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Drawbacks of Sunday School

Drawbacks of Sunday School

In an article on Patheos, Tim Wright argues that one of the contributing factors to the rise of the ‘spiritual/not-religious’ generation is, of all things, Sunday School.

He argues that the pattern of separating children from ‘big people church’ for so many years in no way prepares them to take their place in regular worship as adults, so we should not be surprised when they abandon church as adults.

He writes:

For years I was an advocate of this model. And I still, in many ways, feel the tug to stick with it. But I remember reading a study some 20 years ago that said back then what our experience is now confirming: Kids who attend Sunday School but never attend church are more likely not to attend church as adults. (It makes sense, doesn’t it?) And kids who attend worship and never attend Sunday School are far more likely to attend worship as adults. (Those who attend a mixture of both are also more likely to assimilate into worship as adults.)

The whole article is here. What has your experience been? Does separating ages for Sunday School yield good results or no?


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Marshall Scott

I have long thought about this, and have thought that the issue is less Sunday School vs. worship than it is what to plan for Sunday School. Specifically, I have long thought we should have good adult Christian Education, and then abolish Sunday School specifically for high school ages. That would give them experience of seeing Christian adults in education and reflection, and the experience that thought and reflection is part of being a Christian adult. By that time they’re already attending worship. Having them participate in the adult education would model for them adult reflection on the faith.


“Besides the college chaplain none of the rest of the church welcomed us, or got to know us, invite us to lunch, etc. and when we graduated, only those who were engaged or married were welcomed from the college group into the main church body”

Not my experience AT ALL. Sorry you didn’t go to UC Davis/St Martin’s Episcopal (1980-84), Chris. One year, I was invited to particpate in stripping the altar after the Maundy Thursday service: it was (obviously) an unforgettable experience for me, which sealed me as an Episcopalian for life.

JC Fisher

Chris H.

I can see how never attending the main service but just kid’s Sunday school would leave the impression that all the parents wanted was to teach the kids to be good and then you’re done with it leading to them not attend in the future. I know former church goers who openly say church is just for that and when kids get older, you’re done.

I can also think of another form of segregation that drove a large part of my generation from the church. That segregation was of the college members. Besides the college chaplain none of the rest of the church welcomed us, or got to know us, invite us to lunch, etc. and when we graduated, only those who were engaged or married were welcomed from the college group into the main church body, that was 2 people out of 16 people when I graduated. The rest drifted away. Some are now married and attending different churches, but when I went back for a visit this summer, none of those who left had returned to that church.

Chris Harwood

Adam Wood

This is the growing consensus of everybody who actually studies these things. But we’ll probably sacrifice another generation to “age appropriate” segregation, because everyone is too invested in the way they currently do things.

Ann Fontaine

A mixture – age appropriate things like Godly Play with attendance at worship works well for our kids — but time will tell on this generation.

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