Sunday School

Implementing the New Testament Emphasis in Adult Teaching Ministries

From Faith Pulpit, Spring 2018. Used with permission.

The first article demonstrated that teachers and teaching are two essential components of a New Testament church at any age level. This second article focuses specifically on the Bible teaching ministries for adults.

Adult Teaching Ministries Today

Churches today utilize three main Bible teaching ministries for adults:

  • Adult Sunday School classes (sometimes called adult Bible fellowships),
  • Specialized Bible studies (such as men’s and women’s Bible studies), and
  • Small groups (small groups of adults who meet at various times; sometimes called cell groups or life groups).

All of these ministries can serve a useful role in Bible teaching, but how do they compare when evaluated against the New Testament emphasis on teachers and teaching?

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The Sunday School’s True Evangelism

(About this series)



There are more than thirty million persons reported in the enrollment of the Sunday Schools of the world. But if all these persons, and all church members as well, knew what the Sunday School is really for, the enrollment would leap upward millions upon millions.

The Sunday School is often spoken of as the child of the church, or the church of tomorrow, or a branch or department of the church. It is more than any and all of these.

The true Sunday School is the Church of Jesus Christ engaged in systematic study and teaching of the Word of God for three great purposes: to bring into the body of Christ those within the membership of the Sunday School who are not yet members of the church or of Christ; to train up those who are in Christ into a full-grown knowledge and appropriation of the riches which are theirs because they are Christ’s; and to send out into the world fully equipped, victorious soul-winners who shall be Christ’s living epistles to those who do not yet know Him.

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Is It Time to Bring Back the Original Sunday School?

Sam Weller, associate professor of creative writing at Columbia College Chicago and authorized biographer of Ray Bradbury, recently published an article in The Chicago Tribune that got me thinking: “Without school librarians, we’re on a dystopian path.”

In his commentary he expresses his concern about cuts in staff and funding for school libraries. During a visit to rural Shawnee, Oklahoma, he found out that their school library received no funding whatsoever for new library books in 2016. In Wichita, Kansas, certified librarians were being replaced by clerks. The Kansas Department of Education has reduced the number of certified librarians in their state by 31%. The number of school librarians in the Chicago public school system has dropped from 454 to 160.

Mr. Weller reminds the reader that Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 depicts a dystopian society that no longer values reading and education.

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Improving Adult Sunday School classes

From Faith Pulpit, Winter 2015. Used by permission, all rights reserved.

My purpose in the first article was to call churches back to the priority of adult Sunday School classes because I believe they can do everything small groups can do and more and can provide the best format for discipleship. In short, adult Sunday School has the greater potential for benefit to a church. In this second article I offer some suggestions for how we adult teachers can improve our adult classes so they reach their full potential.

1. Commit to using printed curriculum that covers the Bible systematically.​

One of the advantages of adult Sunday School classes over small groups is they can cover all the Bible systematically. This kind of coverage will not happen if adult teachers are allowed to choose their own studies. Systematic coverage can only happen when teachers follow a printed curriculum that covers the entire Bible. And if a church has more than one adult class, this kind of coverage can only happen when all the adult teachers in a church follow the printed curriculum.1 For adult classes to reach their full potential, printed curriculum that covers the Bible systematically is essential.

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In Defense of the Adult Sunday School

From Faith Pulpit, Winter 2015. Used by permission, all rights reserved.

The venerable adult Sunday School class has not been doing well recently. Most churches still have one or more adult Sunday School classes (though some churches have already abandoned them), but a new adult ministry seems to be getting the priority these days—small groups.

I believe that one reason for the popularity of small groups is that in many cases we have not done adult Sunday School well. Adult Sunday Schools in many churches have become stale and lifeless, so we have looked for a new ministry. Small groups seem like the answer to the problems of adult Sunday School classes.

How Do They Differ?

Most of us are familiar with adult Sunday School classes. Churches have had them for decades. Smaller churches may have only one class while larger churches have multiple classes. Churches that have more than one adult class may group the adults by ages (my preference) or allow adults to attend any class they want. Many churches today call the adult classes Adult Bible Fellowships (ABFs).

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An Overview of Sunday School Publishers

From Faith Pulpit, Fall 2013. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

In this article I overview twelve of the major curriculum publishers, especially Baptist publishers, that Faith Pulpit readers might be aware of, have questions about, or consider choosing for their church ministries. The websites linked to each publishing house are the basis for this overview. Visit these websites to find the scope and sequence of each curriculum.

Answers Bible Curriculum

Answers Bible Curriculum (ABC) is produced by Answers in Genesis (AiG) of Petersburg, Kentucky. AiG introduced this curriculum to churches in the summer of 2012. It is an interdenominational, uniform curriculum on a three-year cycle of lessons. ABC has a special apologetic focus on equipping students to defend the truth of Scripture, especially the book of Genesis. The AiG doctrinal statement is strong on creation issues (including marriage) and holds to a Biblical position on God, the Scripture, Jesus Christ, and salvation. It does not deal with such matters as church polity or eschatology. The publisher leaves those areas up to the church using the materials. AiG also produces VBS materials and other creation-related resources for use in churches, schools, and homes.

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Choosing Sunday School Curriculum

From Faith Pulpit, Fall 2013. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The Sunday School curriculum market is changing. In the past two years one publisher has left the field and another has entered it. Some of the established publishers are making changes. Such changes make it important to step back and examine the whole field of Sunday School curriculum.

Why Is Curriculum So Important?

Before we examine the question of choosing curriculum, let’s consider why a church’s Sunday School curriculum is such an important matter in the first place. Does it really make a difference? I believe it does because the curriculum resources a church chooses for its Sunday School greatly influence the direction of the church. Why is that so? Because a church’s Sunday School curriculum reaches almost every person in the church on a weekly basis.1 No other curriculum used in church reaches as many people. If a church chooses a strong, Biblically-based Sunday School curriculum, that’s the way the church will go. If the church chooses a broader curriculum, the church will go in a different direction. Sunday School curriculum, therefore, is a major factor in the direction of a church.

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