Sunday School - Steve Hulshizer

In the minds of many
Christians, Sunday School is a biblically mandated gathering of the
local church. To suggest something different is like attacking the
American flag, motherhood, and apple pie. To many others it would be
considered heresy to suggest anything different.

Few saints stop to consider that Sunday School, as we
know it, is less than 200 years old, and was originally started to
evangelize “unchurched” children. Today it is a large institution with
many programs and in many cases the majority of a local church’s
building facilities and funds are dedicated to it. In a typical Sunday
School many teachers, the majority of which are sisters, are unable to
attend the meeting in which the Word of God is preached due to their
teaching responsibilities. In some cases this has also created a
situation that may not be in accordance with Scripture. (1 Tim. 2:12-14)

The truth is, many Sunday Schools, like Christian
Schools, have become a substitute for the teaching of the children by
the fathers. (Eph. 6:4) The fault is not with Sunday School or the
Christian Schools, but with the fathers who have placed their
responsibility to teach their children upon the local assembly and/or
Christian School.

This may shock some, but Sunday School, as it is run
today, may actually have weakened some local churches. In far too many
cases children are kept at very shallow levels for many years. Some
have been taught by teenage teachers, while others were taught by those
who have limited knowledge of the Word of God -Thankfully, many have
been taught by knowledgeable and dedicated teachers. In other cases it
has led to a generation gap where young people have been kept separate
from the older saints, even through college years. In such cases a
generation gap should not surprise us, we created it!

However, the greatest damage may have been to fathers.
As mentioned, many fathers have turned over their responsibility to
teach their children to the church, and thus they themselves spend very
little time in the Word of God. It has been said many times, “the best
way to learn is to teach.” (This does not mean all men should be
teaching publicly.) As a result the assembly is very weak due to the
fact that the men of the assembly, who are to be the spiritual leaders
in the home and church, spend little time in the Word and instructing
their children.

Am I saying that Sunday School is not Biblical? Does it
mean that it should be scrapped? Not at all. What I am saying is that
Sunday School, while obviously used of the Lord to reach many children
with the Gospel and to teach countless others the Word of God, is not
the only way for the assembly to function. There is an alternative.

What if the assembly concentrated on teaching
“families.” What if we had real “Family Bible Hours?” What if everyone,
with the possible exception of very young children (Neh. 8:1-2), sat
under the sound of the “preaching” of the Word, and then families went
home and the fathers reviewed the message with the family, answering
any questions and explaining further certain aspects. (I Cor. 14:35,
Eph. 6:4) This would put the men of the assembly into the Word more. It
would make family members better listeners. Over time it would most
likely raise the level of instruction. It would not divide up the
assembly, with many sisters missing the ministry of the Word. It would
help eliminate the generation gap. It would greatly reduce the need of
large facilities, and programs. Would not our assemblies be stronger as
a result? Personally, I think so.

Isn’t this pure theory? No, I have seen young people
who were placed into the Family Bible Hour in their early teens, and
who today are parents themselves. Their knowledge of the Word goes well
beyond Bible stories. They are able to “endure sound doctrine.” They
are part of the assembly and contribute in a variety of ways, and work
well with the older saints. The parents of these young people went home
and while having dinner discussed the message, and fathers used the
opportunity to answer questions, or build upon the message. The fathers
of these young people were in the Word and were the spiritual heads of
their families. They were contributors at Bible studies, and worshipers
at the Lord’s Supper, and the assembly was stronger for it.

Many other young people who were raised basically on
Bible stories, dating classes, and volleyball are at a different level
today, and many have not matured as they should. Thankfully, many have,
but generally speaking many are still spiritual infants.

Does this mean this alternative solves all the problems
associated with Sunday School? Not at all, in fact, it introduces other
problems. What about families without fathers? What about children who
only come to Sunday School?

It may mean a Friday night outreach to evangelize
children with the Gospel. It may mean Sunday School plus Family Bible
Hour. It may mean sisters in fatherless homes may have to review the
message with their children. Local oversight will have to determine
what is best for the situation.

Just as in the financial world where, one can be penny
wise and dollar foolish, assemblies can spend much on Sunday School
while in the long term actually be undermining the strength of the
assembly. Certainly the evangelization and instruction of children are
important, but a Sunday School program, in and of itself, does not
guarantee that the assembly and families are being strengthened by it.

As we read the Scriptures we get no indication the
assembly was divided up, and while normal reasoning would think this
best, perhaps in the long term the assembly is better staying together
when gathered for spiritual purposes. (Neh. 8:1-2) This certainly is
conducive to making the assembly a family, rather than an organization.
(The larger the assembly the greater the chance that it will become an
organization, rather than a family.)

As stated, this is only an alternative. An alternative
that some assemblies may find helpful. An alternative that might just
make families and assemblies stronger in a day in which many are very