Several years ago, I discovered an entire age group, adults 47-55, not attending Sunday School at the church I was serving. Most of them were very active in our church, served in leadership positions, attended Worship Services, but had not made Sunday School part of their experience. Through engaging them in casual conversations, I discovered that the overwhelming response was, “I just can’t sit still and listen for an hour.”
After thinking and praying about it, I asked seven of them to meet with me to discuss a new Sunday School class. We meet at one of their homes on a screened-in porch while seated at a round picnic table. Of course, the Hostess served drinks and snacks. The discussion started with them mostly sharing what they did not like about Sunday School.
After twenty minutes of lively discussion, I yelled “Stop!” Then I posed the question, “what if Sunday School was like this? What if we had a small group of people sitting around a table and seriously involved in discussing the scriptures?” An immediate response came from one of the ladies who said, “I’ve said more in the last 20 minutes than I have said in Sunday School my entire life.”
All agreed that they would be willing to be a part of a group with that structure. The discussion became centered on how they could make it happen and others they thought would be involved with them. Finally, they got to the bottom line question, “Where are you going to find leadership for this class?” My immediate response was, “the best leadership for this is sitting at this table.” After a long silence, the discussion became what they could do to make this happen.
Encounter: Sunday School
From this meeting came a new class, new leadership, and a new vision for Sunday School. This new way is known as “Encounter.” The idea was to study scriptures, not so much for gaining knowledge but to make it come to life. We looked at scripture and discussed what it meant to us and how we had experienced it in our own lives. The focus shifted from knowledge to application.
In 10 weeks, this group of zero members began averaging 42-45 people each Sunday! Folks who had stepped up to help lead tables would never have agreed to teach a traditional class.
This fall, there will be opportunities for adults in our church to experience this type of Bible study. If you like to focus on applying scriptures to your own life while others share in a small group, “Encounter” is for you! Watch for more information to come.