Are You Paying Attention?

The value of Sunday School.

If you are attentive, you might notice them straining and stretching their little necks to see if it is time. If you are listening, you should hear the cue from the pastor to come forward for the KidSong. If you are watching, you’ll see them circumnavigating the needed path from pew to pulpit and then later, back up the aisle, out towards the hallways leading to their classrooms. These children walk/skip with confidence, and the visitors, who seem a little uncertain, lean closer to the accompanying adult. My task is to meet and greet, to direct traffic and connect with visitors. “Welcome to Sunday School!”

As coordinator of Sunday School, I have felt tremendously encouraged and also, at times, somewhat disheartened. For numerous decades at my church, the Sunday School program for children ages three to six has run quite smoothly and soundly. It has presented itself as a tidy package running concurrently with the latter part of the service, wherein the sermon is delivered. It can appear as an almost instantaneous program. All the essential ingredients are readily available – accessible resources, needed spaces and places for classes to meet, and people willing and ready to take a turn to teach. And then there are the children. They are always ready: to tell, to listen, to sing, to pray, to share, to care and to be present with all their attentiveness. 


So why do I feel disheartened at times? In short, there are not enough people available to take a turn teaching; we have had to scale back our program. I saw this shortage coming 10 years ago, a gradual shrinking of the people pool. People who had once taught now decline since they are involved in other church ministries that demand their time and energies. Understandable. People hesitate to take a turn teaching because they don’t want to miss the entire church service, especially the sermon. Understandable. And finally, people are reluctant to deal with a group of young children because they do not feel equipped. After taking a Spiritual Gifts Workshop, they have come to the conclusion that teaching is not their thing. Understandable.

Despite all the understanding, this shortage can become worrisome. But, I am convinced that with much prayer and conversation with others, who are passionate about faith formation in young children, people will be found. I continue with the method of recruiting teachers by talking face-to-face with people. This method is more effective than sign-up sheets in the church, pleas from the pulpit, or requests from the bulletin. I become heartened when people respond to a request with the comment: “I love to teach those kids” or when grandparents volunteer to take a turn teaching. I call this: Grandmas to the Rescue. Such loving and attentive responses are recognition that faith formation is vital to these youngsters. Do you see them? Are you paying attention? They are waiting, stretching their necks to see if it is time for Sunday School. 


  • Nancy Horlings

    Nancy spent her youth and young adulthood in south-western Ont. surrounded by cities, cornfields and cow pastures. She now lives with her husband, George, in B.C.’s Bulkley Valley surrounded by mountains, lakes and rivers.

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