Our annual Sunday School Open Day was just over. We hold it every last Sunday of the year to emphasise the importance of the Sunday School ministry. About thirty years ago, the church began “Sunday School for All Ages” to enable every member, from the very young to the very old, to receive systematic teaching of the Bible. Throughout all these years we have not departed from this commitment. On the contrary, we have become more convinced of its necessity, for it has become the backbone of our church’s spiritual program. Through this article, I hope to help us understand how vital this ministry is and it is my prayer that in the year ahead we will see real advancement in the work of the Sunday School.
II. The Purpose of the Sunday School
The Sunday School plays an important and effective role in the faith, life and work of the church.
1. It Provides Spiritual Education for All.
‘Education is for life’ – so it is for the Christian, and the Sunday School provides the opportunity. From the young to the old, the toddler to the grand-parent, irrespective of age, every member who earnestly attends the Sunday School will have the chance to receive continual spiritual education for life.
2. It Provides Systematic Bible Teaching.
The Bible is full of precious lessons and there are many opportunities to learn from it in a lifetime. It is not easy for individual Christians to study the Bible alone in a systematic manner within a prescribed period according to a regular cycle. Our Sunday School uses the ‘Accent’ Bible Study materials which enable us to complete studying the whole Bible in a ten year cycle. This is a great accomplishment indeed! Apart from enrolling in a Bible College, I believe there is no other way for most people to achieve this.
3. It Provides Continuity in Spiritual Education.
The church consists of members of all ages and all levels of spiritual maturity. It is therefore difficult to meet everyone’s need through the Preaching Service on Sundays. The Sunday School not only provides systematic Bible teaching but through the lessons there can be continuity and unity in the corporate spiritual education of the church. This is essential in providing spiritual direction for the entire church. Thus if an individual has grown up in the church or has been attending the church for a period of time, he or she will receive continual and uniform teaching from the church.
4. It Helps to Establish a Common Doctrinal Stand in the church.
There are many aspects of the doctrinal stand of a church which cannot be completely familiar to all the members within a short period of time. Moreover, at any given time there are new members joining the church. It is not possible for the members to receive complete instruction regarding the doctrinal stand of the church in various matters through the Preaching Services. Very often, certain topics will be covered in detail there only when the need arises. It is the Sunday School that provides each member with the opportunity to understand every aspect of the doctrinal position of the church in a comprehensive manner.
5. It Allows Members to Experience ‘Body Life’ in the Church.
The Church is the body of Christ and every member is a part of that body. This is a spiritual reality. This reality must be manifested in the practical life of the believers. The Sunday School class provides the environment for such a life to be lived out, encouraging the members to experience ‘body life’. Every week in a small group of about ten in number, under the guidance of the Sunday School teacher, members will find it easier to practise loving and encouraging one another as members of the body of Christ.
6. It Facilitates Division of Labour within the church.
The church is the household of God and so the work of the household needs to be shared. The division of the Sunday School into various classes makes a convenient means for the division of labour within the church. The Sunday School class becomes an effective channel for communication, the means of implementation of church policies and a unit for administrative purposes. Also, the Sunday School teacher becomes the link between the church leadership and the congregation.
III. The Keys to an Effective Sunday School Ministry
We can see that the Sunday School ministry is an important and effective tool in the faith, life and work of the church. However, merely establishing a comprehensive Sunday School program is not a guarantee for its effectiveness. There are many key factors which will determine its success or failure.
1. A Complete and Reliable Sunday School Curriculum.
The study material for the Sunday School is the entire Bible. In order to effectively cover the whole Bible in ten years at different maturity levels for the whole church, we need a complete and comprehensive curriculum. It must not only be complete but accurate and reliable. We have used the American Southern Baptist material for many years. However in recent years, their doctrinal stand has shifted. So, after much prayer and consideration, we began using the ‘Accent’ Bible Study material a few years ago since this is basically sound in its faith and teaching.
2. Total Participation of the Members.
If the Sunday School were to achieve its objective, a basic criterion is the total participation of all the brothers and sisters. Otherwise, the objectives of the Sunday School can only be partially achieved. Those who do not participate will not benefit in any way and also become cut off from the rest of the church in their faith, corporate life and service.
3. Faithful and Effective Sunday School Teachers.
This is the most important factor of all. The Sunday School teacher’s role in the ministry if to teach, to lead, to motivate and to set an example for the students. How much a pupil gains from the Sunday School depends a lot on the contribution of the teacher. Communicating the beliefs of the church, providing spiritual direction, planning the various works all depend on the Sunday School teacher. Because of this important role, I have laid down the guidelines for the appointment of Sunday School teachers in the church. These are minimum requirements. This will enable those who aspire to be Sunday School teachers to prepare themselves. I truly wish that many will aspire to assume this important position. If the Sunday School ministry is to expand, we must not face a lack of Sunday School teachers. Your prayers are also coveted for our Sunday School teachers for they shoulder a great responsibility, a heavy responsibility indeed!
Requirements of a Sunday School Teacher
A. Personal Requirements
1. A Born Again believer.
2. A baptised member of the church for no less than 3 years.
3. Regular attendance at Sunday School, church services (e.g. Preaching service, Breaking of Bread service) for the past 3 years.
4. Read through the Bible at least twice and engages in regular Bible study.
5. Be of good repute and a good Christian witness.
6. Upholds the faith and practice, teaching and doctrinal position of the church.
B. Working Requirements
1. Must be able to teach the Bible.
2. Must be willing to attend the training courses organised by the church.
3. Must be prepared to teach for at least 2 years.
4. Must be responsible in teaching, in leading, in visitation and in the nurturing of the pupils.
5. Must be able to cooperate with the Sunday School Committee and other teachers in order to carry out the overall objective of the Sunday School.
C. Appointment Procedure
1.Suitable candidates will be recommended by the Sunday School Principal to the Church Council.
2.Upon acceptance, the Sunday School Principal or Committee member will then approach the candidate.
3.If the candidate agrees, the Church Council will be informed as a record.
4.The candidate may be appointed and begin to receive any training program.
5.Should exceptional cases arise, which do not conform to these procedures, prior approval must be sought from the Church Council.
1. We are thankful to the Lord for His past guidance, for preserving our Sunday School ministry and benefiting many.
2. May we evaluate the effectiveness of our present Sunday School ministry.
3. May the Lord keep every Sunday School teacher faithful and effective for His work. May they not only be effective in communicating the truth, but in their own lives and spiritual pursuits be shining examples to their pupils.
Huang Ee Yuen, Pastor
This article has been translated from the January 1995 issue of the Chinese church newsletter.