Laura J Cassidy-Moffatt
This research project examined adult Sunday school in seven baptistic churches in Massachusetts. An ethnographic study was conducted to discern common practices and highlight opportunities for growth in the midst of church decline. The researcher examined the biblical concepts of teaching and knowing and conducted a literature review of the history of Sunday school, pedagogical best practices, and advances in cognitive neuroscience of learning. The researcher identified five themes common to these Sunday school programs that have resulted in lack of holistic formation in Sunday School as traditionally practiced: mission, attendance, commitment/engagement, format, and content. The field research yielded a pessimistic portrait of adult Sunday school in six of the seven churches studied. It was shown to be an outdated model practiced by a dwindling group. The researcher described ways, using the five identified themes, in which the aging Sunday school model could be augmented to better fulfill the goals of knowing in the biblical sense, personal transformation, and cooperation with the Holy Spirit's guidance and teachings. Teaching in ways that transform lives is a long-term cooperative effort with the Holy Spirit and can only be done in the context of a healthy church community. Churches that do not prioritize discipleship set themselves up for members who are spiritually apathetic, and ultimately those churches may decline over time.