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Why are we changing the Sunday School?

Sleat & Strath Free Church
New Sunday School Setup
Parents’ Briefing

After the October school holidays we are planning a change to the way we run and organise Sunday school in the congregation.   This information bulletin has been provided to help explain why the Kirk Session feels we need to make the changes and how we hope the new setup will benefit the congregation.

Present Situation
On the face of things, the present setup is operating just fine.   This might leave some people wondering why we are in a rush to chance this feature of our congregational life.   The Kirk Session have some concerns about how things work at present.   One of our concerns is the spiritual health of our Sunday school staff and helpers.   Right now the same small team run all of our Sunday school program – from pre-school right through to Secondary-aged pupils.    That means that three adults in the congregation are missing at least one service every week, for four fifths of the year.
As we investigated the options to lessen the burden on our team, we discovered a number of other problems.   Firstly, the upper class are at a stage where they should really be trying to apply Biblical teaching to real life situations, but they lack the basic Bible knowledge to do this effectively.   We discovered the reason for this was the very broad age-range in the younger class, where there is far too broad an age-range to teach them all effectively.
This led us to consider other options, e.g. expanding the number of classes, so that we could have a well supervised pre-school crèche; a younger aged class and an older aged class.   However, the bottom line is that we do not have enough members to provide the regular commitment needed to teach two classes, and supervise a crèche.

A coincidence or God’s plan?
At the same time, Gordon was talking to John Urquhart and discovered that the Church of Scotland congregation at Kilmore have much of the same problems.   Their facilities are poor, and the teachers there are facing spiritual burn out, trying to carry the load of a weekly Sunday School class.   The conversation turned to ways in which we could cooperate in this area of our work, and it was agreed to approach both Kirk Sessions to see if they would consider a joint Sunday School.   Both Kirk Sessions agreed to investigate the possibility, and later representatives from both congregations met to discuss how we might organise a joint Sunday School.
In a meeting clearly marked by the presence of God’s Spirit, we were able to overcome a number of obstacles – where (a “neutral” venue with good facilities); when (our own Kirk Session had been discussing a change to 11:00am already); who (a core team who would carry the bulk of the teaching, with extra helpers).   Following these discussions, both Kirk Sessions agreed to bring the proposed changes to their congregations.

The Plan & The Benefits
Meet in the school                        
Excellent facilities, more room for classes, neutral venue, familiar to all our kids
Meet at 11:00am                            
A longer afternoon, making it easier for people wanting to attend services in Sleat and Strath
Continue our own crèche
Younger children will still be near / with their parents at church – we should also say we are flexible about the age when kids move up from crèche to Sunday School, if you would rather they stay at crèche until P2, that’s OK.
Smaller Classes                               
Better teaching for the kids, with more opportunity for staff to attend church services themselves (we envisage a “3-on-3-off” rota)
Outreach Opportunity                 
Having the Sunday School “away” from church might encourage some parents who don’t currently attend to send their kids, opening up new outreach opportunities

Children in Church?
We want to underline and emphasise that we are always delighted to see children in church.   We hope the new setup for Sunday School will not make the kids feel unwelcome at church.   Therefore we have two other things to consider.   Firstly, at Sunday School, part of the time will “feel” like church, with group singing, someone praying, and reading the Bible.   Secondly, during the school holidays we plan to adapt our services to a more child-friendly format.   Crèche will still be on for pre-school kids, but we want to encourage older kids to stay in for the whole service.   In the long term, we hope this plan will help kids see church-attendance as something they will continue with, even after it becomes uncool.

Sleat & Strath Kirk Session

October 2009