In Defense of Sunday School

By Ben Johnson

When you read “Sunday school” what images come to mind? Felt boards? Bible drills? An old lady telling you that you’re going to hell because you listened to the rock station on the way to church?

For many Christians, Sunday school left a bitter taste in their mouths. Some remember it as legalistic lecturing, drilling into their heads the proper ways that God has commanded us to live, and how they will be punished if they disobey. Others just remember it as boring. Whatever the reason, I don’t see a lot of churches doing Sunday school any more. Sunday mornings are now for the worship experience and small groups have taken the relation-building role that Sunday school classes used to fill; but in this shift I believe we have missed something Sunday school classes fulfilled. They gave Christians a chance to talk about the Bible.

I don’t talk about the Bible much. I talk about parts of the Bible, the gospels, its messages, but I spend very little time talking about the book itself. I spend most of my day at work, so it’s not like I can ask “Do you think the stipulations of the Jerusalem council apply today and to what degree?” during the sales meeting. Sunday school was a great time to dig into those rabbit trails and discuss the fine detail found in the scriptures.

Many argue that this task can be fulfilled in small groups, but small groups aren’t centered around studying the Bible; they’re centered around building relationships with other people in the church. That is a great goal that is desperately needed in our churches, but it is not a time devoted to understanding the Bible.

Of course, this means Sunday schools should be devoted to studying the Bible. I have been part of Sunday schools in the past that basically functioned as a social club. There was very little studying taking place.

To some people, this is fine. They’d rather spend time hanging out with friends than exegeting Leviticus, but I’ve been sorely lacking a good Sunday school for the past year. I like talking about different stories of the Bible. I’m not a person who opens up to others easily. I must ease into it, and in the past Bible study has been a great way for me to ease into more intentional relationships. The best Christian group of friends I was ever a part of happened because I joined a Bible study; I miss that.

There is something special when a group of people get together to study the Word of God. It binds them as they get to understand God and each other better. It creates a space where people can ask questions and comprehend God’s word more. We are supposed to love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds; let’s not ignore using our minds to worship God.

Ben Johnson is a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary pursuing an MA in theology with a concentration in Church Planting. He is originally from Huntsville, AL, and is a graduate of Samford University. He and his wife reside in Greenville, SC.

Brannon McAllister