Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sunday School Works If…

This last weekend I participated in the East Texas Christian Leadership Conference held at the First Baptist Church of Lufkin. It was an energized gathering of 450 church leaders from four different Baptist Associations across East Texas.

The day began in an opening general session with a black gospel trio and keynote speaker Paul Powell, former long-time pastor of Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, president of the SBC Annuity Board, and dean of Truett Seminary. In his typically classic style he had everyone laughing while being encouraged and challenged from 2 Timothy 1:6-7 to become better leaders. If anyone understands an East Texas crowd of church leaders, Paul Powell does. He was right on target.

In addition to the general session there were 80 training conferences through the course of the day focusing on a wide range of leadership topics and issues. Participants seemed eager to fellowship amongst themselves and learn from the 28 conference leaders that had been enlisted for the day. I led two curriculum overview conferences, one for adult leaders and another for student leaders, in addition to a conference on teaching adults and developing lesson plans. And I had the pleasure to visit with some of the other conference leaders over dinner on Friday night and then again on Saturday before and between conferences. It was a good weekend of fellowship and training.

But here is the point to my blog entry today. On Friday night there were about 20 of the conference leaders that had dinner together at a local restaurant. We were seated in a private dinning room around a long banquet table. And while we were waiting for our food to be served, our group host raised a question for discussion around the table. He asked what our observations and thoughts were about the current state of Sunday School in churches and its future.

Wow, what a great question!

As we went around the table the shared comments were interesting to note and not particularly positive. And when it came my turn I offered my two cents worth saying… that my perspective was broader than East Texas; that I saw a resurgence of churches using an open group strategy to reach and minister to people; but that it wasn’t always being called Sunday School nor being held on the church campus nor on Sunday mornings; and that the biggest challenge I see today is for churches to re-purpose and re-focus their Sunday Schools in a way that they use Sunday School as an intentional and strategic ministry tool.

Well, I was feeling pretty good about my response, at least for about two minutes before we circled the table and came back to Dennis Parrot.

Dennis is held in high regard by many Christian educators and other church leaders because of his long years of effective leadership in local churches and now as a Congregational Strategist with the BGCT. I first met Dennis in the early 1980’s and have followed his ministry, watching and listening for what I could learn from a seasoned pro. So, I was eager to hear what he had to say. And as expected, he nailed it simply and succinctly.

His simple reply was… I have yet to see a church situation where Sunday School wouldn’t work… if the church was willing to do the work of Sunday School.

Sounds like an Aflac commercial doesn’t it!

Sunday School works if… you do the work of Sunday School.

Enough said.

Until next time…share the journey and enjoy the ride!