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Thanks for sharing your perspective and for all of your contributions to the Sunday School network. We hope you'll continue to be a contributor even as you head into "retirement."
I really like this one:
He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. (3:5)
a great encouragement for SS teachers or Directors of Chr. Ed! Share the great things GOD is doing in the lives of our children with the congregation!
A great list of questions posted above - I am looking forward to this webinar!
Verry good question, Laura.
amen John... Courageous shared a powerful and priceless message... One of the things that I believe (and agree with John) needs to be restored is the "family altar", that families make an intentional effort to gather together to pray, share and read and discuss scripture. I am not finding this going on at any significant level (via a variety of ways), so unfortunately, the 85% would seem to be fairly accurate from my experience and discussions. I believe Cheryl Saks (Prayer Saturated Church) is working on a book about this, and not sure if it's out yet or not. Many have the tools, just are not making the time in often already over-loaded and busy schedules. It is about our priorities.
I have nothing against the story cards or the Dwell curriculum. Any helps we can get can help. But to expand on the transferring faith to family, we just watched the film "Courageous" as a family. And it reminds us that it is not good enough to just be good enough as parents. We need to be better than "good enough". Story cards can be good, but faith is primarily shared in committment. That means that personal faith needs to be shared from parents to children. Daily family devotions. Breakfast devotions. Supper devotions. Evening devotions. Daily committment to faith life. Daily committment to listening to your kids, their joys and problems, and explaining how it relates to their faith, how it relates to God's purpose for them.
Mothers often do this because they seem to have more time to be more involved, and are around when the children are experiencing pressure points. But it is really important for fathers to take a lead, to explain their faith, their faith struggles, their faith victories, their faith committment. Fathers need to step up to the plate in prayer, in care, in being there. Fathers bear the responsibility for the growth of their family's faith and spiritual well-being. The pledge identified in the film "Courageous" could be a good one for fathers to commit to.
Without this committment to share faith in families, sons and daughters will follow their parents lack of committment. Sons and daughters will end up experimenting with pre-marital sex, with drugs, with entertainment, with "shacking up", with crime. They will make money, or career, or self, their primary motivation. Statistics indicate that sons and daughters without fathers are more likely to end up in crime. And who can tell about the impact of fathers who are there, but not all there... who do not share their faith? Who are present in body and absent in spirit?
It should never be said that a single Christian family does not share his faith with his children (not to speak of 85%!!!). And sharing faith between husband and wife. If there is no sharing within the family, perhaps it should be questioned as to whether the faith of those parents is dead and not alive. Do not let your faith be dead. Let it live in you and in your children! Pray for God's blessing! When it gets hard, pray for His Spirit leading and filling!
And for preachers.... this should be a message to proclaim. That our greatest evangelical task as parents is to share our faith with our children in the home. All the preaching in church and teaching in Sunday School will not replace or supplant the influence of the home in faith formation, and in living for Christ.
What a great idea, Karen. Thanks for sharing.
That's great idea! At my church we use Kid Connection so we save the leftover copies of the Guess What! Family Magazine that accumulate through out the year and set them on the table at our Welcome Center during July and August for any visiting kids (and our kids!) to select and take home.
What a wonderful story! At my church we use the Kid Connection curriculum which means we begin with a large group time each Sunday and, because we're a church plant and in a rented facility, we have to set up and take everything down in our room. Each Sunday Matthew, a boy in grade 4, pops his head into the room and asks if he can do anything to help. Then he rounds up his buddies and they set up chairs and help get out the supplies. Your story gave me a new perspective on Matthew and his crew---how awesome that they feel like they are a significant part of what is happening at our church. As Sunday school leaders it's our prayer that they'll always feel that way!!
Update for anyone reading/following this thread...the webinar has now been scheduled for April 25. Visit www.crcna.org/webinars to register or to view the recording afterwards. Spread the word!
Laura, you raise some great points! Made me think about some of the things we do in general. Like taking breaks and vacations, etc. Priorities. Retirement. What does it mean in God's grand scheme?
I know some churches which never take a break from Sunday School. They have Sunday School as often as they have church. It is simply another form of worship. They would not omit it anymore than omit a church service.
Many churches take breaks during summer, and Christmas... but it makes me wonder, maybe we look at this in the wrong way. Would we say we don't need a janitor in the summer months? Yet we don't need sunday school or bible study? What is more important to maintain? Which is more significant to spiritual growth and health?
When people are too busy, is it because sunday school is during church service? or because people are unwilling to make it a priority? or because career and entertainment and sports are more important? Okay, it can be tough sometimes when you have small children, or when older children need transportation to events, etc. But maybe it is about priorities. Perhaps Sunday school classes are more significant and important than praise teams in church, more important than choir, more impacting than the superbowl or American Idol, and more of a ministry than attending diaconal meetings or caregroup get-togethers.
Maybe snowbirds can become young again and teach some of these classes in the summertime when they return to their churches.
I agree with you that the kids appreciate a consistent teacher as much as possible. Switching teachers from week to week is frustrating for them, and leaves them with a sense of a lack of committment.
Laura, I think it's wonderful that you are thinking deeply about how every aspect of Sunday School can be glorifying to God and edifying to the kids.
For me, the most important part of crafts or other activities at Sunday School is not the end result, but the action. Kids learn in different ways. Listening to the lesson or story is one way for them to learn, and using their other senses continues to add to that learning. Using their hands and different parts of their mind to make things reinforces the lesson, not only when you use that time to review the story, as you mentioned, but also as they create something that is sparked by the story. For some kids that act of creating a craft will be a reinforcement of the lesson, for some it's probably THE way they learn and retain what that story is about.
So I agree with you, don't eliminate crafts. Thank God for the variety of children's personalities and ways that they learn.
You are correct in identifying the catch-22 we find ourselves in. We'd love to do more on the video side as well as with developing interactive media technology, especially because we sense that the Reformed voice is sadly under-represented there. However, all that costs a whole lot of money when you are talking about everything from the initial investments in equipment and software to the money needed to pay the many people these types of projects involve.
Web-based video does provide a break in distribution costs, but not enough to overcome the cost on the production side of things.
At the end of the day, Faith Alive is committed to producing engaging and effective educational materials to equip and assist churches in their faith formation efforts. We pray daily that God will guide and sustain us as we work to develop new and innovative ways to do this with the resources we have while remaining hopeful that God will provide the means for us to do more with visual and interactive media in the future.
I'd be happy to help! My name is Karen DeBoer and I'm an associate curriculum editor at Faith Alive. Sounds like you've got a great age span of children at your church--that's exciting! The other grade K-8 age graded curriculum we offer is called Walk With Me. It's often described as "faithful, friendly, fun." Faithful because like all Faith Alive curriculum it's faithful to scripture and every story is taught from a Reformed perspective--one that believes every story in the Bible tells us about God and must be understood as part of the one story of God's redemption and restoration of this fallen world through Jesus Christ. Friendly because WWM provides leaders with a variety of options so they can adjust their teaching based on their setting, available time and the learning styles of the children in their class. Fun because each session includes activities that meet the needs of different learners---the contemplative child who learns well on their own, the child who loves to interact with others, the child who needs to move their body, the child who likes to solve puzzles, the child who loves to sing, and more! Paying attention to the different ways kids learn cuts down on discipline problems too because everyone is engaged:)
What are leaders telling us they love about WWM? The full color resources for both the leaders and the children, the grades 6-8 materials which include a year of the Catechism, a year of issues that middle schoolers can sink their teeth (making tough choices, prayer, justice, etc.) and a year that examines church membership and Reformed themes like Covenant and Kingdom. They also appreciate the fact that the scope and sequence revists key stories at deeper levels throughout the years---something that's especially important now when Sunday school attendance can be erratic because of sports committments, visits with non-custodial parents and more. And they also like that it's relevent. (I think you mentioned in an earlier post that your church is in a rural location. One of things to keep in mind is that even though your location may be rural, because of the Internet and all the other influences that technology brings into kids lives, children may be physically present in the country, but still within a fingertip's reach of urban influences and attitudes. So sometimes it's helpful to consider the perspective of say, kids in an urban school---even if that's just to contrast and compare with the situation of the kids in your class---it can lead to some great discussions! )
If you'd like to see a sample of WWM visit www.walkwithmeonline.org. There's a page where you can request samples for it and our other curriculums---Kid Connection, a K-grade 6 curriculum that uses a large group-small group approach, WE an intergenerational curriculum for the whole church, and Dwell.
In the spring Faith Alive will be offering a number of free webinars on Choosing a Curriculum that you and your leaders can attend. Check the website in the next few months for the dates those will be available.
PS: At my own church this past Sunday I was approached by two Sunday school co-ordinators from other churches who recognized me from a workshop I had done in the area. Both mentioned they were using Dwell this past year and in the words of one of them "the leaders love, love, love it!" When I asked what was most exciting about Dwell for them one co-ordinator said the leaders loved the simple prep time and the easy way the sessions were laid out--especially the session step where kids retell the story. The other co-ordinator said families in her church were thrilled with the God's Big Story cards and the way they were now able to connect what happens at church by faith-talking with their kids at home. Different curriculums "fit" churches in different ways, but I always find it helpful to hear what is working about a particular curriculum in a particular church. (That's why it's also been great for us to hear from you, Royce!)
Hopefully these ideas help you find the curriculum that will fit at your church. God bless you in your ministry to children and their families!
I need a sunday school curriculum for next year. Grade kindergarten through eighth grade ( every grade is in a separate class room). I must be missing something because I am unimpressed by the Dwell series. What else do you have available that allows the teachers to lead the children through the stories in the Bible to learn the truths of God.
Hi Mister B. I'm the director of Faith Alive. Thanks for your comment. Would you be willing to give me some examples of other publishers that are still Reformed in their thinking that you typically look to and, what you mean by "watered down?" My ask is not a challenge to you at all. I hope you don't take it that way. Actually, I'm asking because I want to learn. As the leader of Faith Alive, it's very helpful to me to hear from churches what other publishers they rely on for Reformed material and why. I'd also be very interested to know if our content is considered watered down, what that means so we can address the problem. Thanks for your consideration.
Speaking as someone who doesn't really understand publishing, I'm guessing that one of the reasons that Faith Alive has not done much in terms of DVD curricula is because it's cost prohibitive. At the same time that seems to be a source of potential revenue, so it's kind of a catch 22. Is that changing at all with web based video?
Those are the three major year long catechism options we currently have available. However, we do have a few other products you may want to take a look at:
Believe It! http://www.faithaliveresources.org/Products/130325/believe-it-leaders-guide-on-cd.aspx
(Based on the Belgic Confession and only 16 sessions but some churches use it every other week to cover a full year)
Living Your Faith In a Messed Up World http://www.faithaliveresources.org/Products/130305/living-your-faith-in-a-messed-up-world-leaders-guide-download.aspx
(again, only 15 sessions and it is based on the Contemporary Testimony, not the Heidelberg or Belgic)
Quest of Faith http://www.faithaliveresources.org/Products/138805/quest-of-faith.aspx
(more of a pre-Profession of Faith study but some churches have used it other ways)
If you are thinking about ordering for next fall, keep an eye out this summer for Deep Down Faith, which will be an updated version of A Sure Thing for high school and young adult small groups.
We have a few other projects in the works aimed at refreshing our high school curricula and resources in the future. Our monthly e-newsletter is a great way to stay in the loop on these new products. You can sign up to receive it on our website: http://www.faithaliveresources.org/
Are there any year long high school catechism curriculums besides What We Believe, HC and Me, and Questions worth asking?
I will consider looking at Faith Alive's material first, which I usually do. Unfortunately, I often have to look through a great deal of material before I find something that is both interesting and challenging. Sometimes I just find it a better use of my time to look at curriculum from other publishers that I know are still Reformed in their thinking but don't water down their material.
The last I saw of the material was several years ago. At that time the stories that went with the lesson were not stories that our 4th grade students could relate to. Several of the teachers found the lessons very difficult to teach. As I wrote I am willing to look at the lessons again, but changing material is difficult and once changed difficult to go back. We will be moving to a new Catechism material for the 9th and 10 grades next year. It is my hope that Faith Alive will have materials that we can use.
Royce - What do you mean by "the material had an urban slant"?
I would love to order from FaithAlive resources for our church and have ordered the catalogue for next year. When our church stopped ordering from FaithAlive the material had an urban slant that was difficult to teach to our small town and rural children and appeared to us to have lost the reformed foundation. I am hopeful that there is now material that will fit our congregation and its needs. It appears to me that our congregation was not the only one that had problems with the material. Shall we say it appears churches voted with their feet?
OK....now give us some concrete examples (about a dozen or so) of how that would look like. Faith, Prayer, Educational, Worship, Educational Frameworks (especially interested in that one) LMK....sparked my creative interest....
Thanks for your post. I have a great admiration of anyone who's dedicated to thinking creatively about teaching doctrine to our children. After teaching now for nearly 20 years I may be a bit biased, but I'd submit that passing down these Biblical truths as summarized in our confessions to new generations is the most important job in the church - and one of the toughest.
These 'thinking out of the box' ideas can have great impact (though I have no idea how I'd express the church's educational goals using blocks), but these sort of pedagogical methods should be used very sparingly lest we forget about what is in the box itself. I say this because I grew up in the CRC in the 80's when catechism and doctrine were totally shoved out the door to make room for one 'outside the box' lesson after another designed to let us express ourselves, develop strong self esteems, stay away from sex and drugs, and learn about Jesus solely in the context of the 'relationship' he had with us. The result with many of my classmates was to express themselves through sex and drugs which led to occasionally using Jesus simply as a therapy for the resulting poor self esteems. I thank God that I discovered our confessions once when paging through the back of the Psalter Hymnal one morning while bored in church and was astounded at what I read.
Over the years I've had classes where I was literally floored by the discussion I had with junior high kids- far deeper and more honest that what I've ever had with adults. I've also had years like what I'm having right now: a group of extremely quiet kids who sit on their hands and stare at the table. I did need to change my tactics this year- more lecture rather than guided discussions, but even though I'm not getting magificant jaw dropping repsonses from this group it doesn't mean they're not learning.
Our confessions help answer the four primary questions of life - Who is God, who am I, how am I saved, and how should I live in response? These are questions that teens are begging to have answered. Sometimes they just don't know it because everything in our culture is designed to distract us from thinking deeply. We - especially our kids - are bombarded by media, busyness and communications that don't exceed 150 characters and always end in haha lol.
I did go through a phase where I made lots of posters and other visual aids, but I soon realized that I can't compete with the world. My efforts were simply lost in the noise and in some cases adding to the distraction. I learned not to be afraid of the quiet. Let them squirm in awkward silence from time to time. I've seen blessing in making a classroom void of worldly distraction- where all is shut off except for God's Word. It's tough for the first month or two of each year because it's so different, but one by one they do come to appreciate it and even look forward to it.
We are in the world view building business when teaching Sunday School. What we teach them now will directly affect them for the rest of their life. Legos, crayons, skits, videos, stories, and other such methods might occasionally help accentuate a point, but they are all double edged swords. We - I - need to learn to just get out of the way of the Gospel.
Thank you Laura for the spark of creativity!
While I have used readings, and flipcharts, and videos to prompt discussion in the Profession of Faith Class, I am now inspired to use crayons and cover the table with doodling paper. Rather than just me drawing on the flipchart, I'll get these 'once children of our church' - now adults - to render their own drawing of the Church as we talk about the history of the church, and their depiction of who God is when we talk about the God who reveals himself, etc, etc.
Thanks for the spark!
This is a great idea! I'm going to try it. Thanks : )
We also use Psalms for Young Children with our three little ones and it's great. The kids browse through and each pick a Psalm to read (usually based on how the artwork fits their mood that day - which is itself illuminating). I've even used it for council meeting devotions - just for something less wordy and more visually rich. It's beautiful and helps the Psalms come alive in a new way.
Hi Marvis, I am not aware of many resources. My husband Bob and I are working on this for a project. Eerdman's has a great picture book called Psalms for Young Children by Marie Helene Deval. Here is also a list of other Psalms picture books from the Calvin Institure of Christian Worship web site. Maybe other people have suggestions I'm not aware of..
Laura, I agree Psalms are wonderful for kids as well as us "grown-ups." I wonder if you have any resources you can recommend to use with kids? Our small group is using Eugene Peterson's Psalms, Prayers of the Heart. It's excellent and could be used by young adults. But maybe you or others know of materials for using the Psalms with younger children?
That would be terrific! I know our part time staff is not always able to attend these events at the original presentation time, but I know these are archived and we would appreciate being able to access the archived version.
This could be a perfect topic for a webinar (see the series we're putting together at www.crcna.org/webinars). Maybe we could see if Beth is willing to do her same presentation in a webinar format.
If there's some interest in that, we can check into it. Thoughts?
For the sake of the staff I work with, I am going to beg: is there any way that the brochures you mentioned and/or any other materials might be made available online? :)
Our church has also recently made the decision to allow children at the Lord's Supper and just this morning we met to begin talking about how this will affect youth ministry and how we can best guide our youth in faith. We are hungry for resources and help, and would be so grateful if any of this information can be shared.
Videos have good potential for passive education, but the danger is a lack of active participation by the "watchers". This lack of active participation reduces the active learning, and also reduces the potential of community building and spiritual growth. So a good balance needs to be found, with the priority of active participation.
DVDs used for music might be the only alternative in some cases, but in terms of personal development of the congregation and its members, even poorly played instruments can be superior to dvds. Sometimes even acapella singing might be preferred, as praising God needs to be done personally, and not left for someone else (such as an impersonal dvd or a hired choir) to do it for you.
I think it is always encouraging to see our young ones worshiping. In our church and most all churches Sunday school is valued as a critical place to teach the love of Jesus in a smaller, age appropriate environment. I'm sure your congregation was thrilled to watch the children. Our church has not done this in a very long time and your post helped light a fire for me to talk with our Children's Director about seeing this through. I think the children leading the elders helps us all to loosen up and rejoice for Jesus together...no matter what age.
Thanks Robert for your reply. I agree more with John Z's comments however. I attended a D6 conference a month ago to listen in on the Faith at Home movement. They were not saying that the task of the church is only to train parents, but that the church has often failed to train parents and thus the renewed focus on our covenantal responsibility (promised in a parents' baptismal vows) based on passages like Deuteronomy 6:1-9. I love the reality of other adults speaking into children's lives, however, as studies about youth ministry and the North American church's retention of youth after highschool are showing, if the parents are not speaking and discipling their own children in the home, then all the programs in the world at the church are not amounting to much. It is fulfilling our baptismal vows to help parents to raise their own children to know Jesus, hardly shirking them. The vows are made by the parents to "instruct these (your) children in the Christian faith" among other things and "with the help of the Chrisitan community." The church helps but does not do this in place of parents. In fact the church cannot disciple children in place of their Christian parents as it simply fails. It is quite something to have hundreds of youth pastors and childrens pastors at a conference all affirm the same problem, they have vastly diminishing impact on the kids they lead when the those kids homes do not have maturing Christian parents.
Though this home focus can go overboard in other directions, I hardly find the renewed emphasis (I believe a biblical and reformed emphasis) on faith at home dangerous. This is not heresy. This is godly parenting and reformed covenant promise keeping. Regardless of programs and full involvement in the congregational life, the number one influence on the faith life of a teenager remains their parents. Youth pastors and church education teachers are down around 12th (from a major study on the faith lives of teens release recently; Bibby?). In the Christian Reformed tradition we have the added reality of Christian Schools. There has been a steady slide toward handing our children to church and school to be discipled in the faith. We hired a youth pastor to disciple our youth. In the meantime, he and I have found few homes where faith training is present even in the most rudimentary ways (family bible reading and prayer at a meal time for example). Now I am of course speaking from my particular context so that may not be true in yours. Our youth pastor finds himself working uphill trying to get parents on board about their kids living godly lives.
Don't misunderstand me, I am all for great church education and Christian schools, but without faith at home growing and expanding, our programs are not very effective. They never have been. Just research the young adult retention rate in churches in North America. We just have trouble being honest about it. And add to this, the reality that even if you do great home training and programs or whatever, if the marriages in the homes are not flourishing and growing as well, the impact is still minimal. If the parents are spiritually lethargic, then no matter what goes on at church, school or home, the result will most often be spiritually lethargic kids coming out of those homes. And statistics are bearing this out.
This doesn't mean there is no place for a Sunday School. Sunday School was originally started as an outreach tool for neighborhood kids who had no faith at home at all. It can be a good tool for augmenting what is being taught at home. But because most parents (in my context again) are both working outside the home, the family cohesion at home is fast disappearing and the church (and Christian school) is trying to fill in the gap. I think if we do not listen carefully to what the faith at home movement is pointing out, we will continue to be unable to stem the flow of our young adults out of the church. For a child to grow up with a weak home faith context, the life of the church remains so much religion done by their parents who don't really take it seriously, because, when they are at home, this Jesus stuff is no where to be seen. That, in my opinion, is one of the top crises of our community of faith. Thanks for taking the time to read this. Colin.
Colin, you raise an interesting point! You’re right—the primary place for faith nurture is the home. And if Sunday school was seen as a replacement for that, we’d have a problem! Let me cast a different vision of Sunday school for you.
I believe that the whole church community has a role to play in shaping the faith of every member, from the newborn baby to person who is 100 +. We live in community so that as iron sharpens iron we can sharpen one another. I am about to become a parent, so this is something I'm thinking a lot about lately. I want my kids to have other adults in their lives who are sharing faith stories with them, who are modeling what it means to belong to Jesus, and who are echoing the things that I teach them at home. I want my kids to be able to draw on my wisdom and experience with God and also the wisdom of others when they have questions and when they face challenges. That can only happen when I immerse them in a nurturing, learning community where they can build relationships and hear God's story.
You might be surprised how many resources our denomination does offer for parents to use at home for passing on faith to their children! Here are some examples: the Kid Connection curriculum offers a section at the back of each lesson that is called "one-on-one-fun" that shows a person how to use that lesson with just one or a few children. That was included specifically so that Kid Connection could be used in smaller churches or at home. It also includes a family magazine that goes home each month with kids that is full of Bible activities to do as a family, and devotional ideas. Another resource called God Loves Me is a set of 52 Bible stories for 2 and 3 year olds. It’s perfect for home. Families can spend each week focusing on one Bible story and using the learning through play activities included with each book. The new Dwell curriculum includes a component called God's Big Story Cards which invites families to explore 165 stories from the Old and New Testament in fun and creative ways. In both theDwell curriculum and the Walk With Me curriculum there are at home devotional books for middle schoolers that invite the participation of families through questions that are geared for discussion. The Synod Faith Formation Committee has also endorsed a resource called Home Grown which is a handbook for Christian parenting. It includes a study guide and video to be used for small group study by parents to talk about how they nurture faith at home and to share best practices. In the next few years other resources will also be coming based on the work of that committee. Other voices in the CRC, like Robert Keeley (who posted above) have also contributed works like the books, Helping Our Children Grow in Faith and Shaped by Godt hat are aimed at encouraging parents in their role as the primary faith nurturers.
As Mark Holmen points out in the book Faith Begins at Home, there is a problem when parents outsource the faith nurture of their kids to the church. But that doesn’t mean we should throw away Sunday school! Our role as Sunday school teachers is to walk along side parents as we support and encourage them in the faith nurture of their children. That’s the vision—and with all the resources the CRC offers to help churches in this role, it’s an exciting reality!
This is not an either/or situation. However, we should realize what is primary, and what has the most impact. It is a good thing for the church to have sunday school, girls clubs, boys clubs, catechism classes. But we should realize that the time that children spend in these activities is quite small compared to the time they spend with their family and parents during the week, whether at meal times, or driving places, or watching tv, or playing games, and just plain talking. What the church does in Sunday school is equivalent to only about one-tenth of what the children are learning in total, about the faith of their parents. The children learn what they see their parents doing, and the priorities their parents have, and what the parents teach them about God, and life, and their relationship to God. It would probably be good if the church learned to train parents to teach their children, because whether parents realize it or not, they are indeed teaching them something. And this something will have a greater impact than sunday school lessons.
Colin – you’re right – this is a trend that is popping up in many places and I, for one, think it is a dangerous one. I’m not suggesting that parents should not train their children in the Lord but the task of the church is to do MUCH more than just train parents. The church is a community of faith and I have a responsibility to know and to teach the children in my church too. The trend you point to is that churches do little more than give parents the tools they need to do the job – in fact in many of those churches they have gotten rid of Sunday School and replaced it with parent training. I think that is a shirking of the vows we make at baptism and misses the point of what it means to be in community together. I would suggest that this is in conflict with a reformed perspective of who we are as a faith community and our understanding of the covenant.
We certainly should be a resource to parents but that is only part of it. I very much think that children need to see the faith of people other than their parents too. In fact, this matches up with what we know about faith development theory – that the circle of influence gets bigger as children grow. This trend of throwing everything to the home also basically eliminates children from church life. That damages the church as well as the children. We need to be all God's people together and Sunday School is one of the places that happens best, especially when adults get to share their faith with the kids as they share the nuts and bolts of the lesson.
I know that this D6 movement has taken root in some places – I just hope it fades quickly.
Here's a thought,
what if this kind of education was done in the home by the parents rather than at Sunday School? That way each child could be trained in keeping with who they are as their parents know that better than any one else.
And if anyone thinks that parents aren't qualified ... most Sunday School teachers are volunteers who are not teachers by trade either.
Google "D6" or faith@home and such sites.
We have great intentions to teach these children, but I wonder why we think this is the job of the church and not the home (I think it stems from secular educational philosophy which has the state as the one to teach the children ... not a biblical view at all).
So what if instead of Sunday School, we resourced and supported parents in their discipling and training up of their own children? Just an idea ... one that is impacting denominations all over the continent ... just not ours that much yet.
Oh, isn't that so true!! You plan for that one or two kids that you know will need extra engagement and then they aren't there. And it's so disappointing because you want to know if your strategy would have worked! Flexibility is key, thanks for these thoughts Laura!
In terms of their spiritual life and growth, family devotions have a much larger impact than christian school, or any church activities, including catechism, sunday school, gems, or worship. So if you are concerned about your children, and if you love them, you will not neglect family devotions with your children, especially at young ages. By the time they are twelve or fourteen, they will quite likely have their own personal devotions daily, provided the family has modelled and encouraged them.
A couple of options for family devotions that work well: 1. family devotions at mealtimes. This means that you either start or end the meal with prayer, reading scripture, possibly discussion, and possibly singing of some songs, preferably from memory. In my case, this is what we do at least at breakfast and supper, and when on vacation or weekends, also at noon meals. The children enjoy this. When we read the bible, or a bible story book, invariably one or two will want to sit on my knee when we read, although this diminishes when they become older. At breakfast, I am often gone, so my wife leads this reading. When the grandchildren are also there, then often four of them are trying to sit on my knees, and I can barely see the book. They also love to pick the songs, especially the action songs. As they get older and learn, they may want to play the piano for a simple song they are learning.
The other option, 2, is family devotion at bedtime. This works well if children more or less go to bed at a similar time. It can also be done with parent and single child. Again, the children miss it when it is skipped.
Sometimes both options done together are possible, and the children do not mind it at all. In fact, sometimes they are the ones who insist on it, and this keeps the practice consistent.
Usually simply reading the bible, rather than all kinds of devotional books, is the best.
Just some suggestions to consider.
The Walk With Me curriculum includes four Easter books that provide two sessions of Sunday school material and also include everything you need to put on an Easter program (including drama). You may want to check them out. Here is the link. You should see a button to push to read a sample.
We start Sunday School (including adult bible class) at 10 am, church starts at 11am with a ten minute break between. Then, after the service, there is coffee and sometimes cookies, usually people stay for another half hour or so. We have dinner at 2 pm, maybe at 1:30 pm. or a light lunch, and then dinner/supper at 5 or 6 pm. But we only have one service on a Sunday, which makes it easier to be at church for 2 and a half hours in the morning.
This is a great question, Laura. I'd love to hear what other churches do when it comes to scheduling Sunday school. Until last year we had Sunday school on Sunday nights. But the attendance was low, so we made the transition to having Sunday school before worship. We have more people of all ages attending, but it does make for a LONG morning--especially for the youngest kids. Our worship service lasts about two hours, so we begin at 9:30 with Sunday school and usually leave church around 12:30.
I wish there was a better way--we've talked about mid-week programming, but have never been able to get everyone on the same page with the days and the times. Plus we have a mid-week Cadet's program, so it would be hard to juggle that along with another day for Sunday school. For now, what we have is better than before but not perfect...
What some teachers do, is to talk to the parents directly about what the kids are learning and what the expectations are. They will talk to the parents either at church, or call them at home. This usually helps, and makes a big difference. The kids begin to learn that the teachers are connected to their parents, that they are working together, and are not two separate enclaves.
Great blog, Robert! (Ro-bear) :) I just posted it on our church's Facebook page.
Haha! Great story and quite true. Ministry is so much about being there for and with the kids!
So, it is a challenge! How do you meet the challenge? Any suggestions?
How about every lesson the teachers think about training (or involving) the parents almost as much as training the children?