Why Sunday School Sucks

Why Sunday School Sucks August 7, 2013

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.

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  • I am curious, is there a children’s version of animate?

  • Hi Tony,

    Thanks for the reference to my article (Beliefs of the Heart).

    I look forward to your Friday article.


    • Great post, Sam. Looks like you touched a nerve from the comments…

  • I agree that if SS is all about those types of lessons referenced above, it sucks. Our congregation is investigating using The Way of the Child which aims to help children develop a sense of spirituality and spiritual disciplines through child centered prayer stations. In other news (braggy self promotion alert) I’m writing a book to be published through Chalice Press in the spring about spiritual practices, rituals and traditions for children that are to be used at HOME. Part of the problem with “Sunday School” is that parents use it as an all inclusive “faith education” for their children. How are children supposed to learn faith when all they have is a lame 1 hour lesson on morality?

  • Richard H

    When I teach a class, regardless of the age group, I work from the text, without any pre-packaged “points.” I encourage students to ask questions of the text and model the same in my own actions.

  • putting aside my thoughts on John Piper’s theology and beliefs…..he shares a funny story in one of his books (i bloody hell can’t remember which one) in which some 70 year old dude goes to the quite a bit younger senior pastor of the church and asks, “I’ve been attending this church my whole life; when do I graduate from Sunday School?”

    In many ways that has always encapsulated my thoughts on the subject; while Its important to educate my children in Christianity; I want them to get the majority of their christian education in the ‘field’; i want them to see me interact with adults at coffee houses, in soup kitchens, on the soccer field, etc.

    The organizational structure of the Sunday School experience is fine…but we shouldn’t forget that the history of the movement had to do with the ‘unchurched’ not the children of believers.

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