When I Canceled Sunday School

When I started as the Minister to Youth & Young Adults at Colonial Church in 1997, I inherited a lot of programs, as most pastors do. Among them were Sunday school for both middle schoolers and high schoolers. Since I couldn’t be two places at once, I alternated weeks between them, and I had other leaders help me out.

The very first realization I had was that the high school students hated Sunday School. I mean they HATED it. Only about half a dozen students came, and they were all sophomores who hadn’t yet gotten their driver’s licenses. (Freshmen were in confirmation class, and they were required to attend worship.)

So I canceled Sunday School for high school students. They were relieved. Some of their parents were pissed. And I announced in staff meeting, “We’d better figure out ways to make our worship services more relevant to teenagers, because they’re be in worship as of next week.”

I’m happy to report that the church staff did up their game. The senior pastor began using more anecdotes from when he was in high school in his sermons. And when he gave litanies like, “This week, when you’re at work, with friends, at the gym…” he now added “at school” to those lists.

The choir director invited high school students into the choir, and I started putting students down to read scripture and lead prayers in the services.

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Why Sunday School Sucks

All this week, as part of Patheos’s “Passing on the Faith” series, I’m writing about how the church should — and should not — educate our children about Christianity. Today, I excerpt an excellent post from Beliefs of the Heart:

Several years ago I met with a woman distraught by her son’s rejection of Christianity.

She said, “I did everything I could to raise him right. I taught him to be like the ‘heroes of faith,’ with the faithfulness of Abraham, the goodness of Joseph, the pure heart of David, and the obedience of Esther.”

She wondered why he rejected Christianity.

I wondered why it took him so long.

Here is how we destroy the gospel message

Look at almost any Sunday school curriculum. You’ll find:

Abraham was faithful, and God made him the father of a nation. So be faithful like Abraham.

Joseph was a good little boy (unlike his “bad” brothers), and God made him Prime Minister of Egypt. So be good like Joseph.

David had a pure heart (unlike his brothers), and God made him King of Israel. So have a pure heart like David.

Esther was an obedient girl. God made her Queen of Persia and she saved God’s people. So be obedient like Esther.

Finally, if we fail to be good, Jesus will forgive us (a “P.S.” tacked onto the end).

What’s so bad about these Sunday school lessons?

Nothing really. Except that they lie about God, they lie about these “heroes of the faith,” they lie about the Bible, and they lie about the gospel. Apart from that, they are pretty good. Oh, they also create “younger brother” rebels and “older brother” Pharisees.

Is the gospel our central theme, or is it a “PS” tacked onto the end?

Read the rest: I Wonder If Sunday School Is Destroying Our Kids – Beliefs of the Heart.

I couldn’t agree more. In fact, it’s a theme that’s addressed by Rachel Held Evans in the new Animate: Bible resource that I developed.

Have you tried something different with Sunday School? Or have you canceled Sunday School altogether? I did both. I’ll write about it on Friday.

Postmoderns Have Nothing To Teach Our Children (and other fables)

Your Favorite Blogger with Courtney, kids, and cousins.

I just got back from a week at a dude ranch in Colorado. It was a celebration of my mom’s 70th birthday, and we gathered 17 Joneses of three generations for a week of horseback riding, whitewater rafting, and eating lots and lots of beef. It was the perfect family vacation (and I’ll post about it more in days to come, including my victory in barrel racing at the culminating rodeo).

I’ve got two brothers, each with a spouse and kids. As in many families, we were raised in the same faith (centrist Protestant), but we’ve gone our separate ways somewhat. Each couple is raising their kids differently, which causes interesting conversations when we get together at times like this.

One of the things that my nieces are particularly interested in is talking about God, especially with a theologian. One of my nieces attended Young Life camp earlier in the summer, so she was particularly keen on talking to me about God and Jesus and faith. She and I chatted a bit, and later she told my mom, “After talking to Uncle Tony, now I’m totally confused.”

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All I Want for Father’s Day: Equal Parenting Time

I’ve blogged in the past about the injustice in the parenting time laws in Minnesota and other states. In fact, I testified in front of a Minnesota Senate hearing on the matter. The law passed on a bi-partisan basis, but was vetoed by our short-sighted governor, after he was lobbied by divorce lawyers. As it stands, dads still get the shaft in most states when it comes to post-divorce custody.

Now, Gail Rosenblum reports, women are joining the fight. In fact, the new group that has formed is only women:

It’s not all wrapped up yet, but a big gift is arriving for divorced dads who want equal time with their kids.

Launched in early May and already claiming a broad spectrum of members across the United States and Canada, a new advocacy group is determined to finally make equally shared parenting a reality.

These aren’t a bunch of guys. Every member is a woman.

Leading Women for Shared Parenting (www.lw4sp.org), founded in May in Massachusetts, will launch officially on Father’s Day. Many members aren’t waiting.

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