The Monday Holiday Law of 1968 eventually affected when and how churches offer short-term discipleship studies and also has hasten the cancelation of evening services in our churches. The Federal government shifted Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, and Veterans Day from their traditional dates to Mondays, and established an additional holiday in honor of Christopher Columbus and Martin Luther King. In addition to Labor Day and Memorial Day, each year, our society celebrates a minimum of seven Monday Holidays.
Because of this shift, our society radically changed the way it takes vacations. For example, more people take short, frequent trips than the traditional week long vacation that I experienced growing up. When the law was first established, Church Training was not affected since it was still an established program in our churches and was built on dated curriculum. In the late 1970’s, the Equipping Centers were launched by the Baptist Sunday School Board (Lifeway) as an alternative to traditional dated curriculum. Courses like Masterlife, Experiencing God, PrayerLife, Beth Moore Bible Studies were added. Today, these short-term studies are the norm.
In my experience, when people miss a week or two in a short-term study, they have a tendency to drop out of the study with the intention of taking it at another time. Let me revert back to the Monday Holiday Issue. If you start a six-eight week study on a Sunday in August, soon you will have Labor Day. If you start after Labor Day, Columbus Day and Fall breaks are looming. In the Winter and Spring, Martin Luther King, President’s Day, Spring Break, and Easter all impact having a consistent Sunday Discipleship Training program, built on short-term studies. For most church members, they return on Monday and are back at work from these short vacations and are willing to commit to these six-twelve week courses on Wednesday evening. For this reason, Wednesday night Discipleship Training programs are flourishing when compared to Sunday evening ministries.
One more unrelated thought, this blog illustrates some of the reasons that I am strongly against using short-term closed curriculum in Sunday School and firmly believe in a dated curriculum. Church Training used to be built on open groups that expected new people every week using dated curriculum. Church really was the Sunday night place. Today, Discipleship Training is primarily composed of closed, short term groups, based on the content of the study. If people begin choosing rather to come to Sunday School based on the content, Southern Baptists will see the loss of Sunday School, just like we have seen the decline of Discipleship Training. Churches need a place where God’s word is taught in open Bible Study groups that expect new people every week. That is Sunday School. Let’s learn from history and not repeat it.