One of the things that happens in the evangelical church world that mirrors the culture is that local churches often engage in the trends of the day. For instance, if community churches are in vogue, it’s a common thing to see many local churches named “________ Community Church.” If it’s multi-site church growth models, it’s common to see a church described as “one church in six locations.” In short, many church leaders want to be ever progressing to avoid the image of age and to dodge the title of “old fashioned.” Perhaps this is why Sunday school has fallen on hard times in many circles. It just sounds old and outdated so it must not be profitable—right?
Wrong. To judge the Sunday school book by its cover would be to make a grievous error. Just because one church down the road calls it “life groups” or “connection groups” and your church still refers to the Sunday morning gathering as “Sunday school” doesn’t mean that your church is behind the times. Have you considered the many reasons why you should stop skipping Sunday school?
You Need to be Taught
Far more important than your ability to network in a local church with certain friends is the ability to learn the Word of God. How serious do you take the study of the Bible? Is it merely a hobby that you engage in every so often or is it at the core of who you are as a person? Every child of God needs to be taught the Word of God, and without such teaching the individual Christian will dry up spiritually. Sunday school is a place for Christians to learn. God desires for us to know him and make him known.
The central aim of the local church is the teaching and preaching of the the doctrines of God’s Word. The central agenda of pastors is to “equip the saints for the work of ministry” and this is accomplished through the right handling of God’s Word (Eph. 4:12; Col. 1:28). Are you bored with the Bible? Do you believe God to be boring? J.I. Packer, in his excellent book, A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life, once said, “Doctrinal preaching certainly bores the hypocrites; but it is only doctrinal preaching that will save Christ’s sheep.” 
Teaching and preaching overlap considerably, but the teaching atmosphere in the small group Sunday school setting is invaluable for the growth of the Christian. There is a certain dynamic that happens in that gathering that doesn’t happen in the sermon. For instance, the ability to ask question immediately and to engage in the process of iron sharpening iron is extremely helpful and something that we should regularly engage in.
You Need a Close Community
Many churches have tried to help modernize Sunday school in the eyes of a younger population by renaming it something catchy like, “Connexion Pointe” or “Cross Groups” or “Impact Groups.” While that may be a certain trend that many churches employ to appear to be relevant, let’s be honest—the name really doesn’t matter. What matters is that the group actually develops into a meaningful community. The Sunday school ministry of your local church is a place where you can know and be known by others. Real friendships that last for a lifetime are often birthed and nurtured in these groups.
Last week I wrote an article that critiqued Mark Zuckerberg’s comments about Facebook bridging the gap of failing church membership by offering a meaningful community group through Facebook. While Zuckerberg is correct that people feel more whole and fulfilled as they are connected in a meaningful community, he misses the mark by believing that Facebook is capable of solving the problem of falling church membership.
Facebook may serve as a tool for the local church to strengthen their community efforts, it will never replace real biblical churches. Why not? Because real community cannot happen through the click of a mouse or engagement in a social networking website. For real meaningful community to take place, people must spend time in the same room, hear one another speak, show interest and care for one another, share one another’s burdens, and serve with one another at some level for an important cause. The place where Christians can accomplish this type of genuine community is within small groups—even if it’s named “Sunday school.” Far too often people who become disconnected and disappear from your local church disappear from Sunday school first.
You Need to Serve
One of the latest trends among the millennial population is the need to support a company that promotes, supports, or serves in some charitable way in their local community or perhaps a third world nation. This is not a Christian thing—this is a millennial trend. The latest trends demonstrate that many younger people are interested in buying from a company if they know that that particular company is giving back a percentage of their profits to fund some humanitarian cause.
We enjoy doing for others, and as Christians, we should enjoy serving the church and the community together for the glory of Christ. The overall vision of the church can often be set by the pastors and that agenda often is heard from the pulpit. However, it’s through the Sunday school (or small group) of the local church that the vision is carried out. Often the local and foreign mission work is pushed through the local church’s Sunday school gathering by natural conversations, intentional praying, and planning means of involvement.
If you aren’t involved in a Sunday school class in your local church it’s very likely that you aren’t serving in your church or beyond the borders of your church campus beneath the banner of the gospel. Consider your need to serve and how opportunities will arise through your Sunday school group in your church. Get involved and start serving.
If you don’t like the name “Sunday school” — that’s fine, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Immerse yourself into a class and seek to know God more through the study of the Bible. If you’re resistant to making new friends and opening up, that’s understandable—but know that you need real friends who will know you (the real you that you don’t put on Facebook), and you need people to be honest with you. You don’t have to air out your dirty laundry each week in your Sunday school class, but a measure of openness and intimacy is necessary. You may already know that God has gifted you for a reason, and you need to engage in serving the Lord through your local church. What better way to do so than through a meaningful and healthy Sunday school class.
You need Sunday school and your church’s Sunday school needs you.
- J.I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life, (Wheaton: Crossway, 1990) 285.