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Number of Pages: 206
Vendor: Kregel Ministry
Publication Date: 2013
|Dimensions: 8.50 X 5.50 (inches)|
Sunday School That Really Works: A Strategy for Connecting Congregations and CommunitiesSteve R. ParrKregel Publications / 2010 / Trade Paperback$12.99 Retail:5 Stars Out Of 5 1 Reviews
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Sunday School That Really Responds: Wisdom for Confronting Common Sunday School EmergenciesSteve ParrKregel Publications / 2011 / Trade Paperback$12.99 Retail:
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Adult Sunday school can effectively increase the health of a church, and foster community and spiritual formation among its participants. Sunday Schools That Really Excel is a revealing look at actual churches with adult fellowships that not only survive but thrive.
No matter the setting or challenges facing your church, this book is highly encouraging and practical. Various authors contribute chapters that blend an illustration of an excellent existing Sunday school ministry with scriptural support and leadership principles to enhance your own church's ministry. Chapters are devoted to particular situations faced by many churches, such as Sunday school in a rural setting; on the heels of a crisis; in a multicultural community; among transition to small groups; revitalizing a long-established ministry; and many others. Sunday school expert Steve Parr brings together lessons from the best of the best so that all Sunday school ministries can excel
benm6023 Stars Out Of 5CE with ExcellenceOctober 24, 2013benm602At our church, we thankfully have a robust and growing Christian Education program (hereafter as CE) that I am privileged to help lead. When Kregel first alerted me to this book, I became excited because I wanted to see what I could learn from it to implement so CE could become even better. The purpose of this blog is to provide a short review of this resource.
The main point of this book is summed up quite well in the foreword of the book, "Any undertaking by the body of Christ for the cause of Christ should be done with excellence" (9). I couldn't agree more! When business professionals go to work, they know they need to do their work with excellence; yet, some of these same people are very haphazard about how they serve in church and, at times, never concerned with the quality of what is done but only the "heart" of who does it. We have probably all heard that solo in church that was sung poorly and then people said, "Well, at least they have a good heart." I have a problem with that kind of idea; the problem is that it is unbiblical. Paul tells the Corinthians to do everything to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31) and that includes doing everything our best. And this book is a good reminder that Sunday school, or CE, needs to be done with excellence. I truly enjoy this emphasis in this book and agree that in every aspect of Sunday school, we need to consider how to serve with excellence: in teacher training, in teaching, in small congregations, in various settings, and so forth. If excellence is our standard, that should change how we plan, execute, and review what we do.
One emphasis, however, of this book that I did not find helpful is the association of success in Sunday school ministries with quantitative growth, or, if you have more people coming, then the Sunday school must be successful. In ch. 16 by Steve R. Parr, he lists several churches that have Sunday schools that excel; the first metric of success for the first church he lists is their growth in attendance (190). But, I wonder if that is always the case, or even usually the case. Attendance grows and diminishes for a variety of reasons - the time of the year, the content, the requirements of the courses, the personal compatibility of the teacher(s) with the students, etc. - and to make the number of attendees one of the first metrics for success is simplistic, and, well, unbiblical. Jesus was successful (Philippians 2:5-11) but he didn't worry about numbers, even when almost everyone left him (e.g. John 6:66-71). We all have to guard against this temptation to think that numerical growth equals success because that thought is not always the case, especially for Jesus.
On a more positive note, however, I learned numerous lessons from this book that I plan to apply to CE, specifically regarding teacher training; in this way, some of the chapters are quite helpful (e.g. ch. 15). This book is worthy of purchase for this value and also for the emphasis on excellence.
A Cluttered MindRochester, MNAge: 45-54Gender: male2 Stars Out Of 5Very pragmatic, if that's what you're looking forSeptember 4, 2013A Cluttered MindRochester, MNAge: 45-54Gender: maleQuality: 4Value: 3Meets Expectations: 2Kregel Academic and Steve Parr off up a host of good reasons to keep Sunday School up and running in your church. The chief motivation? It will make your church grow. At least, given the evidence of the churches presented, that will be the case.
Parr edits this pragmatic motivational book for churches, providing case studies from a wide variety of churches (all of them Southern Baptist, by the way). From a church 'in the middle of nowhere' to a rural church to an urban church to a nearly-dead-and-now-revitalized church, the various writers give evidence that Sunday School is not dead. Not only is it not dead in these churches, it is thriving. Not only is it thriving, Sunday School is one of the key reasons each and every one of the studied churches is growing and successful.
If you're a young pastor and not familiar with the ways of denominations, you'll miss nuances in this book with all its Southern Baptist peculiarities. If, on the other hand, you're a veteran of more years and are acquainted with some of the subtle distinctions in denominations (i.e., Southern Baptist), you'll pick up on this immediately and need to filter some of that out. This was one of the disappointing features in Sunday Schools That Really Excel.
This reviewer was also disappointed that this book was simply case studies, and not really even case studies, in a typical sense. Each chapter was basically a testimonial on why these churches have kept Sunday School around and why you should to. There was no unifying reason, however, other than the pragmatic, methodological 'Your church will grow if you do this.' This lends itself to our American evangelical culture's appetite for 'Just show me what works and I'll do it too.' The overall atmosphere of the book seemed to be a smorgasbord approach: look these over, pick the one that appeals to you and use it.
I'll not be entirely negative about this offering from Kregel. I do believe that Sunday School should have a vital place in the life of each church. Sunday Schools That Really Excel clearly makes that case, just not with any unifying, underlying philosophy.
Pastors and Christian Education directors may find this book helpful.
Randy MannHenderson, NCAge: 35-44Gender: male5 Stars Out Of 5Can Sunday School Really Still Excel?August 29, 2013Randy MannHenderson, NCAge: 35-44Gender: maleQuality: 5Value: 4Meets Expectations: 5Books written by theoreticians can sometimes be helpful when you are trying to learn information about a new area of mission or ministry. However, when wanting advice on how to evaluate and improve upon an existing area of ministry, the careful thoughts and experience of the practitioner is the greater need. In Sunday School That Really Excels, author Steve Parr has sought insight from exactly that source - a group of practitioners. And, the "experts" chosen for this book are from a variety of church contexts - rural churches and urban churches; small churches and large churches; established churches and new churches.
Some people may be wondering if a book on excelling in/through Sunday School ministry is already outdated in our contemporary culture of "small groups" and "organic discipleship." Can Sunday school really be effective today? Perhaps it is the case, as I have often heard quipped, "It is not that Sunday school doesn't work. It is that we have stopped working Sunday school." As Allan Taylor (also a practitioner - Minister of Education) says in the Foreward, "I am afraid we have fallen in love with our rhetoric about Sunday school more than excelling at Sunday school."
While this book would be most helpful for Pastors and Ministers of Education, it could certainly be helpful for Sunday School Directors, teachers and other leaders as well, perhaps as a part of Sunday School leadership training. Hearing the success stories from practitioners in similar church contexts could certainly serve as a motivating factor for local church leaders.
I was a bit surprised, but thankful, that there was a chapter (Chapter 13 - "Excels in Transitioning to Small Groups") in this book on excelling in Sunday School that dealt with transitioning a church from a Sunday School ministry to a ministry of small groups. This will certainly not be the best option for many churches with a strongly established Sunday School ministry. However, it is certainly helpful to provide counsel to those who may be considering such a ministry shift, based on their own church context and needs. The chapter included not only information on how and why such a transition may be appropriate, but also the very needed warnings about taking time, communicating clearly and often, and leading the people through such a transition.
This book is worth the money, even if you only read the chapters that are most similar to your own ministry context. I did, however, find the other chapters interesting and helpful as well. I will likely get Paar's other books in this series for further study and evaluation: Sunday School That Really Works and Sunday School That Really Responds.
FTC disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for an unbiased review.