Editors commentary: Supporting Sunday Schools

I believe in Sunday Schools and that children should have teaching specifically tailored to their needs.
A child’s way of understanding is not the same as that of an adult. ‘When I was a child… I thought as a child’ (1 Corinthians 13.11). A child can understand the truth in a simple way, but can also misunderstand. To mention a crass example, when she was a girl, there was a boy in my wife’s class named William Heaven. You can imagine the kinds of confusion that arose in the little boy’s mind from the opening sentence of the Lord’s Prayer. So it’s good that there is a time when children are taught separately from the rest of the church. Sunday School teachers do a wonderful job.

During the sermon
Our Sunday School takes place during the sermon time. Here are some reasons why. We believe that all the Bible is necessary for our Christian maturity (2 Timothy 3.16,17). But is everything in Scripture appropriate for children? There are some horrifying things in the Bible. Is it really appropriate to preach to children from Genesis 19 or Judges 19 and 20? Do they need to hear about David being asked for a bride-price of 100 Philistine foreskins? I could go on.
So if the custom of the church is to keep children in the sermon, what happens to the preaching programme? Either we blunder on preaching stuff which will make parents rightly squirm as their children listen. Or we bowdlerise holy Scripture, there being ‘no go’ areas for the preacher, and less than blunt application, because there are children present. So, instead, the Sunday School teachers take the kids and teach them in ways helpful to them.
We also have Sunday School during sermon time for the sake of outsiders. Requiring children from non-Christian homes to sit through the sermon is generally a disaster. Not only are the parents not used to church, but it is likely that the children will hate being forced to sit through a sermon and will play up, the parents will be embarrassed and will probably be put off ever coming again. By contrast, if they join the beginning of the service and then there is a lively and well-organised Sunday School during the sermon, the whole family may well feel relaxed and welcome among God’s people. We’ve even had the youngsters of un-churched parents asking, ‘Dad, please can we go to that church again?’ Sunday School teachers are worth their weight in gold!

Get behind them
But what do we do to support our Sunday School teachers? First, do we run and support an evening service? Sunday School teachers need to be fed as well as feed the spiritual needs of the children? Or, having had our children taught by the teachers in the morning, do we plead family responsibilities and leave them to attend a rather sad and sparsely populated evening service? Second, do we give the Sunday School time in the prayer meeting and listen to the needs of teachers? Third, do we give the Sunday School our best and most gifted people? Sadly, today’s children tend to be easily bored. The Sunday School needs people of presence and flare. Fourth, do our Sunday School teachers get all the training they need? In the contemporary child-centred world, youngsters tend to be far less biddable. Have our teachers been trained, not only to be able to teach in an exciting way, but also how to win children, and bring control to a boisterous class?

John Benton

This article was first published in the December 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.
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