One Couple Stirs a Church
I wanted to tell you how we use STS in our adult Sunday School class, and how it is impacting and blessing Chris and me as husband and wife.
Background: This church is 1/2 block down the street from our house, but it was not our home church. The 112 year old church was one of the only buildings standing after a tornado came through the center of town in 1927 and wiped out the town of Nevada.
In 2009 the Lord began stirring us to move churches. Never an easy decision, we prayed for some time about where God wanted us. Then one day we noticed that the regular church sign had been replaced by a new one indicating that this was now a satellite campus of a large Baptist church in Allen, TX.
Over the 10 years we have lived here, we watched the church parking lot go from overflowing, to barely populated, and the name of the pastor change many, many times. The congregation was now small (ages 45-80), many having attended for more than 40 years. However, that summer we sensed the Lord directing us to become involved in this church. We felt very strongly that we were to come alongside the young staff to pray, help and encourage.
Chris had walked over to visit with the pastor several times and began to tell him about STS and how impacting this method of teaching God's Word is. Pastor Justin was very excited to hear more. As we told him about how God was leading us to come alongside of him, he tearfully exclaimed that he had been praying for that very thing, and that we were an answer to prayer for him.
We began to teach the adult Sunday School class. Prior to this, the class of about 6-7 would listen to a video lesson, and no one would say a word or discuss anything. So, the introduction of the STS method was quite a switch for them! We let them know that to achieve the greatest benefit from the lesson, we needed to “hear” their voices.
We wanted to know their thoughts, hear their answers, and we let them know that it was OK to speak up in this class to ask and discuss questions.
At first everyone opened their Bibles to the story passage and would follow along as we told the story. But we were encouraged to see their hearts that truly wanted to learn from God's Word. Gradually we encouraged them to step into a new dimension of oral learning. Many said that at their age 70+ they didn't think they could remember anything.
But now, after 8 months of STS, things have changed. We definitely have a designated Bible monitor who checks our told story for accuracy and content. But now, everyone else is fully engaged in learning the story orally and amazingly these seniors are able to repeat it with 85% + accuracy...and even remember it the next week!
Before, as I said, many of our class members were convinced that they could no longer memorize the Bible ... that they were too old. But these class members have found that they not only can retell a story, they have been surprised to learn that they have just repeated 10-12 verses!!
Over and over we are told how much these members enjoy the class. Our class has more than doubled in size, and almost everyone talks and shares. After telling the "Jonah Runs" story, James came up afterward. He told me, “I have heard that story since I was a young boy, but up till now I've never applied it personally.”
One of our sweet widows (75+) told us that she often struggles to stay awake in church ... but she never falls asleep in SS. It’s her favorite part of church. She is bright, alert, and actively involved in the discussion.
William and Brandie joined our church recently, and have come with their 4 young children. (Hooray, we're growing!!) William told me. I love this method of study. He said “I have attended Sunday School for years, in many churches. But most of the time it seemed like a race to look up as many verses as possible. And in the end, no one could answer the question, ‘What did you learn today?’
“But in this class,” he said, “I love the way we only stay in the story and don't jump all over the Bible. We take time to slowly go through the story and discover so many rich truths and lessons. I can easily remember what I learn, and can't wait to come to class each week.”
For over two months we have been teaching in Exodus, following Moses and Israel out of Egypt and into the wilderness. Brandie shared with the class, “Now, after studying using STS, I am studying Exodus on my own, and it has so much more meaning. I can understand it.” She excitedly told us, “You have to stay and teach the whole Bible this way.”
Pastor Justin repeatedly tells us that he is constantly hearing from members how much they enjoy the class, and how much they are learning new and deeper truths from stories they have known for decades.
While at a pastors’ meeting at the main campus with the senior pastor and another pastor from a second satellite church, the pastor of the satellite church was saying how he wished he could find something that would ignite his adult Sunday School class. Pastor Justin said, ”Well, let me tell you about what's happening in Nevada.” He then proceeded to share with them how STS was impacting our church, and how excited members are to come to class. As a result of other inquiries, we are now praying about having an STS workshop at the main campus.
Teaching this way at church has impacted us as husband and wife. Chris and I co-lead our Sunday School class. We use the “tag-team” approach. Chris tells the story, does the retell and lead through. I then will ask the questions to discover spiritual observations and applications.
Preparing during the week has brought us closer together as we study together each morning before going to work. On Monday we select the next story, looking at how it might link to last week's lesson if doing a connect series of stories. Then on Tuesday and Wednesday we learn the story, and look for the treasures. We have had so many blessed mornings together discovering truth and sharing as the Lord teaches us.
Thursday & Friday Chris works to perfect the story delivery, and together we come up with questions for the treasures found during the week. Saturday morning we put all the elements together, and finally Sunday morning before church we do a full run-through of the story, and hit the main questions we are going to ask in discussion.
I can't begin to tell you what a marvelous blessing and gift from God it has been to prepare and teach together. Many times we have to stop and spend time in prayer as God opens our hearts to his Word and changes us before we can lead others. We stand in amazement to watch the Holy Spirit touch lives by revealing God's truth from stories most of our members have heard for 60+ years. STS has brought the Bible back to life for everyone and they receive it with joy and expectation.
Our primary prayer now is for multiplication … being able to train others who will go out and use STS with their families, co-workers and neighbors. We are excited about the openness of the pastoral staff to hold a workshop, and Justin's desire to have his staff trained in STS and offer the workshop to others.
JoAn & Chris TX, USA. [Contact TGSP headquarters if you want to connect with this couple and find out more about how they minister and the results.]