One of the places where America began to become theologically illiterate was an odd one: Sunday school.
I believe the introduction of Sunday schools truly has caused the American church to know less about what they believe.
Read the whole thing. He’s not saying we should junk Sunday School, but he shows how it may have created a generation of people who sat in Sunday School and yet know nothing about the faith.
Presbyterian Pastor John Vest wonders if we need to rethink what it means to be active in a faith community:
As a downtown church that draws on individuals and families from all around the Chicagoland area, our youth ministry has always faced some interesting challenges. Our youth come from a variety of schools, so creating a sense of community in this context is different from a situation in which all or most of the youth go to the same school. We also focus the majority of our energy on a short window of time on Sunday morning, which we’ve found is our best chance to gather a critical mass of young people. Busy schedules and the difficulties of traveling to and parking near our church make midweek activities almost impossible.
Historically, we have also lost a lot of youth between confirmation in eighth grade and high school. As they move through high school and their lives become more and more complicated, retaining them as “active” members becomes increasingly difficult. We’re getting much better at this, but a quick comparison of our “active” participants against the number of youth in our database reminds us that we have a lot of work yet to do.
But, perhaps we need to think differently about what it means to be an “active” member of a faith community in today’s world, especially for young people.
Recently, I discovered that a student who I pretty much never saw after confirmation faithfully volunteered at our tutoring program every Wednesday night for all four years of high school. He was not an “active” member of our youth ministry, but he was clearly actively involved in the mission and ministry of our church. How many more students like this are there? Or, how many more could there be if we helped youth find alternative ways of engaging?
It’s not just youth, even adults are far too busy these days to be involved in the life a congregation in the ways that people used to be a generation ago.
But then how do you do things like discipleship in such a busy world? Faith formation is something that takes time, even in this crazy age.
People are busy with a lot of things. Where does God and the faith community fit in?
I’m starting a new Sunday School class at First Christian that’s called Super Simple Sunday School. It’s basically morning devotions/morning prayer. The class goes a bit like this:
- We read one of that Sunday’s lectionary text.
- We have a brief discussion of the text.
- We share prayer concerns.
- We pray.
- We leave.
That’s it. The whole point of the class is for folks who might want a bit of quiet time during the week or those who for whatever reason, don’t want to get into the big time Adult Sunday School class. We aren’t discussing major bits of theology, but just coming for some quiet time with each other and God.
The first event was great. One person showed up, but it was a holy time nonetheless and that made me feel glad.
So, if you are in the area, please join me Sundays at 9:15am for a time of devotion with a good cup of coffee.