We were lucky enough to have a stall at the Household of Faith conference with John Westerhoff in July. Over the course of six keynote addresses, he covered a huge amount of territory and gave us a lot to think about. One of the questions he brought up was how churches address not just education, but enculturation - that the process of forming a Christian is not just one of teaching, but one of integrating new members (whether children or adults) into a different culture, with its own ways of being and doing.
It's trendy these days to do away with the Sunday School - the idea that children should be fully involved in church at all times is a laudable one, and this certainly seems to connect with John's ideas of enculturation. However, I think Sunday School is still valuable, for several reasons:
1. It gives us the opportunity to present children with the whole story of the Bible, from beginning to end, not just bits of the Gospels chopped up and told out of order, with bits of the Hebrew Scriptures accompanying them.
2. It allows us to spend time focusing solely on the stories of the Hebrew Scriptures, which are often given a back seat to the Gospel in Sunday worship, despite forming 2/3 of the Bible and being key stories of our faith.
So I don't encourage you to get rid of the Sunday School for the sake of enculturation. Rather, I think there's a compromise to be made. Here are some questions to guide your thinking:
1. How often should we have Sunday School? Can Sunday School be used BOTH for looking at stories AND for preparing children for worship on Sundays when we don't have Sunday School (i.e., teaching some of the music, exploring the different parts of the service, etc.)? How can that work?
2. What liturgical elements can we include in Sunday School, to help us enculturate children through worship there? When children get older and leave Sunday School, will church be a foreign country to them? How can we use Sunday School to prevent this from happening?
3. Why are we having Sunday School? What are we providing here that makes it worth taking children out of the main worship? Is Sunday School there to keep the children from "bothering" the grown-ups, or because we think it's doing something worthwhile in and of itself?
4. Is it all right for children to miss Sunday School occasionally by being on the rota as servers and readers?
5. How can you mark the seasons of the church year in Sunday School, to help enculturate children into the rhythms of the liturgical calendar?
Related product: Doll Baptism Gown. Use for baptism preparation with toddlers and older children, give to older siblings during baptisms, use during an RE lesson on rites of passage or in a display on Christian life, use in a Sunday School lesson on baptism, or keep for imaginative play at home. Children love acting out baptisms - choosing godparents, picking a name, deciding what promises to make for the child, pouring water over its forehead ..