The Diocese of Georgia boasts the founding of a cornerstone of church programs around the world, for it was while working in the colony that The Rev. John Wesley created the first Sunday School. From an unheard of novelty, the Sunday School program has grown to be so ubiquitous that when it is not present, many will complain that the church is doing nothing for its children. The problem is that the graded Sunday School so popular as Baby Boomers had children of their own is difficult if not impossible to sustain across much of this diocese. Classes of similar-aged children all working on lessons from a curriculum week by week works in fewer and fewer congregations each year. The problem is both with keeping a group of motivated teachers and with interesting children (and more importantly parents) enough in the program so that attendance is routine.
Rather than mourning the loss of one of the Diocese of Georgia’s greatest gifts to the Church, this problem presents an opportunity to rethink how we go about forming our children in the faith. This is not to say that the fact that Sunday School isn’t working means we can drop teaching the children of the congregation. Instead, we need to find new ways to teach the timeless truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I will briefly one alternative and I ask that anyone with successful alternatives let me know so that I may share them in this space.
At King of Peace, I used a model I learned from Church of the Spirit, an Episcopal Church start I worked with while a seminarian. That congregation held once a month Kids in the Kingdom Sundays which were like a mini-Vacation Bible School. During Kids in the Kingdom, kids in two age groups would take turns at 1) hearing a Bible story in an engaging way and singing songs and 2) creating crafts or artwork related to that story. The kids would join together for lunch. In just to hours, we could dig deep into a story so that children were immersed in time in the narratives that so form our lives from Creation to Jesus’ immanent return.
By adopting this model at King of Peace, Kingsland
, we found that we could better maintain volunteers for the once a month commitment. Parents were also more inclined to schedule around that one Sunday a month. While not allowing us to go as far as a weekly Sunday
School, it did offer an engaging alternative. Coupling this with an annual Kids in the Kingdom Week made room for significant teaching through the year. One side note is that King of Peace also offers a children’s church that meets from the opening hymn to the peace for those who do not wish to remain in worship. This lectionary-based offering also added to Christian education for children.
What I hope to do is not convince other congregations to adopt this model, but to challenge churches that are not offering any Christian education to children to look for a model that will make room for kids to be nurtured in the faith.
For those who can do a weekly Sunday School, you can find information on the current top programs: Godly Play for the younger ones and Journey to Adulthood for teens along with much more at http://christianeducation.georgiaepiscopal.org
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue
Canon for Congregational Ministries
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