A Healthy Sunday School

Published on March 23rd, 2016



Almost every congregation chooses to operate a Sunday School.  It is a ministry of the congregation that is often placed in the hands of volunteers to organize and teach the classes.  Someone is identified as the Sunday school superintendent and others are asked to teach.  A lay board usually oversees the program.  It usually runs on its own, until the Superintendent quits or a faithful teacher moves away.

Whatever the organizational pattern, someone, the pastor or a Board of Christian education, is still ultimately responsible for the Sunday school.  This guide outlines four major “systems” of a Sunday school ministry that you can observe from a distance or ask direct questions of those involved.  It also provides indicators of evidence of good health to look for in your program.

Four Systems of Sunday School

These four statements, if all answered in the affirmative, would likely lead one to declare that Sunday school your congregation is healthy.

  • 1/The Children: The majority of our congregation’s children are being taught.
  • 2/The Teachers: Teachers are recruited, qualified, trained and equipped.
  • 3/The Instruction: Scheduled time for Sunday school is being used effectively.
  • 4/The Congregation: Sunday school is positively supported by the congregation.

1/The Children:  The majority of our congregation’s children are being taught.

Indicators of Good Health:

  1. You maintain a list of all children from birth to age 18, showing current age or grade level.  This list is compared to current Sunday school enrollment and attendance.
  2. You have a cradle roll that systematically communicates with parents of newborn children through their third birthday.  The communications includes information about Sunday school for children and adult bible class offerings for parents.
  3. Families are intentionally and individually invited to enroll their child in Sunday school at the earliest entrance age or immediately upon moving into the community.
  4. You have prepared a written document that profiles your Sunday school to give to parents and visitors.
  5. When children are absent, a procedure is in place to monitor the absences and re-invite the families.

2/The Teachers:  Teachers are recruited, qualified, trained and equipped.

Indicators of Good Health:

  1. Sunday school teacher candidates have been active members for a full year before being assigned a class and have shown evidence of a desire to study God’s Word personally.
  2. At least two teachers are assigned to each class, so that at least one of them can be present each Sunday with both present when in town.
  3. Potential teachers with little experience are assigned to serve as an observer or aide before being given her/his own class.
  4. The congregation purchases all the teacher and student materials for the teachers’ use.
  5. Teachers value building personal relationships with the children and take time to do so regularly.
  6. The teachers regularly participate in teacher’s meetings to increase their Biblical knowledge and teaching skills.

3/The Instruction:  Scheduled time for Sunday School is being used effectively.

Indicators of Good Health:

  1. The classroom is inviting; the teacher is in the room to welcome learners as they arrive.
  2. The class begins promptly at the start time with child-assisted worship.
  3. The teacher paces the class through all four stages of a class period: [a] gather, [b] study, [c] apply, [d] close.
  4. The key point of the day is stated and restated throughout the class time, with emphasis on Law and Gospel.
  5. The teacher uses drama and other techniques to tell the Bible narrative with enthusiasm.
  6. The learners are guided through an activity that reinforces the key point.
  7. The class ends at the appropriate time with a routine procedure that makes the end of the class definitive.

4/The Congregation:  Sunday School is positively supported by the congregation.

Indicators of Good Health:

  1. Sunday school teachers are commissioned annually in a public worship service.
  2. The names of Sunday school teachers are occasionally printed in the church newsletter or announcements.
  3. The congregation budget supports the purchase of curricular supplies and audio-visual equipment.
  4. The pastor publicly commends the Sunday school staff and prays for them during worship.
  5. Signage directs visitors to the Superintendent’s location or classrooms.
  6. Parents are reminded that the Sunday school teachers are partners with them in teaching their children God’s truths.

Congregations, pastors, or Sunday School leaders desiring to study these dimensions and indicators in more detail

to improve the health of their Sunday Schools are invited to contact Dave Ebeling of the Indiana District Office

(812-322-6503/cell or dave.ebeling@in.lcms.org) for discussion or to arrange a presentation.