Start New Groups through the Missionary Movement of Sunday School
Missionary. What comes to mind when you hear the word "missionary"? Far away places? Strange customs? Unfamiliar languages? Sunday school?
Sunday school may seem out place in that list, but "missionary" is at the heart of Sunday school. You don't have to cross a border or an ocean to be a missionary. In fact, if you are a member of Sunday school, you are part of a missionary movement in its third century.
In the 2011 book Transformational Class: Transformational Church Goes to Sunday School, David Francis reminded his readers that the Sunday school movement began in Gloucester, England, through the efforts of Robert Raikes. This man had been deeply moved by the plight of hundreds of young children who worked in factories six days a week. He wanted to help them achieve a better life and climb out of their poverty by teaching them to read. Their only day off was Sunday. He established a "Sunday School" and enrolled children in classes where they learned to read, and the Bible was their textbook. The missionary movement known as Sunday school was born.
Sunday school as a missionary movement didn't stop there. During the early days of the United States, Sunday school missionaries traveled from town to town establishing a Sunday school in each communities they visited. Those early Sunday schools were typically non-denominational, and people of all ages were invited to study the Bible.
Some time in the past, a person (or a group of people) established the Sunday school you attend. Their goal was to reach people of all ages for Bible study. As a result, you became part of a 300-year-old missionary movement. You can be a "Sunday school missionary" to others, too. Just like present-day missionaries who travel to foreign countries to reach a specific people group, your Sunday school has a variety of classes designed to reach specific kinds of people, such as children, students, single adults, married adults, senior adults, and probably many more.
Through prayer, reflection, and planning you can identify people who don't currently have a place to fit in your Sunday school (perhaps there is no class for them, or there is no room in existing classes). When you identify those unreached people, pray about your part in reaching them, and start new classes designed specifically for reach them, you are being intentionally missional, carrying on a great Sunday school heritage. You have become a Sunday school missionary.
Missionaries leave behind the comforts of home in order to reach people who have not heard the gospel, do not own a Bible, and have not connected to God in a personal relationship. Missionaries often leave behind people they love in order to be obedient to Christ as they seek to expand the kingdom of God; they follow Christ's command to "go and make disciples" in a tangible way. Being a missionary who travels to foreign countries is not too different from you and others becoming Sunday school missionaries. If we take our role as Sunday school missionaries seriously, we'll find ourselves leaving our comfortable, familiar classrooms to start new classes. We'll leave behind people we've come to know and love to reach new people and expand the kingdom of God.
Are there people on your class ministry list you never see? Start a new class to reach them. Are there people who attend worship but don't fit into your current Sunday school? Start a new class for them. Are there people living around your church who never attend? Begin a new class for them. When you think strategically and act missionally, you become part of the greatest 300-year-old missionary movement the world has ever known: Sunday school!
Talk with your pastor or staff leader this week about ways you and your class can become Sunday school missionaries.