I have been looking at the Sunday School movement lately. To quickly bring everyone up to speed, the Sunday School movement started back in 1780 with Gloucester businessman and journalist Robert Raikes. Sunday School was originally a para-church movement despised by both the clergy and the nobility. The reason: they felt that an educated laity would result in lost power and influence over the masses.
From my perspective, I believe that we currently have about five strains or strategies for Sunday School today. The five strains of Sunday School I see are:
- Back to the 50’s
- Classic Sunday School
- Community Sunday School
- Bible Fellowships
- Missional Communities
Back to the 50’s
This group believes everything was better in the 50’s and let’s go back to that style of Sunday School. In a way, maybe things were better in the 50’s. But unfortunately, that was 50-60 years ago and the world has changed. The focus of the Back to the 50’s strategy is recapturing the past.
Classic Sunday School
This style of Sunday School is making a comeback. In essence, take the principles of the 50’s and reapply them to a new century. Classic Sunday School typically keeps the Sunday School “brand” and builds upon it. The focus here is on building an effective organization.
Community Sunday School
In this form, Sunday School learns some things from the Small Group Movement, specifially the value of community or “doing life together”. These Sunday Schools are often renamed “LifeGroups”, “Community Groups”, etc. in an effort to help focus the group on community and relationships.
Bible Fellowship groups or classes began in the 70’s with the Adult Bible Fellowship movement. These classes are typically large and content driven. The name says a lot about the focus, Bible Fellowship. Bible Fellowship groups generally teach the Bible informationally. Since these groups tend to be large, they often have small discipleship groups associated with them.
This brand of Sunday School is an effort to put members on mission. The focus of missional communities is to apply the Bible study into the neighborhoods through community. Again, the name says a lot. The focus of missional communities is to equip each member to be a missionary in their neighborhood.
Obviously, none of these five strategies have traits that are exclusive from the others. For example, teaching the Bible doesn’t just belong to Bible Fellowships. Hopefully all five strands of Sunday School are teaching the Bible. Again, we would hope all of our Sunday Schools are building community and involved in mission. But each strand of Sunday School appear to differ slightly from the others in focus and style of ministry/mission.
For the next five weeks, I am going to share what I am calling the “5 C’s of a Missional Community”. In this process, I hope to integrate five areas of missional communities, and how I believe these groups and classes fit under a bigger umbrella than Sunday School or Small Groups.
Also, your feedback to this post will help me fine tune my thoughts about missional communities. Feel free to comment…