Thursday, October 18, 2007

sunday school

The Pyros and Bish are both talking sunday school at the moment, which seems to have got a lot of people talking! My background is scarce in this area, i went to a non-evangelical church until the age of about 8, and was in sunday school there until i started playing rugby on a sunday morning, and was then saved when i was 17, without ever being involved in any sort of youth group... so i have no primary experience of sunday school, but i'm going to have a say anyway!

At Reading Family Church we've just taken the painful decision to take our kids out right from the start of the meeting at 1015 because we've simply run out of room at the school we meet in. This has been a really hard move to make, and really makes a difference to the feeling of the meeting. We'll get used to it though, and it does free up space for people to come in...we've already seen the benefit of it on a sunday as we had more people than seats counting all the guys in kids church.

I think 'sunday schools' are a good idea. They give parents time and room on a sunday morning to listen to the preaching without having to worry about their children. And as long as the sunday schools are teaching the Gospel to children on a sunday, then having them in an environment where they can learn without hindering hindering others has to be a good thing. Thats probably my favourite thing about the idea of moving children out of the preach, it gives parents space and time. And, on a related note it means that whoever's preaching doesn't have to feel responsible for making the message accesable for all ages...we can go through difficult books and difficult ideas over time. And, it probably means that children associate church with fun rather than boredom of having to sit still for a while.

My big issue is the age at which people stop being 'children' in sunday school, and start being 'youth' in the main meeting, probably with something for them midweek. When is the right time to have people in the main meeting? Eighteen is surely too late...i was shocked last year when freshers' who i worked with were put off a church because there wasn't a youthgroup for them to join. I was like 'you're eighteen fella'. Maybe thats the reason the there's such a drop off rate between people in church at school and people in church at university. They come out of a sunday school youthgroup where everything is very much centred around them to a church where (hopefully) they are challenged to serve and got into a cell and give regularly, as well as, not least, sitting through 30-40 minutes of preaching each week. It's a big difference.

So whats the answer? When's the best age to move through from mini dramas to preaching? 14? 16? I'm not sure the big issue is whether children should be out of the meeting, but when they come back in. As long as children are seeing the faithful life modelled to them by their parents during the week then it does seem the best idea to not have them in the main meeting on a sunday. But that leaves two responsibilities for the church and for the sunday school. Making sure the Gospel is central to a childs sunday morning (and i that must be hard, i've got no idea how to make the gospel understanable to a four year old) and to make sure they are ready to not be a 'youth' when they become a student, or leave school. Both these areas are possibly formational to a person's whole life. Sunday school is huge...

1 comment:

thebluefish said...

I guess ultimately what I'm most concerned for is

1. parents take responsibility to bring their children up with the gospel
2. children get some exposure to the normal preaching and worship life of the whole church together,
3. teenagers in particular star to see their christianity as not just personal but as being part of the church - the lack of which, as you observe, may have something to do with the drop off post-18 from youth-group...