“I don’t want to go to Sunday School anymore,” said one of my four children, then beginning high school.”
“And why?” I asked.
“They just go over the same old stuff, over and over,” he replied.
This conversation changed my life for the next “dozen” years.
For more use the DOOR.
I started teaching Sunday School. The lessons changed. And here’s a sweet note for parents who take a similar deep plunge. (And don’t tell your kids what I say next until later on.) If you’ve ever wanted to have certain talks with your kids about Christian mores that you couldn’t easily squeeze in, here’s a way to do it. When one or more of your kids is in the class when you teach–usually developing a Bible text–about character, morals, and practical goals in life (proper grist for Sunday school, I feel), aim “those words” across the table, or toward the next row, as if your kid wasn’t there. If there’s heat to be felt, or important principles to be presented, let it arrive to your offspring indirectly. Pretend he’s not there. Let the Word and your words fill the room to the group you’re with. The Holy Spirit can then do His work (and hopefully shield against when you misfire).
It helps, too, when your co-teacher is a converted former nuclear submarine sailor¹ lying in wait at the other end of the long table. (Our SS kids sat between us and they knew it.)
You can cover a lot of bases, not in just a single game, but in a season of games².
That was long ago. All four of my children survived this.
Now my wife and I moved to two locations and are part of two (good) churches where Sunday school has evaporated. “Wednesday night fellowships” or similar youth gatherings have replaced SS, and I suppose the WNF League gatherings are aiming their pitches toward the strike zone. I applaud that, but I still feel a bit uncomfortable about how important teachings and discussions about key matters are now handled.
Here’s an idea that emerged this morning among 3 of us after morning worship (writing this on Sunday, Sept. 4): Why not a Sunday morning series of classes for teens–say hs soph-seniors–that deals with “Becoming a Christian Adult”? Here are some possible topics:
Looking Toward College, or Further Education (Who pays? What are you “entitled” to? Dealing with parental influence, etc.)
Cars and Transportation (Who pays? Who owns? etc.)
Love and Marriage (What does one consider here?)
Debt (What is it? For what? How to use credit cards, What is “co-signing” and should one be a part of this?
What Do Things Cost? (Education, a house, food and furnishings, “Toys”)
Responsibility to Family–children and parents (Do I need to have children? illness and aging)
The list could go on and on…
Okay, how to go about this and what is assumed: Students will be free to question and not be put on the spot or pressured in any way. Everyone will be encouraged to think and act as a Christian. (That aspect is assumed in the topics listed above.) The unique feature here: There will be 2 carefully chosen adults to address a given topic. They will present information–from their own lives and elsewhere–about the selected topic. The adults should feel free to express differences and “argue.” (Why? This is what adults, even Christian adults, do in solving problems. Knowing how to disagree and argue is part of the responsibility of being an adult!) Further, students will be encouraged to ask questions and feel free to express different points of view. The adults will have the right to (carefully) question the students as well. The time period for the discussion will be defined. A 3rd adult may be a moderator to control the action.
Expectations: A lively discussion and exchange of information that allows for questions and disagreement. And, quite frankly, everyone, especially the students, walking out of class with as many unanswered questions as tentative answers to things they’ve rarely, if at all, discussed in a friendly (non-family) public forum.
From that day forward, no student can ever say “No one ever told me” or “I’ve never really thought about that before.”
¹ Gene Dorman, now passed away, was a tough-minded dear Christian friend loved by hundreds of both young and old. I dearly miss him.
² Sorry about the baseball metaphor, but long ago I was an undefeated Little League pitcher. My problem: when I was suddenly too old for the league, the baseball diamond suddenly grew larger…and I didn’t, not for a couple of years. By then, I was simply ordinary beside my peers. And I must mention that the “small-town” Maine-Endwell, NY (near where I’m now sitting), Little League recently beat South Korea to win the Little League World Series. Yes!