The latest trend in children’s ministry is to no longer provide Bible classes for children. Many believe Sunday School has no real impact on the lives of the children who attend. Churches are now putting the responsibility entirely in the hands of parents. And as far as I can tell, these churches aren’t doing anything to better equip parents either.
God set up the church for several reasons. One is to use community to strengthen our faith and to encourage us to lead godly lives. The church was also created so we can have people who hold us accountable – not just for our sins, but also to do the positive things God calls Christians to do.
By turning Churches and Christianity into just another extracurricular activity, we have seriously limited our impact on each other and the world. Eliminating Sunday School is yet another step away from supporting each other spiritually. (I realize there were no Sunday Schools per se in the early church, but parents today need the help of the Church in raising their kids more than ever.)
Our research is showing Bible classes can have a substantial positive impact on children, teens and families. We merely have to change the way we implement them. So what changes do we need to make?
- Honestly evaluate what we are currently doing. You can’t fix something if you don’t know what is broken. We see many common issues, but each congregation has its own particular strengths and weaknesses. We even have a couple of free resources to help you. Our Classroom Evaluation tool breaks down the types of things that are part of an effective Bible class. Using it to evaluate your current classes will give you a lot of helpful information. Our ABC’s of a Ministry Listening Tour can help you gather the insights of your students, their parents and your volunteers.
- Honestly evaluating your current curriculum. It’s easy to believe that if you have spent a lot of money, your curriculum is great. Or maybe you are confident because you aren’t hearing a lot of complaints from your students or their parents. Unfortunately, students and parents rarely evaluate what happens in class from a spiritual stand point. Often, if students are having fun, then everyone is content. Our free Bible Curriculum Evaluation Tool helps you examine curricula from an educational best practices perspective. It will show where you need to tweak what you have to make it stronger and more effective.
- Changing attitudes about Sunday School and Bible classes in general. Many church leaders, volunteers and even parents accidentally undermine Bible classes for children and teens with their attitudes and comments. Historically, Christians have had a laissez faire attitude about Bible classes for kids and teens. If students learn anything, that’s great. If they don’t, it’s not a problem the church needs to address in meaningful ways. We have got to become passionate about our children receiving an impactful spiritual education. The stakes are eternal and we are acting as if we are talking about winning or losing a ball game. Yes, parents bear the ultimate responsibility, but in today’s world, they need to be able to count on their congregation to provide meaningful help to reinforce what is being taught at home. (And yes, teaching those who aren’t taught at home, while training their parents.)
- Providing meaningful training and mentoring opportunities for volunteers. Unless your volunteers are professional educators, they have not been trained in educational best practices. Honestly, many people who are professional educators weren’t trained well either. Many of the problems we have in our Bible classes today are because we think of volunteers as “warm bodies” and not as critical front line warriors for the souls of our young people. Volunteers don’t have to possess degrees in education, but they should receive ongoing training. The military wouldn’t dream of putting someone untrained on the front lines and hope to win a war. We shouldn’t either.
In my next post, I will share a couple of the secular books that make me believe we can win the Sunday School war for the souls of our young people – if we are really willing to do what it takes to win. You may be fighting the battle to make these changes in your own congregation and feel like you are fighting a losing battle. Don’t give up! Precious souls are being endangered because not enough Christians are willing to fight for needed changes. Let us know if there is anything we can do to help you as your work for positive, meaningful changes in your Bible classes for children and teens.