I asked Mark Dever, Michael Kelley, and Matt Chandler about this during the Adult Education Panel at T4G. Here is a video clip of their answers.
Trevin Wax: What would you recommend pastors do that have inherited a structure that might not be their first choice? They do have space and they're thinking about possibly changing or doing something else. How would you advise them? How would you think about...if you advised them to change, how to go about that change? If you would advise them not to change, what to do in those settings?
Mark Dever: For me it would depend hugely on who the guy is. What his gifting is. If he's an exceptional teacher and the people are going to be following him, I might say one thing. But you know if it's not those kind of exceptional gifts, I would say take whatever you've got, just like you're saying, make it as good as you can. And any change you bring about, try to do that slow and gradual.
Michael Kelley: I guess the only thing that I would add is to invest more of the time in not only thinking about the structure but actually purposefully articulating to the leadership that is going to be in place what specifically are we trying to accomplish with this class. So if you're trying to accomplish with your Sunday School classes for this to be the moment of fellowship, of real genuine community where we deeply pray and invest in each other, then empower your leaders to know that that's what it is and empower them to say, man pray for 30 minutes during this time. I mean just do it.
But if it's not - if you're trying to accomplish a more educational feel with that, then let them know those expectations as well so that way everybody's moving in the same way. Clarity is very important. And so I think it will decrease the amount of frustration from both people that are going to classes or going to groups and from the leadership in the long run.
Matt Chandler: I think that wholesale change is rarely a good idea. It's rarely a good idea, and I think what happens, unfortunately, for guys that are trying to revitalize places is they've got a crush on another church. I don't know how else to say it. They've got a crush on this church, and so since this church does it this way, you want to try to force that into where you are, and that's immature and foolish. And so I don't...I know there are places where change needs to occur, but wholesale change is rarely a good idea.
And if you're making changes, before you really know people and before you really know history, and before...but you're doing it because you have a crush - because Driscoll said cancel your Sunday School class - well then you're immature. You've got to be able to see through statements like that. Because Mark's saying that because of a specific place and a specific context and a specific...and he doesn't know you. He doesn't know your church. He doesn't know where you've been, where those people have been, and so you're going to come in and make war against faithful saints who are being fed by the Word of God because you've got a crush on something.
So I would just say that I think the whole idea of "We've got to change it" is...I just think we're beating a drum too much. I just think we're all trying to be too innovative.
Trevin Wax: If we're going to change, though, within the current structure that we've inherited - make it better, make the purpose clear, be clear about what...because you know there are lots of Sunday School classes where at some point there was a clear purpose but now it's: we get together; we stand around; we eat coffee and donuts; we have prayer requests for 30 minutes; and we open up the Bible and talk for 15 minutes; pray; and then go to the service. I mean you really can lose and dilute the purpose of whatever the group is meeting if it's not constantly communicated.