Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Sunday School – to be or not to be. By Jill Kayser

There's a lot of talk in the church currently about the future of Sunday School.

Our longtime friend Rich Melheim of Faith Inkubators promotes cross generational learning and worship through his provocatively titled movement “Killing Sunday School” and his facebook page is one to follow if you’re interested in building an intergenerational church.

One argument for promoting the “death” of Sunday School is that children gain as much (and possibly more) Christian education by worshipping with all ages than they do in an age specific classroom. However we have to be careful not just to “kill” Sunday School without ensuring that our style and content of worship is inclusive of children. I love Rev Alison Sampson’s suggestion that we should intentionally “interrogate” our worship service to make it more inclusive for all (see our past blog “Interrogating Worship).

I’m not convinced we have to take the “all or nothing” approach, but I do believe that we do need to seriously consider the arguments and research findings that today’s young parents are more inclined to respond to an event that enables them to worship with their children, than “drop them off” or be segregated according to age.

I enjoyed Rev Rebecca Kirkpatrick’s recent blog “Planting the Seed” sharing her experience of worshipping with their young son when they lived overseas working for Presbyterian World Mission. She found there were many benefits to being a part of a diverse and eclectic community of faith despite the fact that there were few children and no Sunday school for her son. At first she was concerned that he would miss out on the thoughtfully designed Christian education programme that he had in the States that exposed him to some of the great stories of the Bible, but soon realised that by not leaving worship to attend Sunday school, he was hearing over 150 readings from scripture (both the Old and New Testaments) as well as 80 sermons on those texts.

“This meant he recited the Apostles’ Creed the same number of times, watched me put our family offering in the plate the same number of times, and prayed the Lord’s Prayer just as many times,” says Rebecca.

“It also meant that for the first time I felt a personal obligation to be his primary Christian educator. In our previous congregation I was his pastor and helped to shape the curriculum that was used in his Sunday school classes, but with the hectic schedule of a pastor on any given Sunday morning, I relied heavily on my colleagues and the volunteers in our classrooms to mentor my child in the faith.”

“For the first time we read the Bible together as a family. For the first time we had a chance to talk about what happened at church that morning (on our way back from church on the Cairo metro). Even the experience of choosing the church provided some good opportunities to talk as a family about what we value in a faith community.”

While in Egypt Rebecca was working on my book that has been released this month from Westminster/John Knox Press - 100 Things Every Child Should Know Before Confirmation. 

“Writing that book gave me motivation to talk one on one with our son about different parts of the Bible and the Christian faith, often using him as a guinea pig for the ideas outlined in the book.

Watch out for this book which we’ll order for our Kids Friendly catalogue in the Hewitson library.

To read Rebecca’s full blog see Planting the Seed.