by Bob Bever
The following story is provided by our INCM/CPC Partner Gospel Light.
Do you ever get tired of hearing bad news? Whether it’s the state of the economy or the state of the church, we seem to be bombarded with naysayers, pessimists and doomsdayers. It can really wear you down if you find yourself struggling in life or ministry as it is. I don’t know about you, but I am tired of hearing people blare out the dark picture-especially when it comes to issues of faith development and church ministry.
We live in some of the most exciting times ever for Christians. God is moving across the face of this earth in unprecedented ways. Incredible things, which should send our souls soaring and our spirits praising our amazing God, are happening on every continent. And God has not forsaken America, nor your community, your ministry or you. Take heart in some of the great things happening.
BELIEVE IT! SUNDAY SCHOOL ATTENDANCE IS UP
Barna Research Group just gathered information showing that 24% of USA adults responded that they attended Sunday School in the past seven days, which is up from 20% in 2008. This is the highest percentage since 1991, with the exception of 2002 when it was 25%. That means that we have significantly more adults attending Sunday School now than at any other point in the past 19 years! Sixty-two million adults stated they attended Sunday School in the past seven days. This means that the total number of adults attending Sunday School has grown from about 45 million to more than 50 million, and perhaps to as many as 55 million adults! Wow! I don’t hear the bell tolling the death of Sunday School in those numbers. In fact, it suggests we must be doing some things right. For you in Children’s Ministry, remember that when adults attend Sunday School, their children are in Sunday School too!
Gospel Light conducted research with the Barna Research Group in July 2009 and found that 76% of adults who attended Sunday School and worship two or more times a month during their childhood remain active in their childhood faith today. More adults are attending church and Sunday School today because they have been grounded in their faith through the work of people like you. Sunday School is not outdated or ineffective. Far from it!
This is great news! Let’s get excited, folks. More people are attending church and Sunday School today than in the past 19 years! That does not sound like people are leaving the church in droves as some would intimate. We have more opportunity to reach more kids through Sunday School than we have in years. That’s your sweet spot. Are you making the most of it?
With more adults attending Sunday School, more parents are interested in being a partner with you in building a lasting faith in kids. There are new, easy and engaging ways for you to link church and home, teachers and parents, and turn the home light on! You now can effectively encourage the building of faith at home and offer parent-friendly options that are also easy for you as the leader.
VOLUNTEERISM IS UP
Suffering volunteer fatigue? Take heart: 27% of USA adults responded in the same Barna Research survey that they have volunteered free time to help a church in the past week-up from 23% 2008. Calculate it. It comes out to at least 55 million and up to 60 million adults volunteering per week in churches. There are at least 5 million and up to as many as 10 million more adults volunteering in a church now than in 2008. And compared to 2007 there are at least 6 million and up to as many as 12 million more adults volunteering in church now. Â I know you’re asking, “So, where are they?” While it is a challenge to recruit and keep volunteers, first know that they are out there and willing to serve. An encouraged current volunteer telling others is the best way to recruit new. So, invest in your volunteers. Spend more time on volunteers than on writing your materials. You have the privilege of shepherding people-kids and adults. They are your core responsibility. Lead kids to personally know Jesus and grow faith by engaging them consistently and systematically in dynamic and trustworthy Bible teaching. You don’t have time to write it yourself. God called you to impact people through relationships. Do what you do best-engage with people daily. Invest time you would put in front of a computer writing lessons in training up and leading volunteers vertically-always pointing them to Jesus and building them up.
So what does this all mean?
First, keep focused on your calling. I love what the Psalmist affirmed,
“But as for me, I will hope continually. I will praise You yet more and more. O God, you taught me from my youth; And I still declare Your wondrous deeds. And even when I am old and gray O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come.” (Psalm 71:14, 17-18).
Did you catch that? You and I have a calling to teach what God is teaching us down to the very youngest among us. From adults to the babies in our nursery we can declare the power of God. We have all seen the wondrous deeds of God in our lives (just think about what it means to be redeemed without cost to us). And we have the opportunity to keep doing this-every week-to assure each generation is effectively taught. You continue to make a transforming difference in kids’ lives. Keep building the kind of faith in our kids that has strength, resilience and staying power.
Second, remember that it’s all about Jesus. You know your scriptures. You know what Paul said to the Philippians;
“For this reason also, God highly exalted Him (Jesus) and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11).
Wow! I get goose bumps reading that. One day everyone will bow to the name of Jesus. And you are proclaiming the most powerful name in the entire universe to our children today. Think about that. There is no more important mission or calling than to bring the name of Jesus to the next generation. Will it be easy? No, because the evil one will do everything he can to keep that name from being proclaimed. But do not lose heart in your calling! Keep teaching Jesus because even the devil cannot stand when and where the name of Jesus is spoken. Assure that Jesus is the central focus of every presentation and the He is proclaimed prominently on every page of your Sunday School or VBS materials. He is, after all, on every page of the Bible. He is the scarlet thread through the scriptures.
How do we do this?
You guessed it! Be a champion for a solid, consistent, engaging and relevant Sunday School. And not just for kids, but for youth and adults as well. While you are focused on being a kids champion, you can also help to champion the building of a lasting faith for them by embracing and engaging your parents. Provide ways for your parents to enter into the faith development process at home. It does not have to be a time-consuming program for you. Look for Sunday School materials that teach Jesus and lift Him up, but that also come alongside you to easily provide effective tools to parents and bring the Gospel light home.
I love to encourage you in your ministry because you are the ones who are assuring that we show God’s “strength to this generation, His power to all who are to come.” Blessings on your faithful ministry, your faithful heart and your faithful hands. Remember this, one day “every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” And you are revealing the glory of God the Father every time you teach Jesus from the Bible to a child. Thank you!
As one whose life was impacted by Sunday School from age 3, Robert has dedicated his career to building a lasting faith in children. For over 16 years, he served as Associate Pastor and Teaching Pastor for three EFCA churches (Wauconda, IL, San Jose, CA and Clear Lake, WI), as Children’s Pastor at Willow Creek Community Church in S. Barrington, IL and as the first director of the Willow Creek Association. The most recent 16 years have been focused on developing and distributing faith development resources to church leaders. He served as the senior sales executive for David C. Cook and Group Publishing. In late 2008, he joined Gospel Light as VP of Sales, Marketing & Business Development. He and his wife, Linda, have been married for over 35 years and reside in the beach community of Ventura, CA. They have two adult children and – most notably-three incredible grandchildren.