Sunday School is a very Methodist kind of thing. The birthplace of Sunday School is Savannah, Georgia, where it was first developed by John Wesley while he was Spiritual Governor of the Colony of Georgia. John Wesley was the founder of the Methodist movement and, later, the Methodist Church.
Visiting a Sunday School class for the first time can be a daunting experience. Sunday School classes are usually long-standing groups who have established deep relationships with each other over the years. It sometimes takes awhile to be comfortable as the new person or people in one of these long-standing groups, but if we are serious about growing in discipleship, Sunday School is fairly essential.
At Bois D’Arc UMC, adult Sunday School played an important role in our history and in the development of who we are today. In the 1970s, the church grew very rapidly under the direction of a pastor who had a very particular theological agenda that was unfamiliar to the Methodists of Bois D’Arc. During this brief period, it became very important for the church members to have leaders within the church that could speak to who they were in relationship to God and what they believed about God and their role as Jesus’ disciples. From the reports I’ve heard, it was the Sunday School teachers who filled that role. They studied harder; they taught with care. When the split and exodus eventually came, the teachers kept teaching. While congregational life was disrupted, the teaching of God’s Word was not.
The church then had a twenty year period of 1-2 year pastoral appointments. The pastors came and went. What stayed constant during this period was the guidance provided by adult Sunday School teachers, who continued to take their work as seriously as they had when it was critical to the survival of the church. The more they read and studied God’s Word, the more they focused the church on love and grace.
When I arrived in December 2006, I found a congregation that was steeped in an understanding of scripture as God’s message of love for ALL people. I love visiting our adult Sunday School classes. I enjoy laughing with the Wesleyan class, learning with the New Covenant class, and debating with the New Horizons class. Each class has a different flavor, but they are all working on increasing their understanding. Adult Sunday School has a special place in Bois D’Arc. We’re not Savannah. We didn’t invent it, but it did hold us together, focus us on God’s word at crucial times, and teach us to love everyone who walks through our doors.