02 June 2010

Sunday School . . . or not?

There's an interesting conversation taking place on Episcopal Cafe at the moment in response to an EpiscopalLife Online article that ran yesterday, June 1, about Sunday School models. I encourage you to check it out and weigh in if you have wisdom to add to the conversation.

The debate is a timeless one for many of us, and most of us could make arguments from a multitude of perspectives on the question; how, when, and where should Sunday School take place in the life of a congregation?

Since this blog is more specific to Youth Ministry, and often this particular ministry with this specific age group (primarily 6-12 grade) is no longer in the realm of "Sunday School," I'm curious to know what your thoughts are about the young people you "inherit" into your ministry from the programs for younger children.

As an example, I can tell you that in Minnesota, most of our school districts honor Wednesday night as a light night on the school calendar to yield to Catechism  and Confirmation classes in our Lutheran and Roman Catholic congregations. Most of the main-liners and evangelicals have jumped on this bandwagon, too, and use it as an education night for middle schoolers and high schoolers. The model provides greater potential for musical and liturgical participation for this age group on Sunday mornings. It also makes older youth available to help teach in Sunday morning class rooms with younger children.

The interesting observation that I would make from my days in congregational youth ministry is that youth who have spent their early years in church with their parents know a lot more about Episcopal Liturgy and Prayer than those who have been in a concurrent Sunday School class. The greatest sadness for me is welcoming middle schoolers into the youth room who have never had a discussion about anything religious, spiritual, or faith-based with their parents. But if they've been in church we at least have common ground to begin the discussion. Often I have been blessed with watching spiritual transformation unfold as youth and their parents have learned more about their own faith and traditions together when participating in mentoring opportunities and multigenerational events focusing on Christian Formation.

What has your Youth Ministry experience been? How have programs for younger children influenced your ministry with teens and tweens? I encourage you to comment here and/or at Episcopal Cafe. I look forward to hearing and sharing the wisdom from each of you.


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