Saturday, April 26, 2008

    Rethinking Sunday School

    As summer gets closer, and the school year draws to an end, it’s time once again to reflect on our ministries and begin planning for next fall. In less than two weeks, I’ll meet with our youth leaders and teachers. One of our primary discussions will focus on Sunday School. We will ask such questions as: What works? What doesn’t? Where was God’s presence experienced and felt? Where was God absent? What can we do differently?

    Sunday School is such a unique setting. At the church I serve, we still have our youth meet on Sunday morning for one hour. It’s early, 9:30, and I’m always impressed that so many youth attend (whether it’s their decision of their parents decision). I feel like we’re doing well, but I know we can continue to grow (both spiritually and numerically).

    So, the questions for discussion: How can Sunday School adapt to the changing times? What should Sunday School in 2008 look like? Do we still use ordered curriculum? Do we have a mixture of media? Should we have a combination of prayer, worship, and study? Should we change the times? How do we prepare teachers? Should teachers teach all year? Should there be rotating teachers? Should we take a break for the summer?

    Perhaps you have thought of these questions as well? I look forward to hearing other ideas and creativity.



    news muse said...

    I'd love to see "Sunday School" get outside the walls of the church at least once a month, especially for teens and adults.

    jeremy zach said...

    The Sunday School question is a question I have been wrestling with for a long time.

    To be honest I have no idea what curriculum to use? And what should the focus be?

    Jim Burns of Youthbuilders and Mark DeVries of Family-Based Youth Ministry have said, "The degree to which students will stay in the church, get involved, and make significant life decisions for Christ is directly dependent on their sense of belonging to the community.

    Sometimes I feel like my Sunday School hour functions more as a babysitting time, rather than a Biblical learning time. ya know? Should we leave the students in the service so they can be with their families? Last time I checked our Sunday School program is not exactly getting attracting "non-believers".

    Bottom line: I have no idea?

    Jacob said...

    I think these are both good points. This summer, we're going to try to get "outside" and visit other local churches at least once/month...Jeremy, we have the same questions and concerns. We thought about having special Sundays where we encouraged families to go to worship together. One concern though is that for visiting families in the summer, Sunday School plays an important role in determining their reaction to the church. So, we're a little hesitant not to meet. One of our youth is planning to teach a four week course by himself for both adults and older youth. Other than that, we have a few guest speakers planned, craft Sunday, and church visits. But, as you can see, we're pretty unstructured and all over the place.

    Barry K said...

    The Sunday School class I teach is for jr high/high school and I can tell you that don't really get into the "class room" environment we use, even if it is one with old couches that they can put their feet up on. When I mentioned to my class a few weeks ago that maybe we'd try doing a Sunday morning at a local coffee house instead of the church, they were all over that. The question for me is, how to use that off-site experience productively, rather than just as a gimmick.

    Jacob said...

    Good questions, Barry. I have a Bible study with high school students that meets at Starbucks on Tuesday afternoons. The deal is this: if you do the Bible readings, I lead the group and buy coffee, or whatever, for everyone present. If people stop doing the readings, and fail to participate in the conversations, the Bible study will no longer meet. I think with the expectations laid out ahead of time, we've done pretty well with the readings...

    On a totally different note, this summer I am thinking of having the graduating seniors each take a Sunday morning and share their faith story. We've done this before with adults and felt it was successful.

    jeremy zach said...


    you are soo right. having sunday school is a huge advantage for new visitors. you mean i get to delegate my annoying teen to you for an entire hour? heck yea....i am down.

    i am toying with the idea of having youth seminars. essentially adults in the church will sponsor a seminar that fits in their life specialty. for example, tom will teach his life skill of wood work in relation to some scriptural truth. the next month mike the money manager will sponsor a seminar that will give the youth valuable stewardship skills.

    right now i only do jr high sunday school. the sr high parents hate me because i do not arrange a sr high sunday hour. but seriously what high school student actually gets up at 8 am to get to the 9 am sunday school hour? however i am still thinking this through.

    Melissa said...

    I, too, have been wrestling with this idea. Sunday School is sacred in many traditional churches and is one of the toughest programs to change. Yet, it needs to be if it is not fulfilling its purpose. We struggle to find the best curriculum; the best format; etc. The time (9:30-10:30) is not youth friendly! (or youth minister friendly.) But it is the church-wide established time for Sunday School and to not offer something for youth at that time would be a employment-ender. So, we try to make the best of what we have to work with.

    Brian said...

    Hi Melissa. I sure agree that Sunday morning is not the best time to be trying to get the attention of youth. Yet, we have this long tradition of having "Sunday school," which in its original form really was school -- kids went there to learn to read and write. We've struggled with the concept at my church and have tried to keep it going, less for the youth in the church and more so that we have some place for visiting teens to go who might drop in with their parents on Sunday morning.

    Melissa said...

    We are following the same logic, here, Brian. We were able to make the transition a couple of years ago with our Wednesday programming. We started meeting in homes which has been GREAT for our youth ministry. We also decided not to have anything at the church which only effects Wed. night visitors which has been few and far between. But Sundays .... well, that is another matter entirely.

    Celeste said...

    This is a great post, and a question I too have been contemplating for quite a while! Just last Sunday we kicked off a totally brand-new format for "Sunday School"...something that has never been done before at the church I'm serving at.

    We started a small group format for all of our junior and senior high youth. We don't have a huge youth program, but currently we are offering three options for the youth on Sunday mornings in terms of small groups. There are different times throughout the morning, so no matter which worship service they go to, there will be a small group for them.

    All of the small groups are using the same material at the same time (a year's worth of small-group curriculum from Group, written by Doug Fields), and so far the reaction seems pretty positive! One of the coolest things for me to see is that I believe it will be an opportunity for the youth to really open up and share in ways they wouldn't in a large group.