Monday, September 11, 2006


Yesterday was our "Kick-Off" Sunday: the start of the new Church School year, classrooms newly supplied, curriculum selected and purchased, teachers exhuastively recruited, families reminded, volunteers prayed over during worship. All went smoothly. Kids showed up--though not nearly as many as we have on our "potentials" list.

But my feeling at the end of the morning was, "Meh." Nothing was wrong--expect that there was no real sense of excitement or expectation. I'd say the primary feeling among staff and lay leaders was relief that we'd pulled it together for another year. The main feeling from parents was the satisfaction of having done the right thing by getting their kids there. And the main feeling from the kids was, "Okay, whatever."

Here's my question. Does Sunday School still work? It's been the cornerstone of how we form kids in the faith for so long that most of us can't even imagine that it could happen any other way. But really, it's a new development in terms of the history of the church--only about 150 or so years old. It was largely the product of industrialization and urbanization in the 19th Century and then spread from there. It didn't become a standard, middle class thing until the early years of the 20th century in most places. There are some places where it still seems to go very well, but I have to say that most churches I see are struggling to keep the thing afloat.

What do you do? I'd love to hear from faith communties that are doing Christian formation for kids and youth in other ways than the traditional hour on Sunday morning and/or a mid-week-in-competition-with-soccer/band/ballet/piano/karate/homework/parental exhaustion program.


Quotidian Grace said...

What an insightful and timely question!

I've asked myself that the past 5 years in my role as DCE--especially in the last 2 years as we see our SS attendance decline sharply.

Some educators are saying that churches need to equip parents to do more faith formation and teaching at home--but that's good-old-days-pie-in-the-sky thinking to me. Today people expect the "experts" to do this for them in religious education as in many other areas.

And so many parents are woefully ignorant themselves.

Hope someone else will comment here with a brilliant outside the box concept to cheer me up!

Me, I got nothin'.

reverendmother said...

I sure will be reading your comments with interest.

We have quite the thriving Sunday/Wednesday program you're talking about. Still, I long for something a little more agile, a little less "one size fits all."

Especially with all that's written lately about Christian *practices* as a cornerstone of our life together, as opposed to simply knowing *about* Jesus--I'm open to new ideas.

The megachurches that grow long-term and that continue to thrive do it through small groups. I've been quite captivated by this idea. We're on the verge of deciding whether to build a third wing on the church, and I'm concerned about the "if you build it, they will come" mentality. When in fact it's really Sunday and Wednesday that are the crowded days. Is this the right thing to do? Or do we empower groups to meet in homes, train the leaders well, and then bless them and let them go to flourish in the Spirit's leading?

cheesehead said...

Does it work? Depends who you ask. The Grumpy Grumpletons who were getting tired of hearing kids squirm in the pews this summer thought our own kick-off yesterday was a smashing success, no doubt.

I'm not one of those people who will flood your comment box with success stories, I'm afraid. I only know it is an ironclad expectation where I serve, that kids will leave the sanctuary after their 10 minutes of liturgy and their five minutes of being "cute" on the chancel steps up front with me.


Gannet Girl said...

I think one thing that helps at our church is that there are choirs for the elementary kids and the middle/high school kids and they sing frequently, so they know they are valued participants in worship. (Not to take anything away from their Sunday am program, which is outstanding. They stay for about 1/3-1/2 the service and then go to their classes.)

Just a few minutes ago I got an email from someone in children's ministries, looking for a way to develop a program for parents on how to do faith formation as part of our year long adult ed/formation (my bailiwick) theme on the practices of faith. Interesting in light of QG's comment.

will smama said...

Great question and great discussion. I think Sunday is our niche and if you are one of the lucky ones where tradition says you can have a midweek day too - enjoy it for all its worth.

I grew up with midweek programming but where I am now Sunday morning is all the church got (it's a farming mentality even though only a couple of families in my congregation have to milk the cows anymore). We have attempted to do mid-week activities with dinner, adult and children programming, coordinating with choirs, we have tried it all. Nothing.

Sunday AM is all we get.

And even that SS hour is getting leaner because it is less of a priority with the parents.

I wish I had something helpful, but I do not think there is a one-size-fits all answer. I think the challenge is to find something that works with our own congregation's traditions and priorities.

Lydia said...

I have just found this sight and have been blessed.

About Sunday School . . . I work consciously to reframe this as Church School to begin preparing this smaller member, traditional --"we've never done it that way before" congregation to understand that disicpleship (Christian Education) is a life-long process, one that can't be satisfied for an hour on Sunday morning in Worship and takes place both individually and corporately. In fact Sunday when we prepare to kick off our new Christian Educaiton Year the sermon will point to Jesus' ministry being a teaching ministry that lives on in the Body of Christ.

And as the first female governor of TX, MA Perkins, would say "boys if it's good enough for Jesus it is good enough for Texas!"