What is the purpose of Sunday School hour?
Dever: It is not the main education of the church. The Sunday Sermon is for that. It is not the primary discipleship of the church. One on one discipleship does that. It is a platform for discipling very specific topics.
Kelly: Our community groups do the pastoral care of the church. Sunday School is more teaching and education is the primary purpose.
Chandler: We do a hybrid. Twice a year we do 8 week courses but primarily we get people in small groups.
What approach do you do for learning styles?
Dever: We want to do an information dump of Christian worldview to make the most of the time. So we do lectures.
Kelly: We have a master teacher style, but we have a little bit of both. We want people to guide a discussion based on the sermon. However our Sunday school classes are more lecture style and information heavy. The strength of the lecture is efficient for communicating essential information.
Chandler: Our home groups will have homework during the week that is on the same topic of the sermon. Once a year all groups are going through the same stuff for a season. This is prepared by the Village Church or we take a guide by another church or book. We want from February to June to be studying Galatians right now from a variety of angles not just my sermon.
What do you think about the discussion based teaching and studying?
Kelly: A disadvantage of the discussion base is that the group may start talking about what the text means to you before talking about what the text means.
Chandler: It can be good if you train your leaders well to study and prepare what the text says. There is not a “I think it means” culture.
Kelly: Not just in the groups but in our church a culture is established about being serious with studying the bible.
T4G is a lecture and content heavy conference so what are pitfalls of this?
Dever: Some teachers can be really boring when you have lectures and people are not getting the great information.
Kelly: It can be dry as dust, but there can also be a lack of connection with the people. Then the class can have an isolating effect that is more about information than it is about people.
Chandler: Lecture model requires space that we did not have. Also we are already doing a 50 minute sermon each Sunday. So we just did best with what we had. Also it could be bad for people to leave the church thinking about too many things and never respond and apply the word they heard.
Wax: What if you have a 3 year series in Galatians and never talk about anything else in the church?
Dever: I do not do 3 year series for that reason. I do 5 month series but even then I think we need to realize if we are faithfully studying and preaching then we are seeing their entire lives through the lens of that scripture.
How do you determine what needs to be taught?
Kelly: We do it through a combination of static and dynamic ways. We always have teaching systematically that our people need no matter what we are doing or where people are at in life. We also have need driven classes or classes that would compliment the sermon series.
Dever: I sat down one day with a guy on staff to think through what we need to teach. It has grown over the years but it’s a basic catechism of what has been done throughout church history.
Mark is the curriculum driven by your church culture?
Dever: Yes because people only stay for 3 years.
Chandler and Kelly: We have a lot of long term people so we think about having our people for life and this impacts how we think about our teaching.
Do you do age graded classes?
Dever: We do not in the morning. They are course based.
Chandler: Our groups are geographically located. We do age graded classes during Sunday morning for kids.
Kelly: After high school it is course base and not aged based.
Any dangers of age graded?
Dever: Age graded is great for evangelism but I would be careful about planning the church around visitors coming for some age specific teaching.
Kelly: When young and old are friends it is rare and does not happen anywhere else in the church. So we sacrifice the awkwardness of having people not always be with their peers.
What do you think about the role of community in the education process?
Dever: We do community groups and have 70% of our members learning in community groups.
Chandler: We have learned that community helps people who feel responsible for caring for each other and have mature believers helping new believers.
Kelly: We can set expectations that groups will reproduce and groups spend time living life together.
Chandler: You have to develop language around these ideas so that people know what maturity is and what the goal is.
How do you do child education? Should kids be in service?
Chandler: We encourage as soon as your kids can sit there we want them to be there in the worship gathering.
Dever: Children’s church was a trend but I think it has been ending the last 10 years.
How would you go about changing the church Sunday school or education?
Dever: Try to do the best with what you have and be slow with changes.
Kelly: Teach and empower your people why and what you are doing so there is clarity by everyone.
Chandler: I think wholesale change is rarely a good idea and most times when guys do it its because you got a crush on some other church without knowing the history of the church and the people involved. If you are doing that you are being foolish. That is not a good idea.
How can we use these formats to raise leaders?
Chandler: For us it’s about equipping people and creating feedback loops. The staff is there to serve them in the trenches and be there for them.
Kelly: I try to tell them not just to lead a group or a class on their own but to walk with them and lead with them.
Dever: We give them manuscripts to start with but they have to change it and tweak it. We have people listening and giving feedback to those teachers.