You’re the Bishop #6: A Poll

guestMormon 26 Comments

Bishop Bill with a situation that happens to probably every bishop.  Read on. noticed that very few people are attending Gospel Doctrine Class. You have a pretty large ward, but the attendance in GD class is down to less than 15 people. The teacher has even complained that about how people are skipping class. They mostly just hang out in the halls, sit in their cars, or hang put in the Family History center.

[poll id=”144″]


Comments 26

  1. You didn’t put on the survey, “Call new Sunday School teachers.” Sometimes the teachers are so ill-prepared, dogmatic, or boring that they make it difficult to attend.

  2. This is a great topic for the Ward Council. Let them bat it around a bit and recommend solutions. (Some of them are likely to be the “skippers”.

  3. Oh, and the bishop can set the example by attending class himself, and inviting his counselors and clerks to do the same…Wards I’ve been in where the bishop attends Sunday School tend to have better Sunday School calsses.

  4. That’s Ferris Buler (sp!).

    The handbook says the bishop is supposed to attend SS. Ever ssn one actually do it?

    Have the bishop outlaw Presidency meetings etc. during SS. That’s most of the excuses I see in our ward. And we have an EXCELLENT Gospel Doctrine teacher.

  5. 5 — I have. My current bishop is in GD at least as often as I am.

    My answer is also not on the list — talk to the people in the hall and find out why they’re there. And consider calling another GD teacher and having two classes. If you do, be very careful to squelch any idea that one is “advanced” and the other “basic,” or any other attempt to characterize them as different in any way other than they have different teachers. The point is not to divide people — it’s to allow more than one approach so that people who aren’t served as well be one can be served better by the other.

    Also, consider offering other adult courses, like Family Relations, Family History and Teacher Development. And encourage some to attend Gospel Essentials. One teacher with one curriculum is unlikely to be able to serve the needs of every adult in a ward.

    But avoid options 1 and 3 from the poll at all costs. People don’t skip classes that are meeting their spiritual needs, and applying guilt to that dynamic isn’t likely to meet their needs any better. The members are not their to fit the convenience of the SS — the SS is there to meet the needs of the members.

  6. It may be helpful to ask why people don’t attend GD. I don’t attend because the teacher and many of the participants use the class as their own personal soapbox, mostly to bash Democrats and whine about how prayer isn’t allowed in public schools. I’d have to surgically remove my tongue to go on a regular basis.

  7. Offer beverages in Sunday School. I often leave to get a Diet Coke. Before they put me in primary, that is. But this probably speaks more to my lack of religiousity (I don’t think that’s a word) than to the quality of the teacher.

  8. I would propose the following to make SS more interesting:

    1) Come up with a correlated manual approved by the Church so that it meets all needs of everyone in the world.
    2) Strongly discourage the use of any additional material from any other source besides said manual.
    3) Since so few people read the assigned material ahead of time, I would then change priesthood and RS so that they would cover the same gospel principles first making SS more of a “review” of what people have already covered.

    I think that would work.

  9. Another option: audit the class (or have a councilor do it) and see why more people don’t attend. Some valid reasons could be discovered (the teacher REALLY sucks, the room is too small, stuffy). Then steps could be taken to fix the situation. For a while, my wife and I tried to avoid GD–by volunteering in other classes, not by skipping entirely–because the room was way too small and stuffy. After it was fixed, we attended every week. You just can’t assume people aren’t attending because they’re slackers. Because of the limited choices, I have to assume the Bishop selected one of those options, which is too bad. Just my $.02…

  10. I stopped attending Sunday School in my previous ward after the teacher basically thought it was enlightening to compare George W. Bush with Captain Moroni and claiming that the Iraq invasion is approved by God. I must have been the only one to feel the spirit get sucked out of there as if it had gotten caught in an industrial strength vacuum because I just walked out of there, found a quiet spot in the lobby, and spent the rest of the time studying the Book of Mormon. I learned a lot more from those 20 minutes than I had in the GD class all year.

    Gospel Doctrine would be that much better if the teachers stuck with what they’re told to teach: the principles and doctrines of the gospel through what the apostles and prophets have written.

  11. (Humility mode off.) I’m a good Sunday School teacher. A very good one. When I taught, people were eager to fill the seats. If folks aren’t just going to other SS meetings (i.e. going to Gospel Essentials instead of GD) but outright skipping the classes, something’s wrong with the teaching or with the class itself. Sunday School president and Bishop need to sit in on classes and see what’s going on before harassing people to attend.

  12. #12: “I stopped attending Sunday School in my previous ward after the teacher basically thought it was enlightening to compare George W. Bush with Captain Moroni….”

    Heh. George W. Bush was a frappin’ ACLU attorney compared to Captain Moroni, he of the “take no prisoners,” “preemptive war against internal dissenters” “detention of citizens without trial,” “execution of political dissidents,” and “threaten Pahoran with a coup.”

    But yes, the Lord’s kingdom is not of this world, and it’s too easy to read one’s own political preferences into the Gospel.

  13. Part of the problem is that the Church insists the teacher stick to the boring manual. Hard to get good teachers under those circumstances, and hard to give a good lesson if you are a good teacher.

  14. Umm, #10, very funny. agree with the majority of poster here that the problem is not the student, its the teacher. That said, option 2 (do nothing) is the best choice, because if something needs to be done to get students to class, that’s the calling of the Sunday School presidency.

  15. To say that one is a good Sunday school teacher and that’s why one’s class is always full is arrogance at the highest level. Sometimes people don’t attend because of petty reasons, like they don’t like the teacher, or maybe as in the case on my branch the teacher is fine, but one person in the class monopolizes the conversation to turn the lesson around into what he believes the lesson should be about.

    I was totally turned off of Sunday school when one lesson was on Home Teachers and this same said person stated and I quote,” That as a home teacher he is a mouthpiece of god, and therefore he has the right to receive revelation and by default that all who fell under his steward had to listen to and follow what he told them. No matter what any one else said to the contrary he was adament ( I know I spelled it incorrectly) that he was correct. Since he was my home teacher I immediately said something to the bishop and subsequently had him removed as my home- teacher.

    the only mouthpiece of god that I know of is the Prophet, So maybe what I’m saying is that the reason some people won’t go to SS is because the correct doctrine is not being taught and people who know better aren’t stepping up to the plate and opening their mouths to clarify what is correct

  16. Mike S – hilarious! Only because it is so true.

    I tend to think students will vote with their feet. If lessons are not putting butts in seats, I’d sit in to find out what the deal is. Of course, the hallway chatter could just be more interesting. Usually a small dose of guilt about supporting the teachers (who are unpaid volunteers who have spent time preparing) does the trick.

    The Ferris Beuller comparison made me laugh. That would be an awesome way to skip class.

  17. We had a Bishop at BYU who interviewed everyone at first of each semester to see what jobs to put them in. He’d ask, “What would you like to do?” I said “Sunday School teacher.” Then he asked, “Have you done that before?” Yes “Did the class grow in attendance?” Yes. “Then we’ll try you in that job.”

    He wanted you to want the job and be good at it. He said that the main job of a Sunday School teacher was to increase attendance. “If your class grows, we’ll keep you there,” he said.

  18. Voted 1.

    Did that several times but it doesn’t work with some people. But this is one problem i’d delegate to anyone willing to talk to those people in the hall. But then again if it was up to me, it get rid of SS and go straight to priesthood/RS for an hour.

    But this is really a minor issue in church. I’d rather see what people here would do or think when one has problems like teens/YSA getting abortions or attempting suicide, adultery cases or RM’s sleeping with a girlfriend or gay partner, or the 21 year old involved with a 15 year old who appears 20something, or the ex-con child molester who served 21 years but after that had temple blessings restored but people would still go up to the bishop and ‘confidentially’ complain about him given the opening prayer in sacrament, and should he now do home teaching too or hold a calling where children are near by?. They are real bishop ‘problems’. Also when families fight over small things or when the stake suddenly calls a stake meeting 2 weeks away just when the ward had a fireside planned etc etc. Honestly, with all due respects, this SS issue is rather petty imho. Cheers 🙂

    (unfortunately I also don’t get that picture here of the actor)

  19. #14

    Actually, when you read Mormon’s account of how if everyone was like Captain Moroni, the powers of hell would be shaken and why, you quickly learn that Moroni was tempted with all kinds of power, but always obeyed Nephite law as well as the laws of God. Mormon even states in Alma 62 that those who were arrested were given their trials and the fact that the government obeyed its own laws was what helped preserved the freedom of the people who were fighting.


    Ah yes, heaven forbid the general populace of the church practice FORGIVENESS for a person who has repented.

  20. Well, having been called to be a sunday school president purely to walk the halls and get people to attend gospel doctrine, sometimes people just get into the habit of hanging out and socializing and all the cool people do it and …

    It is a reversible trend.

    Of course a really bad class will do it too.

    But if you let people get in the habit of having other meetings during SS, before long, it is tempting for everyone to do it.

  21. As a previous SS instructor and SS president, I gotta agree with most of the comments that suggest maybe the teacher or class environment is the problem. I don’t think the subject matter is usually at issue–a good teacher can take what’s in the manual, develop it, and make it enlightening. But when you have somebody who uses zero creativity and preparation and just reads from that manual, then you have a recipe for hallway hangouts. Diverse classes can help (family history class, temple prep, etc) but you risk watering down your base of folks who attend. And walking around scolding the hallway crowd is only a short-term fix and won’t really accomplish much. Make the classes better and (most) people will want to go. If they don’t feel like being spiritually enlightened, that’s up to them. Frankly, there have been a few people who regularly attended SS that I wished would have stayed in the hallway.

  22. For 20 CarlosJC If you haven’t seen the movie:
    Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is about a high school student skipping school . He could be called a professional at it.

    Re question, I agree the teacher can make a great difference in the class. While the teacher need not be as well versed in the gospel as the students, he/she should be well prepared. For my youth GD class, I find the various blog posts about upcoming lessons help me focus the lesson as well as provide insights to deal with the oddball questions. That said, I don’t believe the teacher’s roll is to be a Vegas headliner to draw in the crowds. Rather, it’s more like a baseball diamond in a cornfield, (to use another movie analogy), teach it well and they will come.

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