Assembling what could well be considered a Baptist all-star team here — including Thom Rainer, Elmer Towns, and my boy Josh Hunt — Steve Parr presents a variety of success stories in the world of Sunday School, and in Christian education in general (including small groups). The message here is simple: No matter what your situation, your Christian-education program can excel.
Steve R. Parr, editor. Sunday School That Really Excels: Real Life Examples of Churches with Healthy Sunday Schools. Foreword by Allan Taylor; introduction by David Francis. 208p., $14.99, Kregel Ministry.
For the most part, this isn’t a how-to book; this is a “how we did it, and why you can too” book. Thus, most of the 17 chapters here focus on a different set of circumstances, from excelling with small and/or rural congregations (or, to quote the title of Josh’s chapter, “Excels in the Middle of Nowhere”), to excelling in a declining church (or rather, “out of decline,” per Bob Mayfield), to successfully integrating Sunday school and small-group ministry (in chapters by Elmer Towns and Tim S. Smith, respectively). Read them all, but chances are you’ll find a chapter that addresses your church’s current situation and how other churches have made it work.
In the final two chapters, Parr himself gives us a “tour” of a variety of success-story churches from all around the country; then finally, “A Plan to Excel-erate Your Sunday School.” Most churches excel in one or more of the points Parr presents, but by addressing all of them—from outreach to leadership to simply showing appreciation for your people—churches will be able to plug the holes and close the back doors in their ministry.
The opening chapter, an interview/dialogue between Parr and LifeWay president Thom Rainer, brings the whole book into focus: No matter what your situation, there is opportunity to adapt and to innovate—and in fact, the situation God’s placed your church in demands that you adapt to it. Another very important point made during this dialogue is that Sunday School—or whatever it’s called or how it’s implemented in your church environment—can never be separated from the Great Commission: “Is there a better way to introduce someone to Jesus than studying God’s Word with them?” Rainer asks at one point. Indeed.