Doctor of Ministry

Year Approved


First Advisor

FriesenSmith, Katie


This research project was designed to examine adult Sunday School in seven baptistic churches in Massachusetts. In interviewing pastors and surveying attendees, an ethnographic study was conducted to discern common practices and to highlight opportunities for growth in the midst of church decline. The researcher examined the biblical concepts of teaching and knowing. The researcher then conducted a literature review in the fields of the history of Sunday school, pedagogical best practices, and advances in cognitive neuroscience of learning. Through field research, the researcher identified five themes common to these Sunday school programs that have impacted the observed results of lack of holistic spiritual formation in Sunday School as traditionally practiced. These themes were: mission, attendance, commitment/ engagement, format, and content. The field research yielded a pessimistic portrait of adult Sunday School in six of the seven established baptistic churches in Massachusetts. It was shown to be an outdated model practiced by a dwindling group and is neither a church growth tool nor an effective discipleship model that is transforming lives. The model needs adaptation. 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. These types of enhancements to adult discipleship could serve as vital aspects for revitalization and contribute to long term health of the church.

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry

Document Type

Doctoral thesis