August 11, 1999

New life can be breathed
into dead Sunday school classes

___RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)--"Here Lies Our Dearly Departed Class" might well be the sign on the doors of some Sunday school classrooms across the Southern Baptist Convention.
___Like people, Sunday school classes can die due to lack of nourishment or stimulation, Mackie McCollister believes.
___A consultant in median and senior adult work for the Baptist General Convention of Texas, McCollister told participants in the "Sunday School for a New Century" conference at LifeWay Conference Center at Ridgecrest that dead or dying classes should not be left alone.
___"Sometimes there is a time to bury a dead class," McCollister observed, "but hopefully that is a last resort.
___"Among reasons classes die is lack of caring and ministry by members for each other," he said. Additional factors may include lack of lesson preparation by the teacher, once-a-year fellowships, unmet needs, no visitation, burned-out teachers who do all the work, no new members, more discussion time spent on sports or other subjects than on the lesson, and viewing Sunday school as a time to get together with friends rather than a time of Bible study.
___Some classes that are not at the point of burial can be returned to health, he said. Citing a list of "Tips for Bringing Classes Back to Life," prepared by Randy Millwood, a professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, McCollister encouraged teachers to resuscitate "paper classes," those that exist only on a class roster.
___Among the pointers:
___bluebull Evaluate. "Are we doing what we're supposed to be doing?" McCollister asked. "Am I contributing what I'm supposed to be contributing? Are the lessons effective?"
___bluebull Build relationships. "People sometimes come to Sunday school as much for the relationships as for the study time," he observed. "Fellowship and ministry are important. For some, the only hug they get all week is in that class."
___bluebull Have an atmosphere change. Be creative, consider more informality, do different activities and be enthusiastic, McCollister advised.
___bluebull Move Bible teaching to Bible study. The focus in Bible teaching can become the teacher. The focus in Bible study is the learner who discovers meaning from study.
___bluebull Become equippers, not doers. "Involving the class is so important," McCollister said. "Give everyone a responsibility--ministry, telephone calling, note writing. Equip people so they feel responsibility."
___bluebull Evangelize. "Sunday school is where people meet Christ," he said.


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