Worried about biblical illiteracy?
One change to your church schedule could go a long way to improving biblical literacy in your own church.
The value of learning
I’m concerned about biblical illiteracy. You may be too.
If you want your church members and visitors to notice that your church does value learning more Scripture, then take a close look at your schedule of programs and events.
Typical church schedules
In most churches, Sunday school (or whatever name is used for the Bible study) comes before the worship service. For example:
- 9:45 am: Sunday School
- 11:00 am: Worship Service
On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with placing the Bible study before the worship service. However, have you ever noticed what happens when the schedule is like this?
How the church schedule affects the church
All churches are slightly different, but there are some common things among them. Perhaps the following is similar to your own church.
Even though the official start time for the Sunday school is 9:45, the actual Bible study does not start then. That time is for fellowship (with coffee and donuts).
Once most people have arrived (around 10:00), it’s time for prayer requests and the prayer. This can take anywhere from 3 minutes to 15 minutes, depending on how many people share the struggles they’re facing and how long the prayer is.
So now it’s about 10:15—finally time for the Bible study. The teacher plans to teach from now until 10:50, which should give people just enough time to leave Sunday school and find a seat in the main sanctuary or auditorium for the worship service.
But something happens in the middle of the Bible study. Several people get up and leave!
As the door closes, there’s an eerie feeling. Sometimes only half the class is left with several empty seats where moments ago there were people.
Who were those people? Why did they leave?
Some of them were singers. Others were musicians. A few were parents (they were told to pick up their babies and children early from child care).
So by 10:35, people have gotten up and left the class.
What message does your church schedule communicate?
When people leave class early like this, what does that communicate to everyone—visitors included—about the importance of Sunday school Bible study?
- Sunday school is not as important as the worship service.
- Sunday school is not as important as singing in the choir.
- Sunday school is not as important as playing music during the worship service.
- Sunday school is not as important as getting everyone in their seats by start time for the worship service.
The Sunday morning Bible study is just an optional time-filler between fellowship and the worship service. People are free to leave anytime because it is of no consequence.
Raise the value of learning in your church
If learning is important to your church, and if you want people to know that you care about biblical literacy and Christian education, there is one change you could consider making to your church schedule.
- 9:45 am: Worship Service
- 11:00 am: Sunday School
Flip your schedule so that when the worship service is over, everyone can go to their Bible studies without concerns about having to leave early.
Could your church flip the schedule?
Not every church can do this, of course. Some churches have different schedules that don’t allow for a simple flip of events.
Even if your church cannot change service times, would you be willing to consider ways to overcome those issues we addressed earlier (singers and musicians having to leave their classes early, etc.)?
Could you move the fellowship and prayer until after the Bible study? That would give choir, orchestra, and others time to leave their coffee and donuts early, but preserve the Bible study time.
If Bible study is important to your church, you have to do more than just say it’s important. You have to organize your schedule so people can clearly see the importance you place on reading and studying the Scriptures.
Learn more about biblical literacy
A Serious Look at Biblical Literacy
1. The problem with the problem of biblical illiteracy
2. Biblical illiteracy in 2019
3. Biblical illiteracy in 2014
4. Biblical illiteracy in the 1990s and 2000s
5. Biblical illiteracy in the 1980s
6. Biblical illiteracy in the 1960s
7. Biblical illiteracy in the 1950s?
8. Biblical illiteracy in the 1940s and 1930s
9. Biblical illiteracy in 1915
10. Biblical illiteracy and the Second Great Awakening