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Does Sunday School Have a Future?

17 Apr 2017 12:37 PM | Christine Hides

Debbie Kolacki is a Certified Christian Educator and Certified Lay Servant in the United Methodist Church. She is also an online instructor for BeADisciple. Her blogs include FaithGeeks and Practical Resources for Churches. She is the Senior Consultant for PRC -- Practical Resources for Churches where she works with people in all areas of ministry and leads webinars, workshops, and retreats.

If you’re involved with children and Sunday school, then you’ve probably heard people lamenting that things have changed, and not for the better. Those days when there was barely enough room in classrooms while waiting for the new Sunday school wing to be built are over. Instead many Sunday schools find that they’re contemplating multi-graded or one room classrooms due to a continuing decline in attendance.

What’s a Christian Educator to do? Many are pondering this question and venturing into new territory. Some see the lack of young people in the church as the result of children who never learned to worship with the rest of the congregation. Silo ministries which separate the generations must end and worship must become welcoming of all ages. Others may be experimenting with a different way or a different time for faith formation and emphasizing the importance of the family in their children’s faith formation.

PRC – Practical Resources for Churches is an ecumenical resource center for churches and has been offering webinars in all areas of ministry since 2011. There is no charge for these webinars which are supported by denominational organizations and private donors. Last year PRC decided to offer a series of webinars called Alternative Sunday School Webinars. These would include churches which were offering alternatives to Sunday school as well as alternative ways of doing Sunday school. They are recorded and can be viewed by visiting the Recorded Webinars page of PRC’s website.

The first of these webinars was broadcast on September 22, 2016 and was titled Curriculum + Service + Spiritual Practice. It was led by Marissa Letscher, Director of Children & Family Ministry at First Lutheran Church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She talked about how the church decided to no longer have Sunday school and worship at the same time. They created a new Sunday morning program for children focused on learning, service, and spiritual reflection and gave the children the opportunity to worship with the rest of the congregation. 

On October 20, 2016, Katie Rode Carided, Director of Family Ministry for St. John’s Lutheran Church in San Antonio, Texas, led a webinar entitled It Takes a Village. She talked about The Village, a whole community Christian education concept which encourages families to take Christian Education back into the home and ministers to all, even those who don’t regularly attend church.

Bonnie Deroski, Director of Child and Family Life at Grace Christian Church in Tinton Falls, NJ, led the next webinar in our Alternative Sunday School series called Vivid Worship, which was broadcast on November 10, 2016. Vivid Worship is a monthly opportunity for edu-worship across generations.

Our next Alternative Sunday school webinar was on January 19, 2017 and was about the Messy Church program at First United Methodist Church of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, PA. It was led by Anais Hussian, director of Christian education. Messy Church is an all-ages, worldwide, fun way of being church for people who may not typically attend or feel comfortable in a traditional church setting.

On February 16, 2017, Sarah McCaslin, organizing pastor of Waffle Church, an all-ages service of St. Lydia’s in Gowanus, Brooklyn, led a webinar called A Taste of Waffle Church which talked about their all ages-service which encourages the participation and leadership of children in worship.

PRC is in the process of planning our next season of webinars which will run from July through December 2017. On August 22, Rich Melheim, author of Let’s Kill Sunday School (before it kills the church), will lead a webinar with the same name. We hope to add two additional Alternative Sunday school webinars. We expect to be listing our upcoming webinars sometime in May; you can check them out on the Webinars page of PRC’s website or add your name to our email list by contacting us at info@prcli.org.  

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