I have some news to share that may be sobering to ministry leaders: there will never be a perfectly executed Sunday school class. Anywhere. Ever. In fact, every Sunday, imperfect classes are executed across the globe in thousands of communities.
But here is the good news. Maybe the BEST news: God, in His ever-perfect nature, works in all of the spaces of those imperfections.
It is in those spaces of imperfection that we learn that our role is actually formation, not perfection. Committing to formation can fundamentally alter how we approach ministry and allow more space for us to join God in the mission of disciple-making.
When we pursue perfection, we label active, loud junior highers as “distractions”.
When we pursue perfection, we assign buddies to elementary school-aged children who are “disruptive”.
When we pursue perfection, we insist that all of our preschoolers complete the required Sunday school craft.
When we pursue perfection, we seek to recruit volunteers who are already well-polished teachers and communicators.
When we pursue perfection, we regard questions and discussion outside of the weekly Bible passage as “off-topic”.
When we pursue perfection, we refuse to examine our policies and procedures and assess their effectiveness.
When we pursue perfection, we miss the intentional discipleship opportunities right in front of us. Right in the middle of all the imperfection. Discipleship happens through formation, not perfection. In a performance-oriented culture where tangible production is often a marker of success, committing to a ministry focused on faith formation and spiritual growth requires a shift in our minds and hearts as leaders.
When we pursue formation, we work to find creative ways to engage active junior highers in our youth ministries.
When we pursue formation, we learn that the “disruptive” child struggles in school and finds solace and connection in our Sunday spaces.
When we pursue formation, we affirm the outside-of-the-box creativity of a preschooler recreating the story of Noah’s ark out of playdough.
When we pursue formation, we commit to developing, equipping, and affirming volunteers in their God-given strengths, gifts, and passions.
When we pursue formation, we open ourselves to the work of the Holy Spirit, who might have a different lesson plan than the one we have created.
When we pursue formation, we conclude that the “way we’ve always done it” is hindering effective and accessible ministry.
When we pursue formation, the end result is not for those in our ministry to head into the world at the end of class as tidy producers, but as disciples growing in their understanding and commitment to following Jesus. So plan that lesson, that retreat, that art project with all the confidence that God is not asking for perfection, but rather asking that we humbly join his mission of disciple-making.