Sunday School should be a place where people grow strong and are ready to launch out to conquer the world. Part 9A and Part 9B were clear in sounding the bell for making a revolutionary investment in the first encounter. Sunday School in many churches has suffered for too long due to poor or no investment in the first encounter and preparation for the second encounter.
This post shifts the focus to what happens next. The focus is on the moments prior to beginning and the early moments of the second encounter—the Bible study session. It is worth noting that some teachers who invest well in the first encounter end up neglecting the second encounter. This happens for many reasons: lack of training, lack of understanding, poor execution, situations beyond their control, and many more. As a result, this post will not focus on intention but result. The focus will be on the reality of what happens—whether the second encounter is able to take place or not.
In Sunday School where the second encounter is neglected, much time is wasted rather than wisely invested. In too many Sunday Schools, teachers arrive late. They gather supplies during precious minutes of Bible study time. Members arrive late. The room is not ready. Greeters are not in place. No one takes charge of class business to help the Bible study session to begin. There is no official start time from one Sunday to the next. In other words, class starts late every week. Nothing is done to help attenders begin thinking about the passage, topic, or truth for the day. And often too much time has been spent on other activities (fellowship, announcements, prayer, and more) until there is little time remaining for Bible study.
And even after the Bible study session has begun, too many lessons begin poorly. When there is prayer before the lesson, it seldom has to do with wanting to join God in an encounter in His Word. In fact, the prayer—whether prayed by the teacher or by a class member—seldom has to do with the lesson at all. Where else will attenders’ encounter a passion for seeking Him?
On top of that, too often the teacher admits he/she did not have enough time this week to study. Such statements should never be spoken. The lesson that results will speak for itself. When the second encounter is neglected, the teacher usually moves right into scripture reading. Or the class takes turn reading verses or sections. Or the class begins to read the pupil quarterly to each other. There is no attempt to follow up on last week’s lesson or the application of its truth. There is no time given to preview this week’s lesson or highlight its importance.
At this point, attenders’ minds are still on fellowship or personal concerns. And yet nothing is done to capture the learners’ attention. No attempt is made to get minds turned toward God or the subject, topic, or truth of the day. No questions are asked. No related stories are told. No newspaper articles are read. No summary of the passage and its importance is shared. Nothing, including an icebreaker, is used to get attenders involved and talking early. One voice tends to dominate those early moments—that of the teacher.
And all too often, the Bible is absent. Sometimes even the teacher fails to bring his/hers. Without the example of the teacher and any expectation, fewer and fewer attenders bring theirs. And if they do bring their Bibles, they often fail to open them. When the second encounter is neglected like this, is it any wonder that Christians are biblically illiterate, lives are not changed, members don’t stay, and new people are not reached?