Consider Sunday school: a representative sampling of ordinary humanity—smart and dumb, rich and poor, good and bad, lazy and energetic, sincere and phony, ignorant and learned—gets together for an hour or so each week. These assorted human beings meet to exchange innocuous pleasantries and inimical gossip or perhaps to pile up credits in God’s great ledger.

The latter sometimes still calls for enduring a dull opening exercise followed by either an ill-prepared and poorly delivered lecture or by some sort of pooling of communal ignorance called “experience sharing.”

The purpose of all of this: to affect behavior through the application of Bible knowledge. The knowledge itself is acquired through a glance at two to four pages of “easy reading” material. And all this is to be accomplished at an amazingly low cost of about a quarter a person.

When looked at this way, Sunday school really should not be expected to offer very much to adults. Yet the feeling persists that people ought both to expect a lot and to get a lot from Sunday school—and that they would if we just changed something. Maybe if we spent more time or money … or got better people involved … or used different teaching materials … or reorganized … or, well, did something different.

Changes often do, in fact, create renewed expectations for a period. But sooner or later, when these expectations are not realized, interest begins to lag. And the round of “improvements” begins … again, and again, and again.

Doubtless, this pattern will continue as long as the “we-they/us-them” attitude on which Sunday school is based continues. This kind of thinking is implied in the goal or purpose of Sunday school: “To teach.…” No matter what is filled in to complete the statement, “to ...

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