Thursday, August 23, 2007

Sunday School Re-imagined

Since Gary and I arrived at Fair Oaks, we've really been praying and seeking the Lord on direction for the youth programs. Throughout this summer, we've been developing our vision for the fall programming and are really excited about new things ahead. Our heart is to reach students where they're at, and to equip them to build a faith that will continue once they graduate from high school.

In today's Oakleaf (our church e-newsletter), Gary detailed Part One of our plans. Here it is:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

-- 2 Timothy 3:16-17(emphasis added)

Traditionally, Sunday School has served to impart biblical information to students. Many generations of young people have grown in their knowledge of what Scripture teaches on various topics because of quality Sunday School experiences during their formative years.

However, we would all agree that following Jesus is about much more than mastering facts and information. Following Jesus is a way of life. The teachings of Scripture were always meant to shape not just what we know, but the way we live and the decisions we make day by day.

So if our goal is to teach students to live this lifestyle of following the Lord, it makes sense that our Sunday School should focus, in both structure and content, on equipping our students for every good work and teaching them how to "walk humbly with their God" (Micah 6:8).

To that end, I am very excited to share with you some changes we're making in our youth Sunday School programs this fall. I call it Sunday School Re-imagined.

In a nutshell, the concept is to offer multiple Sunday School classes and then allow students a choice in what class they attend. Classes will run in four to six week sessions, so at the end of each session, the student has a new set of options to choose from. Class topics will focus on Christian living and practical skills that emphasize not just knowing the truth, but living the truth on a daily basis.

Let's imagine a hypothetical student. We'll call him Jim. Jim is a sophomore who has grown up going to church and Christian schools. He knows his Bible pretty well, but he's not really sure what it means to live for Jesus. He usually feels bored in Sunday School, because it's all stuff he's heard before in one form or another, and he wonders if church will always be like that for him.

Now imagine that Jim begins the new school year in our new Sunday School Re-imagined. Maybe in the school year's first session of classes, Jim chooses to be a part of a class studying various spiritual disciplines. He explores prayer and worship more deeply than he has before, and he learns what fasting is and how it can enrich his spiritual life.

At the end of six weeks, Jim sees that there's going to be a drama class offered in the next session, so he decides to give that a try. Jim works with other students to write, prepare, and perform evangelistic skits that he gets to bless others with during worship services, and he even performs one in the park on a Saturday as a way of sharing his faith. Maybe someone even decides to follow Jesus because of Jim and his friends.

Then in the third session, Jim opts for a special series of classes taught by a licensed Christian counselor on being there for friends in crisis. He learns what to say when a friend tells you they are struggling with an addiction, or an abusive boyfriend, or suicidal thoughts. These are heavy topics, but Jim has friends struggling with some of these things. He's glad that now he has something to share with them.

By Christmas, Jim has learned a number of practical skills that enrich his own personal walk with the Lord and he's better equipped to be of help to his friends at school. He gave drama a try, and while he enjoyed it, he has decided that maybe it's not the ministry for him. Nevertheless, Jim is glad to have had the chance to try it out, and he's excited to see what new choices he'll have in the next session of classes. Who knows? The ministry that is right for him may be waiting right around the corner.

This is just one of several different combinations of experiences available to students within the structure of the new Sunday School Re-imagined. It's my desire to offer as diverse a range of classes as possible, and I need your help to do it.

Do you have special skills, like cooking, playing basketball, or repairing cars? Do you have a passion for prayer, or worship, or serving the poor? Would you consider sharing your skills and passions with a small group of teenagers during Sunday School? If so, I would love to talk it over with you.

In His Service,

Pastor Gary Weston