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January 1977 · Vol. 6 No. 1 · pp. 21–23 

Why Sunday School Plus?

Larry Richards

Probably the last thing we need is another Sunday School curriculum. A number of good curriculums are available now, curriculums that can be used with confidence. But there is one thing that present Sunday School curriculums are not designed to do. They do not focus on the family. They do not make the Sunday morning classroom a launching point for family learning all through the week.

That the family is the place where Christian faith and life must be communicated is a divine imperative: “You shall teach . . . your children.” (Deut. 6:7). Deuteronomy 6 is a key Old Testament passage that focuses our attention on how to teach the Scriptures in such a way that the reality of God is communicated together with the biblical content.

First, “these words shall be in your heart” (Deut. 6:6). We cannot share this reality with others unless we have experienced it deeply ourselves. Helping teachers and parents grow spiritually—to experience personally that which they teach to children—is utterly essential to vital Bible teaching.

Second, “you shall teach them diligently to your children” (Deut. 6:7). The focus here is on the “family” relationship of “you . . your.” It is important to remember that Christ’s Church is itself a family. We are brothers and sisters; we belong to each other. And the portrait of family relationship—intimate, loving, long-term—is always associated with effective Bible teaching. This means that we need to enrich personal relationships both in the church and in the home.

Third, “you shall talk about them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” To communicate Scripture with maximum impact the context of daily life is critical. It is not “classroom” learning, or even the traditional “family devotions,” that are the key to family teaching. Instead, the one essential is to weave the reality of God’s living Word into the daily experiences shared by parents with their children. No church agency can replace the impact of the home on the growth and development of children and youth. {22}

But it is one thing to say, “The family ought to do it,” and quite another to enable parents to nurture their children effectively. Personally I am convinced that most Christian parents recognize their responsibility. But I am also convinced, after several years of research and testing, that most of us feel inadequate. We want to bring up our children the right way. We want to help them grow in their relationship with God. But we are uncertain as to how. We want the local church to do more than tell us what we ought to do. We want the local church to support us and to enable us for family ministry. Both in the home and in the church help is needed:

  • to stimulate the growth of parents and teachers into the truth to be communicated to the children,
  • to deepen and warm the personal relationships between teachers and students in class and between parents and children in the home,
  • to encourage sharing of the meaning of the Bible truths taught, not simply to get across ideas and information separated from lived meaning and,
  • to guide parents in ways to build the experience of the truths studied on Sunday and talked about in the home into the family lifestyle.

The overall goal should be to build a Christian family lifestyle; to help parents and children grow together as a family; and as a family to share spontaneously that faith in Christ which is to be at the center of their lives.


The desire to provide that practical support and help which would equip parents to nurture their own children motivated our research. At first I did not expect to see a curriculum or a complex support system grow out of our research. But as we tested approaches and ideas in local churches, it became clear that only a total educational approach could provide the help that was needed.

For about four years we have been testing and revising the educational system we have come to call Sunday School Plus. Some of the features of the system we have developed that have proved successful in helping both the Sunday School class and the family are:

  • monthly curriculum units which focus on: “building block” Bible truths, biblical doctrines which are relevant to adults and children alike and are central to Christian faith;
  • training for teaching staffs which help them to develop a loving, relational, climate for the communication of Scripture’s meaning;
  • classes to help parents to explore on an adult level the same {23} basic biblical themes that their children are studying in Sunday School; and
  • materials which let children initiate talk with parents about their study and which stimulate many activities for the whole family (discover together), which help adults grow personally and show them how to make Bible truths come alive in shared family activities (parent’s guide).

Sunday School Plus is not an end in itself. It has not been developed to be just another curriculum. In the final analysis, Sunday School Plus is designed to make itself unnecessary. Our central goal is to equip the parent to develop the kind of family lifestyle that makes curricular help unnecessary.

I truly believe that as a family learns to live together and to share faith in the Deuteronomy 6 way that the great promise of Proverbs 22:6 will be fulfilled for us all:

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.

Larry Richards is founder and director of Renewal Research Associates. He is the author of several books including A Theology of Christian Education, and, Youth Ministry: Its Renewal in the Local Church.

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