Monday, April 24, 2006

Summer Sunday School Dilemma

Yesterday evening the session approved the Christian Education Committee's recommendation that we take a "sabbath" from Sunday School this summer. Traditionally, we have always offered Sunday School classes for children and youth all summer and also had one or two adult summer classes. The only time we didn't conduct summer SS was the year construction on the CE building precluded its use.

Although I raised the issue with the committee, I have mixed feelings about not having Sunday School in the summer. Our attendance in Sunday School decreased this year significantly from previous years (mirroring a similar decrease in worship attendance), so we anticipated that summer vacations and summer camp attendance would really take its toll on our classes, leaving many of them not viable. Although we combine classes more in the summer, it looks like we could still have Sundays with no children or 1 or 2 attending. I don't like cancelling Sunday School for the summer, but I don't want to ask people to commit their time to teach and then be frustrated by lack of attendance.

Many churches in our area do not offer Sunday School during the summer months, so we will not be an exception to that practice. We hope that a break will refresh everyone and hopefully encourage increased attendance after school starts.

What does your church do in the summer for Sunday School? If you don't have it, do you think that the break is important in keeping up interest and attendance during the school year?


Princess of Everything (and then some) said...

No Sunday School? I cannot even wrap my mind around that. (of course, I did not even go yesterday but that's beside the point). I get more out of Sunday School than Church. I would be alright with no Church.

Classical Presbyterian said...

We take a break in the summer. With our percentage of travelling families during those months and a small pool of willing teachers, it just makes sense to give the teachers and students a break.

In a perfect, Geneva-like world, I would prefer not to break, but what can a pastor do?

I DO teach my own class all 12 months, in my study every Sunday morning though. That goes through the summer too...we have too much fun to 'quit'!

Quotidian Grace said...

Mindy, I'm with you. I'd rather skip church than Sunday School. In fact, I've been known to do that (--shhh!).

Being Shielded said...

To my twisted mind, it would make more sense to have Sunday School gear up during the summer. Sitting outside when it's pleasant and breezy is so much better spot to have a discussion. I'm going to discount vacations and such entirely -- if there aren't enough people, who cares? Not when kids can play and the adults can get outside...

(I'll ignore the near-100-degree temps in the south too. My fantasy...)

Quotidian Grace said...

Being Shielded--
It would be a fantasy here--the best weather is in the early spring and late fall. In the summer you would risk heat stroke to be outside! Nice fantasy, though...

Purechristianithink said...

We take a break from formal Sunday School, but plan a series of "Summer Surprises" on Sunday a.m.where a couple of adults take all the kids and do something. A few are just fun-stuff, a few are "projects" like making bread for communion, cookies for coffee hour or care packages for homebound. I don't think a chage of pace is necessarily a bad thing, but I'd don't like capitulating to the assumption that "no one will be there". I'm also guessing that way back when everyone was farming, attendence may have slacked off a bit during the heaving planting and harvesting season. Just a guess--

LutheranChik said...

Our children demanded, and got, summer Sunday school. But we have two teachers (with a transient group of helpers) and an ever-changing group of maybe ten kids at most, ranging from about 3 to about 9, so it's a little easier to be flexible.

jledmiston said...

We also take a break from Sunday School -- at least in the traditional sense. VBS is big here. There are adult offerings via small groups, and an occasional Sunday morning class. But our congregation is predominantly young adult with no kids or retired with no kids anyway.

Patti said...

Our church school is staffed by public school teachers. So we REALLY need a break in the summer. Although I wouldn't be against attending Sunday school, I sure as heck don't want ot teach it 12 months a year.

little david said...

I guess it depends on what you do in SS. I teach an adult SS class and, although exactly who will attend any given morning is unpredictable (a certain Princess is a member of my class), I think that most of the members feel something is wrong if they don't get together with the others when they can. But we have been through a lot together--cancer, missions, confessions, projects. If worship is adoring and ascribing glory to God, then we pretty well do that in SS, so I can understand the comments of Princess and QG. It really helps if everyone feels that they have a role in the functioning of the class.

Curiously, the Word Verification this time was "lnpkmo"--consecutive letters of the alphabet scrambled.

Lorna said...

Mindy's comment was the best (again!)

1. Sunday school in Finland is ONLY for kids (sigh! I want something for me) and its held at the same time as the sermon

2. It's mostly staffed by teachers in the public school system and parents
both of whom desperately need a break from doing it - and need the chance to be in the service themselves

so we don't have Sunday school in the summer.

Trouble is that you cannot realitically expect young school kids to sit quietly through long sermons - so whathappens? We organised a play time outside for kids.

But they need supervision. No volunteers so we're back to a rota of parents and sunday school teachers.

Crazy. But at least they don't need to plan the lesson /activity I guess.

I think those summers where we had fun teaching and camps throughout the summer hols - are the years that our attendance has been better in the summer and also in the autumn. So it's NOT an easy call to make

and as I said - we adults need educating too -and sermons alone just aren't enough. (Though it's how things are done in Finland - not just in our local church)

I'm thinking of moving ... (grin)

Quotidian Grace said...

Little David--
Wish I could attend your class, too!

The Baptists do an outstanding job with Sunday School for all ages. We have two adult classes that are like small groups in that the same bunch of folks attend each and they plan social events and sometimes mission projects together. Our other classes are more content-driven and attract attendance depending on interest in the topic of the day.

One of these classes has always taken the summer off. This year the other one was happy to take the option.

Susie said...

In all the churches I've been at, Sunday School happens during part of the worship service... usually the first half, and kids come in at the peace before Communion (Episcopalian services). That means that teachers are missing church. A lot. So to me, the sabbath makes sense. But, I'm intereted in other ideas. So, I posted over at my page too.

Ginger said...

Our adult populace would revolt if we took away Sunday School! I think some of us show up just for a break from our children; others of us like the singing/ lessons/ prayer concerns; some of us come for coffee & fellowship; and some have to be there to claim the same chairs they've been using for 40 years straight.

We are doing something DIFFERENT this summer, in focusing all classes and sermons on a single verse per week, for 10 weeks. Some classes will actually have lectures on the evrse; others will close with refelction/ prayer centered around the verse. We'll see how that goes...

Mostly, SS classes are little fiefdoms in my church. They resist outside influence. Most DO get new teachers or a team of "sumemr relief" teachers so the school-year teachers can take a break. (Strangely,though, many choose not to have a break.)

I don't know how this helps you, now that I;ve typed it, but I guess it;s good to hear that every scenario has its good/ bad points. Out tight peer groups keep classes going... but I won't lie to you and say we learn as much in the summer! :)

Anonymous said...

In the past we have done summer of fun and had devotionals for the kids followed by fun events, like a mini-bible school. they still learned things, but in a more relaxed atmosphere.
When I was in charge, i cancelled that though and tried to encourage an adult class for parents while children attended a fun class, with a veggie tales video and short craft and lesson.
Our church is doing the no Sunday School this year, for the first time in our church history and I am seeking a new church for summer that offers adult classes, as i also prefer Sunday School to church.
I think it is laziness to cancel learning about God on Sunday. Kids don't get much of anything out of church and need to stay actively involved all year long, even if you do combine classes and get rotating volunteers to teach.

Anonymous said...

We have a similar dilemma. We rotate teachers throughout the whole year (1 person takes the 1st Sunday, another the 2nd, etc.) During the summer I try to find at least a couple of people to fill in once or twice during the summer so each regular teacher can skip a month, effectively giving them 2 months off. I'm also hoping this summer that maybe the High School Youth group can take a Sunday. If you don't have a Youth Group, maybe another church in the area would like to give their Youth Group the opportunity to serve like this. Another idea would be to do one or two regular services that are family oriented and involve the kids - do kids songs during worship, divide the sermon into 1/2 the time for the kids and 1/2 the time for the adults.
I hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

We use curriculum where the teaching is primarily on DVD, leaving the teachers to just do the activities (games, crafts, etc.) laid out in the lesson. Makes it easier to recruit (a little) as the prep time is pretty minimal and no pressure of having to keep the kids attention while doing the lesson. We have used and and like both.