Over at Episcopal Life Online, Mary Jane Wilkie of the Church of the Holy Apostles, New York City, proposes a possible vision for the future of Sunday School, when dwindling supplies of money and people may force churches to push their resources together.
I propose that, rather than wrestle with obstacles individually, churches could work collectively. Those in a specific geographic area could establish a center for children's spiritual development, to serve that area's churches on Sunday. Parents could leave their children at the center, and worship in the church of their choice, thus seeing to their own spiritual growth.
Potential benefits of this arrangement are:
• Children would have a stable place to grow spiritually.
• The space could be one that accommodates children (rather than whatever is carved out of the existing adult space in most churches).
• Parents could have a time to attend to their own spiritual growth.
• Children would enjoy greater diversity in their interaction with other children.
• The pooling of resources would enable staffing by trained (even paid) teachers.
• The facility would be open to neighborhood children, thus offering a service to the community.
Recognizing the potential obstacles to such a model as both several and considerable, she notes nevertheless that
In an ideal world, parents and their children would grow spiritually in one place, and most of us are attached to our specific church, cringing at the thought of not having it available for our children. We should, however, consider the long-term consequences of continuing as is. Discerning parents often tell me of their frustration finding an adequate Sunday school for their child, usually attributable to the churches' lack of space, time, and teachers. What I propose would address their need and see to our most precious resource -- the children.
What do you make of this model - good, bad, indifferent? At the very least Ms. Wilkie has seen fit to think realistically ahead, well past the old we'll-just-grow-past-our-problems mindset that's doing us no favors.