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What if you shut down your Sunday School?

What if you shut down your Sunday School?

Day Smith Prichartt writes about an alternative approach to religious education for children:

What would you do if the families in your parish were exceptionally regular in their attendance at worship, but only a few were committed to church school; the well of prospective teachers was truly dry; you had a Vestry who was willing to take risks and try new things, and a Rector who had your back at all times and in all places; and Virginia Seminary’s Digital Missioner Kyle Oliver and CMT (Center for the Ministry of Teaching) Director Lisa Kimball dared you to try something different (and promised to help)?

What did we do? We shut down Sunday school. Let me clarify: We adopted a pilot program of online faith formation, and we suspended our Sunday morning classes. St. Andrew’s FISH program (Families Integrating Sunday and Home) began in September.

After describing her parish’s new approach, Smith Prichartt writes:

So far, I’m enjoying spending more time planning our weekly family worship, and integrating teaching on the church year and sacramental theology into our worship; investing more time in our outreach and fellowship activities, trying to make them truly multigenerational; supporting other digital communication efforts in the parish, such as the website and Facebook page; helping the adult formation committee imagine programs that will help us all grow into the full stature of Christ; and keeping the FISH site current. This is a prayerful process that I do in direct response to each Sunday’s worship.

It is too soon to say how it’s going. Participating in the CMT Hybrid Faith Formation Network Initiative is very helpful, and I continue to have new ideas from the readings and from the other members. I imagine the program will continue to evolve throughout the program year. After all, we did call it a pilot. But I’m excited to see what the church could look like “post-Sunday school,” how our parents may become more active in the faith formation of their children, and how our congregation can grow in the depth of our discipleship.

How is Sunday School working at your church? What strengths and weaknesses do you see in the approach outlined in this article?


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From my own Episcopal Sunday School experience (FWIW)—

I remember being either bored, or stressed-out over memorizing assignments (e.g., the Apostles Creed).

As soon as I was permitted to attend the Eucharist (~age 12), I had an outraged “Why have they been keeping THIS—the Good Stuff—from me???”

If we are to continue to have Sunday School, it should be to the end of ILLUMINATING the Eucharist that children are already attending.

JC Fisher

George Clifford

I do not understand the emotional attachment that people have to Sunday School. My spiritual journey has kept me in the Church in spite of and not because of Sunday School. Sunday School too often communicates that religious education and spiritual formation are for children (and perhaps youth), but not for adults. Perhaps Sunday School was a useful tool for a century, but now is the time to explore alternatives, e.g., religious education and spiritual formation in which content is accessible over the internet at a time/place convenient to the recipient complemented by discussion via phone, email, chat rooms, and in coffee shops or bars.

Kyle Matthew Oliver

Thanks for sharing. Day’s leadership and the enthusiasm at St. Andrew’s have been really fun to watch!

Chris Hamby

The story is originally from Key Resources

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