Every church must answer two basic questions: 1) What? What is our purpose? What does God have us here to accomplish? and 2) How? How are we going to accomplish our purpose?
Your answer to the What question gives you your mission. Most churches find it relatively easy to answer the What question because Jesus, the Head of the church, has answered that for us—it’s called the Great Commission. We are to “go and make disciples.” No debate about that.
But your answer to the How question comes more painstakingly. Church leaders wrestle with this more difficult question. But our answer to the How question is vitally important because it gives us our strategy. That is, our answer to How moves us to accomplish the What!
Many churches are missional, but most are not strategic. Churches read their Bibles and understand the clear teaching of Jesus recorded in Matthew 28:18-20. Jesus cast a vision for converting all nations to Himself. What a compelling, transcendent cause! Working on a strategy doesn’t sound so exhilarating, yet, it is so needed.
Think about it. Every organization on earth has a strategy to accomplish their mission. A business has a business plan/strategy to accomplish its mission—grow the business, make more money, and expand its footprint. Every coach has a game plan/strategy to accomplish the team’s mission—to win the game. Every school system has a strategy to accomplish their mission—educate children. Everyone has a strategy to accomplish their mission…but the church.
Anything worth accomplishing has a strategy. Is the Great Commission worth accomplishing? You bet it is! It is so grand that we call it the GREAT Commission. Therefore, it deserves our careful attention and planning.
I believe that Sunday School should be the church’s strategy. Sunday School is the How behind the What. Sunday School is the way we go about accomplishing the Great Commission—one class at a time, one person at a time. This article cannot cover all the reasons for that, but let’s look at the three components of a strategy.
Strategy can be defined as “a careful plan or method for achieving a particular goal usually over a long period of time.” Let’s divide this definition into three parts.
1. Strategy is a careful plan or method.
As a “careful” plan it should be well thought through. It should have much critique, input, evaluation, and be tested over and over again in many times and places. Sunday School is over 200 years old and has been tweaked and refined, reviewed and assessed, analyzed and criticized many times over. I submit to you that nothing in the life of the American church has endured the gauntlet of this kind of scrutiny like Sunday School. It is in fact a “careful plan or method.”
2. Strategy is necessary for achieving a particular goal.
As previously stated, we have a particular goal in mind—to bring the world to Jesus! For many reasons Sunday School should be the outreach, evangelistic arm of the church. It should be the church organized, mobilized, and individualized to reach people with the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. When we energize the Sunday School in outreach then we can realize the Great Commission!
3. Strategy is usually implemented over a long period of time.
Making disciples is not a quick fix endeavor. Disciple making is a process. It starts in the conversion process and continues through the maturation process. The beauty of Sunday School is that it is about both evangelism and discipleship. Sunday School shares the gospel and wins people to Christ, assimilates them into a community of believers, and then disciples and grows them into the image of Christ.
My observation is that most churches are event-driven, not process-driven. Yet, making disciples is a process. Jesus, the greatest disciple-maker, was in process with the Twelve for three years. My role places me in a lot of churches. I purposely notice their announcements and bulletin material. They most always promote and emphasize events and rarely ever promote and emphasize the process. We have unconsciously starved our process, our strategy and abundantly fed our events. I recommend using events that are tied to your church process/strategy.
Sunday School as the church’s strategy to fulfill the Great Commission is nothing new, but it is often untried. Like what you hear but need help? Check out LifeWay’s 12 session, Sunday School DVD Training, Sunday School Matters.
Allan Taylor is the Director of Sunday School and Church Education Ministry at LifeWay Christian Resources.