Sunday School That Really Excels Edited by Steve R. Parr
This new book edited by Steve R. Parr, vice president for Sunday school and evangelism with the Georgia Baptist Convention is right for exploring the various challenges and motivation for Sunday schools in church. Having always wondered why Sunday schools in the various churches I’ve been in don’t seem to do so well, this book caught my eye. The difference between this book and others on Sunday school is that book is designed to tell stories of churches with thriving Sunday school programs rather than just relay some good principles (19). Why, because stories are powerful in that they hit home for many people, relating the real experiences of life in a church. The chapters in the book range from the state of Sunday school today to excelling in rural areas to excelling in a multicultural community. The chapters are designed to be focused on particular demographic and stages of a church’s life. Each chapter is written by a different author alongside some pastors writing more than one chapter. What ends up is a book that brings to life the vitality of a good Sunday school along with the challenges that churches face in promoting and sustaining Sunday school.
The first chapter written by Steve R. Parr is more a dialogue between him and Dr. Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. Dr. Rainer commits to saying that the idea of high expectations is the thread that runs through all of his books, including his take on the Sunday school movement. In doing some careful research, Dr. Rainer found out that there is strong correlation between the health of a church and a strong Sunday school ministry (27). Not only do believers strengthen their faith by being a part of Sunday school, but the likelihood for someone becoming a follower of Christ is dramatically increased as they take part in a Sunday school setting. Yet, Dr. Rainer also indicates in the chapter that the Sunday school ministry at the present is waning right now, in part due to an emphasis on other things such as worship, missions, and preaching. Even more telling is the little attention given to Sunday school groups in the context of seminary training. Part of the goal of providing a solid Sunday school program is the need for the Sunday school ministry to be consistent the vision and theology of the church (34).
One of the prominent themes of great importance in the book was the pastoral support that a Sunday school must have to excel. Why? Because if a pastor is wholeheartedly in support of the Sunday school ministry, he will cast a vision for its growth that will captivate others to join in on the ministry. Pastor Jeff Hurts of Beulah Baptist Church is an excellent example of this pastoral support of Sunday school ministry. By four key focuses; intentional evangelism, warm and loving fellowship, prayer, and guest ministry, Jeff is able to bring people alongside him in casting a vision for the Sunday school ministry (73-75). I think one of the reasons why this is so important is that the book clearly indicates that Sunday school ministry shouldn’t be a compartment of the vision of the church but should encapsulate the vision from start to finish, including such ingredients as evangelism, disciple-making, missions, and outreach. The pastor leads the congregation in focusing on the things a church values and implementing these core values in a way that makes Sunday school ministry part of the livelihood of the church.
This book would be a great resource for Sunday school leaders, small group facilitators and anyone interested in teaching in the local church. With chapters ranging on such a wide variety of issues, there is bound to be a chapter written for you in here.
Thanks to Kregel Ministry for the complimentary review copy of the book in exchange for review.