Friday, July 22, 2016

The 990 Principle

In my role as an education pastor, I spend a good bit of time thinking about how the church can more effectively communicate the truth of God’s word through the education/discipleship ministry of the church. One of the things I consider to be critical is the use of a quality curriculum across all age groups in the church in the primary delivery medium, most often referred to as Sunday School or small groups. There are a number of things that contribute to this view but let me share something that has shaped my thinking on this topic.

Here in Georgia, state law requires schools to provide 990 hours of instruction in each school year to high school students. Different states have different hour requirements, some simply use instructional days, etc. but you get the idea. At any rate, this got me to thinking about how many instructional hours our Sunday School teachers have each year. The average church has Sunday School 48 weeks out of the year. Some are a week or two more and some perhaps a week or two less but 48 Sundays per year is a good figure to work with. Each Sunday, the average teacher has about 30 minutes of actual instructional time during the hour. Again, some will be a little more than this and a few may be a little less but 30 minutes each week is fairly normal.

Calculating 30 minutes times 48 Sunday’s in a calendar year equals 24 hours of teaching God’s word in our Sunday School classes each year, assuming perfect attendance. Receiving 24 hours of biblical instruction each year, it would take 41 years 3 months to reach 990 hours of instruction, again assuming perfect Sunday School attendance. Let that sink in for a minute…over 41 years to receive the same amount of instruction that Georgia high school students receive in a single school year, with summers off!

With that realization, what I am calling The 990 Principle, the need for quality curriculum that assists Sunday School teachers of all skill levels in delivering a stimulating lesson from God’s word each week is absolutely essential. Teachers need focused material that provides the background and context of the passage being studied as well as a thorough understanding of the text itself. Along the way, built in opportunities for discussion greatly enhances retention of the concepts being learned and in my view is an essential part of any quality study. Additionally, the curriculum must provide a strong life application component. People need to leave the class with a solid understanding of how to apply what they have learned to their lives or the entire exercise is for naught.

Our church uses Explore the Bible, a dated curriculum from LifeWay Christian Resources, which is a book-by-book Bible study designed for small groups and Sunday School classes that takes participants deep into the context of God’s word and challenges them to live it out in their daily lives. This particular curriculum allows our church to align all of our adults and students to study the same passage of Scripture while kids study the same book and underlying concepts. Doing this allows families to easily study God’s word together through the week as part of their regular routine without forcing parents to learn their own material and then a different lesson that their kids are studying. For me, that is a win-win!

A closing thought: 24 hours of Bible instruction per year is not nearly enough when considering how churches go about developing disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. Sunday School/small groups are a critical part of the education ministry of the local church but it should not be the only part. Frequent men’s Bible studies, women’s Bible studies, etc. are also important and should be a normal part of the life of the church.

The link above provides the instructional requirements in all 50 states in the U.S. so find your state and see how many years it will take for your education ministry to reach that number through the primary delivery medium in your church. I am looking forward to your comments on this post!

Friday, July 08, 2016

Sterling, Castile, and Dallas TX

Alton Sterling
I have chosen not to post anything related to the shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, until now. I thought there was more than enough rhetoric and emotional rants being posted, especially on social media, and did not feel I needed to add my voice to that chorus. What is publicly known at this point looks like grossly excessive use of force by law enforcement. Is there any wonder that, in a nation where a wealthy white woman avoids being charged for clearly violating the law while simply being black means a large segment of the population is viewed with suspicion by police, blacks in this country not only don't believe they can receive justice but they also conclude that law
Philando Castile
enforcement believes they can take the lives of black Americans with impunity. Though I do not share their conclusion, I certainly understand it and how they arrived there. We can never know if Sterling and Castile would still be alive today if they were white but the fact that is even a possibility grieves my heart.

This morning, like many others, I am learning about the ambush and assassination of five Dallas Police Officers by snipers (yep...that's the term being correctly used in this instance) and seven others wounded. The images on television are just as shocking as the videos of Sterling and Castile! Details from Dallas are still forthcoming but we do know the police have three suspects in custody and so this story will continue to unfold. Some folks will focus on the shootings of Sterling and Castile mostly ignoring event in Dallas and while others will ignore the loss of these lives and focus on the murder of police in Dallas.

It is possible to be outraged by both the excessive use of force by members of law enforcement and to be supportive of our law enforcement community. This is not an either/or situation! This morning, there are now fourteen families in pain with seven grieving the loss of loved ones. While I do not see a moral equivalence between these events, the time for that debate is not now. Christians should be grieved by all of these events and clearly articulate that the love of Jesus Christ is the solution. However, before the message of the love of Christ is going to be received, it must be lived out (1 John 3:18).