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An airborne Bible study

December 21st, 2011 at 5:58 am

Only a few church members can say they’ve studied God’s word while airborne! And that includes a few church members from First Baptist Church of Huntsville, Ala.

Attending Sunday school and a church service is completely impossible for some, specifically those who are homebound or living in nursing homes. Many faithful church members, as they age and become elderly, are no longer physically able to attend church services and activities, but their desire for fellowship, worship and Bible study is still there.

A group at First Baptist Huntsville realized this and found a unique way to approach the problem – a conference call Sunday school class that they call the Airborne Class.

For years, the church has televised the morning worship service, giving others who cannot travel to the church building an opportunity to participate in a worship service.

One day, Mark Seanor, the church’s minister to experienced adults, was visiting a homebound couple. The wife, Sarah, mentioned how much she appreciated having a televised worship service each week. Though she was physically able to attend church, she was the caregiver for her elderly husband and could not leave him alone.

Knowing that the service meant so much to Sarah, Mark began to think of other ways to minster to her and others like her and her husband. Another church member suggested giving these members the opportunity to  participate in a Sunday school lesson too.

Mark knew of several  members who were homebound due to illness, physical limitations or being caregivers, so he and a few others at the church came up with the idea to create the Airborne Sunday School Class, a complete class broadcast through a conference call system. They called their phone provider, set up a conference call system, recruited a Sunday school teacher and distributed the new class information to the homebound members.

Since the class started, the group has had anywhere from seven members to more than 30 call in to participate in the class.

Each member is given a Sunday school book as well as the 1-800 number to call to gain access to the conference call class. The church covers the cost of the calling system, making the conference call completely free to the participants.

Once church members dial into the system, they are able to converse with each other, just like they would if they were arriving in person at a Sunday school class at the church building. When the class is started, the leader takes role call and lets members acknowledge their presence, if desired.

“Just like a Sunday school class, they can talk with each other, pray, sing a hymn and have role call,” Mark said. “Sometimes someone brings in special music.”

The ministry webpage says that “prayer concerns are shared, a hymn is sung, and a Bible Study lesson with a life challenge for the week is given – just like a regular adult Sunday Morning Bible Study Class.”

Typically, the Sunday school teachers, Kennie and Len Worlund, host the class from Mark’s office at the church. But there have been times that the Worlunds have been out of town and have taught the lesson from a cell phone at the new location thanks to the conference call system.

The class is held from 9:30 to 10 a.m., leaving the members a few minutes to get situated for the televised worship service that starts at 10:30 a.m.

“It offers a lot of ministry touches,” Mark said.

Having an airborne class has shown this group of members that they are not forgotten and that their spiritual growth and encouragement is valued by the church even though they are no physically able to meet with others at the church building.

“They have loved it. This is their Sunday school class. It has kept a touch to the church. To a lot of these folks, this reaches out to them,” Mark said.

Through the class, many members have found ways to be part of the church ministry though they are home or in an assisted living center. Many have become part of a vital prayer team for the church. Prayer requests are sent to the Airborne members and then they pray over them and send notes to those who made the requests.

“ They feel like it is just not receiving but are a vital part of the ministry, and they feel they are still needed,” Mark said.

For churches interested in starting their own airborne Sunday school class, Mark suggests they connect with their phone service provider to see what conference call options are available. Typically there is a fee for the conference call access since it is run on a 1-800 number.

“A lot of churches are not able to have a television ministries, but they can have a Sunday school touch. They can have a live touch. It keeps members who once were active, to still feel a part,” Mark said.

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