In this week’s edition of The Alban Weekly newsletter, in an article entitled Turning Toward Life, Mary Louise Gifford stated,
Not every declining or dying church is meant to live. Not all churches can or should turn around.
Mentally, I know that is true, but in my heart it is hard to admit. Some churches are kept on life-support for far longer than is good. There are many reasons for that. Sometimes, the presence of a church that is no longer alive prevents the ministry of a new or alive church in that community. Sometimes, the nearly dead church prevents others from seeing the needs of the community.
These thoughts turned my attention toward Sunday School and small groups. I believe that the decline and demise of a church is impacted by the prior decline and demise of Sunday School. When Sunday School leaders stop leading and start maintaining or simply surviving, they are contributing to the decline and demise of Sunday School. When leaders, teachers, and members begin to focus inward rather than outward, they contribute toward the death of Sunday School and the church.
When no new classes are started, no new leaders are enlisted or trained, and no planning is done, the end is in sight. When no goals are set, no contacts made with members and prospects, and no one new enrolled, the slide and collapse of Sunday School should not surprises us.
But there is hope. Our God is a God of hope. He is able to resurrect the dead. He is able to give vision. He is able to change hearts and lives. He calls us to Himself. And when Sunday School leaders turn to Him, there is hope. When they listen to Him and follow His leadership, they see the community with eyes of compassion and are willing to take steps to meet real needs. They are willing to invite, reach out, and care. They are willing to do the hard work of enlistment and starting of new classes, planning meetings, training events, and organization.
It’s not too late. Turn to Him. Listen to the words of 2 Chronicles 7:14,
if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land (NIV).