Re: Class for Spiritual Beginners
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Posted by Thomas J. Cook on February 17, 1998 at 12:35:53:
In Reply to: Class for Spiritual Beginners posted by (anonymous) on February 17, 1998 at 12:11:11:
: We are interested in starting a new Sunday School class for spiritual beginners...people that do not get anything out of Sunday school for one reason or another, people that are afraid to read in Sunday school, or people that have never gone to Sunday school.
I was looking around for some curriculum ideas, but then realized that there are some more basic issues here. Hope some of this is helpful.
As you indicate, there are lots of reasons why various individuals don't attend Sunday School. Different approaches are needed for the different reasons.
The one best idea I have seen in practice is Andy Anderson's approach of the "Pastor's Class." The idea is that the pastor is the "paid professional" with the "seminary education," hence the "theological expert." Because of this position, he is able to reach the class of people who think that Sunday School is "beneath them" somehow, or who aren't impressed by a lay teacher. He is also able to reach a lot of people who may have been turned off by a particular experience in Sunday School, since they believe they can trust the pastor not to embarrass them or put them on the spot. Some will be impressed just by the title or position. Whatever the reason, we can take advantage of the built-in "draw" provided by the office of the pastor.
Some of the logistics:
- This needs to be a lecture-style approach, thus providing for the individuals who want to remain anonymous and uninvolved. (We start where they are, in hopes of helping them to develop). This approach, plus the fact that pupils will not be called on to pray or read scripture, needs to be clearly spelled out in the publicity and invitations.
- At First Baptist, Nashville, the Pastor's class had a "convener" who opened with prayer and took care of announcements and administrivia. The pastor came in as his schedule permitted and led the actual Bible study part of the session. He often had to leave prior to the close of the hour and leave the session in the hands of the convener.
- The participants should be carefully selected and a personal invitation extended by the pastor, preferably by telephone. One important item is that the participation of pupils who are already involved in a Sunday School class needs to be carefully controlled.
Ideally, any active pupils would be ineligile for the pastor's class. If you don't do this, you run the risk of folks wanting the prestige of being in the pastor's class, depleting the membership of your ongoing classes, negatively impacting their ministry, and alienating your teachers.
- You need to carefully evaluate your target group; an ideal approach would be to start the class on a short term basis, and after (say) two or three months end the cycle, perhaps begin teaching the same material again, and strongly encourage the participants to move into the rgular Sunday School organization.
An excellent way to do this is to create a new class from the pupils in the Pastor's class, with a new teacher (perhaps enlisted from the group itself), and build on the bonds that have been forming. This approach uses the Pastor's class as an entry point, and will work for many of the classes of pupils named above. Another approach would be to keep the class on an ongoing basis; this has the disadvantage that it will saturate in size and composition over time and you will have difficulty attracting new candidates to the group.
- A variant on this approach is used at Jersey Baptist, where I am a member. Not the senior pastor, but an associate pastor leads a 12-week cycle of lessons on a pretty much continuous basis. (His topic is "How to be a Growing Christian.") He compiles a list of prospects and new church members who have not gotten involved in
Sunday School, and personnally invites them to participate in the next offering of his class. He works the class each week as a Sunday School teacher would, calling each member every week and asking for prayer concerns and ministry opportunities. At the end of the cycle, he emphasizes the need for ongoing Bible study and urges each one to become an active member of the appropriate adult Bible study class. We expect the teachers of the target classes to contact the new members and help to get them established in the regular class.
As for curriculum, there are some curriculum materials designed especially for this. One of the best is the Touchpoints series from the Sunday School Board. The important thing for the Pastor's Class is to stick with whatever the pastor is comfortable with. The only real advice I have here is to keep away from "deep" studies if you are targeting seekers or new Christians. The pastor can "drop" in a few references to "the original Greek" if he chooses to satisfy those who like to think of themselves as "deep thinkers", but the main course still needs to be more on the lines of milk than steak...most people are less sophisticated theologically and Biblically than they like to think.
Hope this helps...Thanks again for your interest in providing Better Bible Teaching for More People--you and your church are to be congratulated for spending time and energy on the important area of reaching the more difficult group to reach.
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