High Bank, Denby. Derelict Methodist Sunday Sc...

High Bank, Denby. Derelict Methodist Sunday School Building. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most of my life has been punctuated by Sunday School.

There were the many years when I participated in it.

There were the years when I was the teacher.

Now there are these years when my children go each week.

And it never really occurred to me to ask “why” about Sunday School until recently.

My dad, a retired ordained minister in the Covenant church, made the comment recently that Sunday School is a modern creation born of a desire to provide a place for children to learn to read since they were working every other day of the week. (Here’s a link to get the short version of Sunday School’s development: http://bit.ly/17uv3sB)

As someone who has grown up in the church, worked in various youth programs, and been responsible to create curriculum for those programs, I know that the regular idea is to make lessons that show God’s acitivity in the world, and use the scriptures to teach character lessons.

I wonder if I was coming at it all wrong.

In my conversation with my dad, it came up that you really don’t want to use a lot of “Bible Heroes” as such because they were a mess. Lessons ought to focus on how many mistakes these people made and yet God was able to accomplish great things through them, because He is great.

Instead, we usually focus (for example) on how David was “a man after God’s own heart” and gloss over his adultery and scheming, including arranging to have his competition sent to the front lines in order to get him killed.

Dude was sketchy at best.

Here’s another example. At our church a few months ago they wanted to teach about friendship so for some reason they chose the story of Job. If you’re familiar with the story, Job goes through some really hard trials. His friends hang with him for a while, but then they basically tell him to throw in the towel.

The lesson taught only focused on the first part of the story, and happily the teacher chose not to include the detail that God allowed Satan access to Job. My first and third graders were not ready to deal with that information. It was a poorly planned lesson that pick and chose details for their illustration of the point the creators were going for, regardless of whether that was the point of the actual Bible story.

All of this is to say that there might be a better way to go about teaching our kids about the Bible.

In the month of November I’m going to participate in an online book club. The book we’re going to read is Peter Enn’s Telling God’s Story (http://bit.ly/1coKmHn). I haven’t read any his books before, but it sounds like this book has a different take on teaching the Bible to kids.

The premise of Telling God’s Story is that for 1-4th graders the focus should be on learning all about Jesus, then 5-8th graders focus on the overall narrative of Israel, and high schoolers focus on the Bible’s historical context. I’m really interested in exploring a new approach to valuing the Bible and teaching it in a way that honors it.

I’ll be blogging about book club, and the fabulous woman hosting it is Abi. She’s a riot and is on a really interesting journey that I resonate with in many ways. If you’re interested in reading along with us via her blog, you can find it here: http://bit.ly/1aQVwOB It would be fun to do this together!

What are your memories of Sunday School? Was there a point when you started having friends there, rather than just merely sitting next to other kids? What’s your view of Sunday School now?

Sunday School, Chicago, IL, USA

Sunday School, Chicago, IL, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)