So what makes for a successful Sunday School? For more than 30 years, I have trained, spoken and written on this topic. I have addressed the need for solid Bible study. I have trained leaders on the need for organization within the groups. I have written about the need for groups and leaders to reproduce. I still believe all of these are important … even crucial.
But perhaps there are a few secret ingredients to success. In fact, a group might do all of the actions above and still find that something is missing.
Maybe there is a need to just lighten up. There … I said it. Just smile. And laugh. Express joy.
I have been in Sunday School groups that are just way too uptight. The leader is too serious. The members all have stern looks on their faces from the time they enter until the time they leave. In fact, they carry that seriousness straight into the worship service, and probably on to the restaurant afterwards.
Wonder why guests might not come back a second time? Wonder why some people choose to join another group? Wonder why some just quit attending?
Proverbs 15:13 says “A joyful heart makes a face cheerful.” We should come together with joyful hearts. And if we have joyful hearts, it shows on our faces and in our countenance.
Certainly there are times when the group is solemn, addressing serious needs or topics. But there should also be abundant times when the group is laughing, smiling and enjoying being together as they study God’s Word.
1. It makes for an enjoyable experience.
So much of life today is intense. Many people work in difficult environments. Family and financial stress are found among many. Pressures of life push from every direction at times. So couldn’t your Sunday School group be a time when people enjoy being together and find encouragement and strength in God’s Word? Even in studying difficult passages and discussing serious topics, we find our Lord Jesus and the hope found in the gospel. That should make us joyful!
2. It makes the session memorable.
Ecclesiastes 3:4 says there is a time to laugh. Let’s be honest. How many of us can remember our study topic from two weeks ago? Even as a teacher, I have a difficult time remembering. But I do remember those present and whether we enjoyed the time together. I remember the session lasted longer than scheduled because we were all engaged. I do remember I enjoyed being there.
3. It brings people together.
We want to be around people who are full of joy. We want to gather with those who encourage us. We want to join together with people who enjoy life.
So loosen up. This Sunday … laugh, smile, and enjoy your time together!
Bruce Raley serves as Executive Pastor of First Baptist Church, Hendersonville, TN. A native of Hot Springs, AR, he previously served as Director of Church Partnerships and Church Education for Lifeway Christian Resources for 10 years. While at Lifeway, he personally trained hundreds of new church leaders. He also served on staff at First Baptist Church of Panama City, FL, and Walnut Street Baptist Church of Jonesboro, AR.