RIDGECREST — Mike
Hatfield paused to think about what the impact of the 2008 Sunday School Week
at Ridgecrest Conference Center might be.
Hatfield, minister of
education from First Baptist Church in Kissimmee, Fla., said Carol Kern’s adult
Sunday School class doubled in the year following her solo trip to the 2007
Sunday school conference sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources of the
“She told us about (Sunday
School Week) with such passion, people signed up a year in advance,”
Hatfield said. “Now there are 19 of us up here. I can feel that same
excitement; that same fever. All of them have it this year.”
The July 11-14
conference brought nearly 1,000 ministers of education, pastors and Sunday School
teachers together in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains for an intense
series of workshops entitled “reDiscover Sunday School.”
Keynote speaker Tom
McCoy, pastor of Thompson Station (Tenn.) Church, had an unsettling question
for the crowd on hand:
“If everybody in
the church led the same amount of people to Christ that you lead to Christ, how
often would your baptistery be used?” McCoy asked.
Sunday School, he said,
is a great way to grow the church and is where the church can model the
leadership of Christ.
McCoy said Thompson
Station Church’s 130 Sunday School classes all started from one class — taught
by McCoy’s wife when there were just 50 people attending the church. “Now,
it’s 1,700. I know what a challenge it is to build classes,” he said.
“But it really
doesn’t matter what I know. It’s Who I know. If you’ll take what you know and
let God put His anointing on it, it’s an incredible victory you’ll win,”
“When God takes you
from the safety of your adult class and puts you into the dangerous shark tank
of eighth grade boys, He’s gonna protect you,” he cracked, referring to
excuses people make to avoid teaching Sunday School.
“The church exists
for those who are not yet part of it,” he challenged. “Some of you
don’t believe it. ‘Oh no, the church exists for me and my friends to get
together and have a great time.’ No, you can do that at Kiwanis.
Bruce Raley, LifeWay’s
director of leadership ministry, training and events, said if Sunday School
classes ultimately want to impact their environment, culture and community,
they must struggle with this question: “What really is our purpose?”
“To be a church
that’s missional, we have to have Sunday School classes that are also
missional,” said Raley.
Raley said people inside
the church often are focused internally and don’t have a good perspective of
people outside the church.
“I wonder if we
have taken ourselves out of the world,” he rhetorically asked.
Regardless of the
answers, the foundation of reaching people anywhere is the gospel, Raley said.
“People need the word
of God. They need it in the pulpit and they need it in Sunday School,” he
said, adding that many Sunday School classes have strayed from solid teaching
of the Bible. “We need to go back to teaching the Bible in Sunday School.”