churches all over Kentucky as well as many other states (as well as Germany, South Korea, Tanzania, and England). The majority of those churches have scheduled either 45 minutes or an hour. The key word in that sentence is “scheduled.” As the state Sunday School director, when I in a church on Sunday morning, I attend Sunday School. I go to learn, but I also go to observe. I pay attention to arrival time of teachers and members, to greeting, to the way time is used in class, and when people leave (including choir members).
Most of the classes I have attended delay starting while waiting on people to arrive. While they may call this fellowship time, guests tend to call it starting late. Then these classes open with announcements, class business, prayer requests, and prayer time. From my observations, I would tell you that churches with only 45 minutes for Sunday School tend to have closer to 20-25 minutes for Bible study. Those with an hour tend to have closer to 30-35 minutes. Stewardship of the precious minutes we have is essential in our efforts to use them to make disciples.
Assuming we have become good stewards of the time we have, what would happen if Sunday School were lengthened by 15 or 30 minutes? I know there are churches where the change of schedule also impacts worship due to having multiple worship services. And it becomes challenging when there are three worship and/or Sunday School times on Sunday. But even then the schedule can be 8:30, 9:45, and 11:00 (for 60 minutes), or it could be 8:00, 9:30, and 11:00 (for 75 minutes–means the last session would go to 12:15).
I agree with Allan Taylor (pictured above), author of The Six Core Values of Sunday School, Sunday School Done Right, and Sunday School in HD, when he emphasizes that we must schedule important tasks on Sunday morning or they won’t get done (like reporting care and outreach contacts, prayer, etc.). But what if we did not have to rush through every lesson to get finished before worship? What if we had time to allow people to reflect on God’s truth? What if we had time to lead them time to apply the truth, make a commitment, and plan for an obedience response? This is the part of every lesson that I tend to see cheated. And this cuts off the legs of discipleship.
Yes, better stewardship of the precious minutes we have is the first and most important issue. But what if we added an additional 15 minutes per week (600-750 per year)? What if we added 30 minutes per week (1,200-1,500 per year)? What if our teachers addressed more of attenders’ learning styles because of having more time? What if they had time to guide more discussion? What if individual and class plans for response to the lesson began regularly to be expected? What if every lesson began with a reporting time (like the disciples did with Jesus in Mark 6:30) of obeying what Jesus commanded us?
While the addition of time to our current schedule will not automatically produce these results, the change can allow us to be more intentional in training teachers and classes to expect more. That may be the best reason to discuss the change and/or to lead toward the change. Are You Going Through the Motions in Sunday School? Raise expectations. Stop teaching content and start making disciples. Be revolutionary!