Sunday school isn’t what it used to be

ChildI came across a website recently and on their “Sunday School Yesterday and Today” page I read this post from Happy Retiree:

I went to and later taught Sunday school…in the 1950’s and early 60’s. This was a time when there literally were hundreds of children in Sunday school…At my church now there might be twelve children on a really, really good Sunday.  The usual number would be two to five, but if you look around the church there are very few young adults.

At our resource center we work with many Sunday schools whose situation is similar to that described by Happy Retiree. We help them evaluate their educational programs and suggest ways to improve and bring them up to date. We stress that they partner with parents in their child’s faith formation, since studies have shown that the family is the number one influence on a child’s faith formation.

Often when those involved in a Sunday school program contact us they are looking for a quick fix: perhaps a new curriculum or a way to recruit younger people to join their staff. Although making changes and working hard to offer an excellent Sunday school experience can bring in more children, this isn’t always the case. The world has changed and most parents today have a  mentality that differs greatly from that of parents thirty or forty years ago. Postmoderns consider themselves spiritual but not religious; they aren’t interested in having an authority figure tell them what to think or believe. Their lives are complicated and time-stressed and attending church may no longer be a priority.

But this doesn’t mean that those in children’s ministry should give up and shut the doors of their classrooms. There are many churches that are finding creative ways to minister to today’s children and their families. They may have an intergenerational Sunday school or are making their worship services more multi-sensory so that children as well as adults find them meaningful. Some of these churches have moved the primary time of their children’s programs to one other than Sunday morning. This may be an evening or Saturday afternoon. Programs like Messy Church usually meet once a month, at a time that’s convenient for young families. Innovative churches are also connecting with families online in various ways.

What works for one church may not work for another and part of our job at the center is to help Sunday schools discern where God is leading them. It isn’t easy, but what is more important than the precious children of our church and their relationship with God?

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