Why Do We Need a Sunday School Reformation? Part 2

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

In part 1, I argued that the primary purpose of Sunday school, or Sunday small groups (SSG’s), is for the group members to learn, in a systematic and thorough manner, the contents of the Bible. If you’re with me so far, then it’s time to explain why I think so many churches are failing to fulfill this purpose.

Curriculum. By curriculum, I mean the lessons that are given to the SSG members each week, 52 weeks a year. The curriculum outlines what the SSG will study over the church year (in the long term) or church quarter (in the short term), it provides teaching aids to the teachers, and it either provides or directs the members to material that should be read ahead of time in preparation for each week’s lesson.

So what is wrong with the majority of curricula that I have taught and used over the last decade as a SSG teacher and leader? There is not a systematic approach to teaching through the contents of the Bible.

How might a curriculum provide this systematic approach? For the answer to this question, we need to look at how schools, colleges, and universities teach any subject. For any subject, be it math, science, or social studies, the curriculum is designed to start with a logical beginning point, build from that beginning week after week so that each lesson builds on the previous, and eventually end when the subject has been covered in its entirety.

If we think about what the Bible is, it consists of 66 separate pieces of literature, with each piece of literature building upon the other. In fact, many of the books of the Bible are historical narratives, which means that they are recounting historical events. Each of these narratives builds upon the narratives that preceded. The historical narratives start in the Book of Genesis and flow all the way through the Book of Revelation.

Yes, the Bible also contains poetry, wisdom literature, and personal letters. But all of these other literary genres hang on the structure of the historical narratives. In other words, without the narratives, the other literature loses much of its meaning and context.

So how is historical narrative studied in high schools, colleges, and universities?

Chronologically. The lessons are arranged in the order in which events occurred. If we are studying World War II, we start with the years leading up to the beginning of the war in the 1930’s, and we end with the treaties that were signed to officially end the war in 1945. For the Bible, you would start with Genesis, as those events occurred first, and you would end with Revelation because those events will occur last.

In part 3, we will continue to look at SSG curricula.