Posted: 12/11/17 at 4:00pm. Post by Tony Brooks.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:1-8 NIV)
I am the first to admit that we have many church members who are biblically illiterate, and we need to do a better job of helping people know the Bible. When we stopped having Discipleship Training (or Training Union) on Sunday nights, we didn’t replace it with anything and our churches suffered. Yes, I am a believer in scripture memory verses, knowing themes in books of the Bible and knowing the books of the Bible, but that is not the overarching purpose of Sunday School. Sunday School is about a growing relationship with God through Jesus. If you simply want a Bible class, you can get it at any college or university.
Let me share a more personal example. What if I spent a lot of my time finding all I can about my wife, Katrina, from her family, friends, and any other sources, but not Katrina? Would I be in a relationship with Katrina that challenges me to love her more and grow more in my relationship with her? I may know more about Katrina than any other person but Katrina. I, however, can only really know Katrina as I talk to her and listen to her. What we need more than anything through Sunday School/small groups (Bible study experiences) are disciples who want to grow closer to Christ. So how do we move in that direction?
- Make your focus about soul growth for yourself. As you prepare a lesson, don’t get caught up in just knowing the passage, but in what God is saying to you. When I teach a lesson, I start on Sunday night, looking at the Scripture for the next Sunday. I don’t want to know what the curriculum says about it. I want the Holy Spirit to speak to me about how it applies to my life. You must model spiritual growth for your class.
- Make your focus on how to connect your students to God for soul growth. As you pray for your students on Sunday night, think about their needs and what the passage may say to them on how to help them in their soul growth. As you begin looking at the curriculum on Monday through Wednesday, consider what parts of the student’s book will speak to them, and how teaching plans will help them to delve into scripture to discover how God is speaking to them and applying the passage to their lives. Understand their learning styles. Try to have the lesson plans ready by Friday and continue to pray about the lesson as a tool to connect your students to a deeper relationship with God. Email possible thoughts, questions, and teasers for them to begin studying the scripture and the lesson at least by Friday night.
- Find ways to connect your students to each other. We do not live out a relationship with God in a vacuum. Though we all need private time with God, we also need other brothers and sisters to help us process what God is saying to us. Do your students each have someone they can go to during the week to help them process their thoughts? Encourage them to develop prayer partners in the class to encourage, challenge, and pray.
- Find ways to follow up during the week. Provide questions, comments, or stories on paper for them to take home if you do not have a technologically savvy class. If you do, Facebook, email, or text them during the week as God speaks to you about lessons from life, follow-up questions, or comments that will allow them to go deeper in their relationship with God through the passage. Sunday School/small group needs to be more than a Bible class for 30 to 45 minutes. It needs to be a life-changing experience leading to a deeper relationship with God that spans across every day.