Be strong and courageous.
Do not be afraid;
do not be discouraged,
for the Lord your God will be with you
wherever you go.”
Glitter, that is what I remember from Sunday school. Huge bottles in a million glorious colors that I wanted to dump over my head. Popsicle stick creations, Elmer’s glue and Rice Crispy treats also fill out my memory of classes held in the church basement while my mother sat upstairs in worship. For generations Sunday school has been the place where kids can play, learn and make friends. In most churches it is childcare loosely dressed as education, however that is far from its original purpose.
What we know as Sunday school began as a movement in Britain in the 1780’s. The Industrial Revolution was in full swing and childhoods were spent working in factories. It wasn’t until 1802 that restrictions were placed, limiting children to 12 hours of work a day. Christian philanthropists found this to be deeply disturbing; the long hours prevented children not only from playing but also from learning and they could see that illiteracy was becoming an epidemic. Saturdays were another work day leaving Sundays as the only option for children to obtain any education. Churches began opening their facilities for classes, which came to be known as “Sunday school”. By the mid-19th century, the idea had spread to the United States and Sunday school attendance was almost universal as even non-religious parents were sending their children for this free education. In the 1870’s state education became compulsory in both Britain and the United States. As students were attending school during the week, Sunday school began to focus purely on religious education. Until 1960’s, many families still required their children to attend Sunday school on a regular basis as they felt it was invaluable to creating a well – balanced child.
Clearly our situation today is quite different than what it was back when Sunday school began yet the disconnect remains between what kids are taught and what takes place in actual worship. It is commonly believed that Sunday school is for students up to a certain age, after which they are expected to begin attending worship. However, most young adults who have been raised in this model don’t find that transition to be as smooth as anticipated. Having spent their Sundays in classrooms, they don’t understand the architecture of the service or the purpose behind the rituals and they feel meaningless. Antonio and I are hoping to change this by creating an interactive worship service for kids and their families.
Starting June 4th Sunday school will begin every Sunday in the chapel at 10 am with a service similar to what students had when they attended our Nursery school chapels. We will open with music, followed by scripture, prayers and a short homily. It is our goal to have students assist with every part of the service whether it’s playing an instrument they are learning, practicing skills of reading in front of an audience, perhaps sharing a testimony as well. All the while they will be learning about vestments, the various prayers and creeds as well as the significance of things like fire, water and color in worship. Parents are more than welcome to join their children, the service will conclude about 10:30 after which students will go upstairs for age appropriate discussions, games, crafts and the all-important snack. Parents are welcome to join worship in the main sanctuary or stay with any child that is anxious or needs additional assistance.