Is Sunday School Relevant For Children?

The way we gather and scatter as a Church (in North America, specifically), what we emphasize and what we lean into, is all changing. This isn't the first time; this isn't the last time, and I would argue that this process is normal and it is what we should expect to happen. People who gather and become a local church, bring history, biases, expectations, and uncertainties. People bring their gifts and their needs; they bring their strengths and weaknesses and all of this comes together to build a local church community. Communities can build a system of doing community after a while; it's not that this is always a negative thing, but it can be. Good things left on the counter too long become stale and unpalatable.

Human nature, being what it is, always seems to seek the comfortable leveling point; and that can level a church; it happens all the time. That's why "reformers" sound the call again and again: Church, discover again your Mission.

I am involved as a volunteer leader in working with children in a local church gathering; but I have my eye on what is going on in the larger picture of the Church these days and I am asking myself, what does this mean for children's programs? In the bigger picture of the Church we are re-evaluating all kinds of ideologies and methodologies, is Sunday School on a Sunday morning still relevant? What do I need to be thinking about?

Here are 5 observations about Sunday School in my own context:

1. Sunday School on a church campus is relevant because it still "works."

When it comes to reaching children who don't know Jesus, I think Sunday School on a Sunday morning still "works" because it is still known. Many adults are familiar with Sunday School because they have had some kind of contact with it in the past. As children, they may be been dropped off for a time by a parent; they may have gone once or twice with a friend; churches have always had programs for children and people in the community are usually aware that they do. When children begin to have questions about God, parents who feel these questions are important and don't object to a child learning about God, often turn to the outside source of a Sunday School to help them with answering questions that they might not be able to answer.

If this is true, then I need to keep waving the flag: this is important. The 40 or so Sundays (not counting summer) we have with an often-rotating group of children really matter. Their experience in a Sunday School setting may be their first impression and their last impression (for some time at least) of what Jesus "looks like."


Are we counting on people finding us or are we as individuals a light in our community, such that people are curious about who and what is relevant to us? Sunday School may be held in a location, but we should not be held to a location. It isn't all about setting a table and hoping children will come. It's about knowing first and inviting them to be a part of something bigger.

2. Sunday School is still relevant because it helps parents.

I don't mean that Sunday School helps parents because they can drop their kids off and get a break from parenting; that is exactly opposite to what I mean. Sunday School partners with parents in translating the truths of the Bible for their children. We don't live in a time when we can assume people know quite a bit about Jesus. We live in a time when people hardly know anything about Jesus. Putting our arms around families and helping them figure out what faith means and what it looks like to walk "the narrow road" is part of the vital mission of Sunday School.

There are other ways to do this through cross-generational ministries, but in the end, quite a bit of it ends up looking a lot like Sunday School.


Are we actually helping parents? We can if we make that a priority. Sunday School can't just be about feeding kids and sending them home; it has to be, somewhere in there, about helping one another, help one another. Instead of teaching children how to read their Bibles and reflect on it personally, for example, why not have parents join you and learn it all together?

3. Sunday School on a church campus is more relevant than ever because it may feel more like home to children than home.

When are you at home these days? I think there is something in all of us that longs for the ideal of "home" but this ideal is quickly becoming, or maybe it is already, an illusion. I am not sure who is walking through your Sunday School doors, but I am quite certain there are some little broken hearts already.

This struck me quite profoundly one day when a little girl, began to be a part of our Sunday School community. She is 6 and she has never known "home." She has been shifted from one environment to another. She loves coming on Sunday; you would never know she had a care in the world with the smile that is a fixture on her face all morning. She is the first one to come, and the last to leave. Something just whispered to me one day that it's because this feels like home to her.

As representatives of Christ in our neighborhoods, we already need to be an open door for children to see Jesus in action. Sunday School gives children a sense of a wider community of like-minded individuals; an extended family.

Sunday School can't fix everything that is going wrong in a child's world, but we can be something wholesome, loving, consistent, accepting...well, we can be Jesus to a group of kids, once a week.


Are we thinking enough about the children who walk through our doors, or is it a sea of faces? The child who is continually disruptive; are we wondering what is going on in his head and heart? A home is a place where individuals matter. When one is hurting or wayward, the rest of the family gathers around to help that little lost or hurting one. Are we thinking enough about making children feel at "home"?

4. Sunday School is very relevant today because it is a place where we get to talk about what's important.

Parents and friends who bring children to Sunday School, and the children who come, all know why they are there. We need no disclaimers; we are there to talk about the most important thing we ever can: the redeeming Grace Gift of Jesus Christ; the unquenchable love of our God; the value He has placed on every head and the purpose He has for every life.

Setting aside a time for "Sunday School," resourcing it, supporting it is absolutely still important because it is a support platform for conversations that are already happening during the week. If a child has permission to come, we have permission to teach what is pure, right, lovely, truthful, and noble.


Time is of the essence! What are we teaching the children we have for one hour? Not everything needs to be taught; think about it. If you have 40 Sundays (that's not counting the summer), how many times will that child actually be at Sunday School? Of those times, what does he/she absolutely need to know? I know there is a whole Bible, but we can't possibly teach everything in it with 40 hours (in an ideal world) a year. So what is it? What do they need to carry with them into the next phase of their life?

Also, while pouring all our best ideas into our lessons, employing all sorts of great creativity, are we losing the actual lesson? Some curriculum being offered is confusing to me. Why are we reading that verse? What does that activity have to do with this? As adults, we may think thematically, but kids aren't always great with symbols. They need to be told and told again, clearly, memorably, the "thing" we believe they need to know.

5. Sunday school is relevant because it is an opportunity to shape the Church to come.

If we can help children understand that they are not takers but givers in God's plan; if we can plant seeds that they all have gifts that are meant to be used for a greater purpose; if we can show them that "yes, people will disappoint you sometimes, because we all sin. So be a forgiver, and keep your eyes on Jesus," then maybe they will grow into teens and adults who will be less about consuming and more about finding what they were meant to do on this planet, and doing it.


For children, learning to serve at an early age sets them up for a healthier mindset in the days to come. Children who think it is perfectly normal to give of their "time, treasure, and talents" grow up to be generous teenagers and more generous adults. Why aren't we placing more emphasis on this. When we have self-serving adults in our church, haven't we created them by putting a spoon to their mouth all along? Children have gifts also; are we tapping into those gifts or do children think they need to wait in order to use them?

I don't think enough attention has been given to this fifth point. Even in our leadership structures, we create schedules for volunteers to plug into and once those are full, it's a free ride for everyone else. The picture we paint is, "It has all been taken care of." We don't work hard enough to foster an environment of participation and responsibility. We quickly fill in holes when there are some, rather than letting the need become an opportunity.

There is a place for hiring staff to help equip volunteer leaders and cover areas that a volunteer, with limited hours to give, can cover. But when it appears that everything is just running smoothly, we again become a service package for people to purchase.

I believe Jesus calls us as adults to clear the way for children to have unhindered access to Him. I believe Sunday Schools still play an important role in this; but we, like the rest of the Church, must ask ourselves if we are actually on Mission, or not. We must make the effort to work "in team" and ask each other good questions about what we are doing week to week.

There may be things we need to stop doing. There may be things we need to start doing. We may be afraid of change; we may think we don't have the people to bring change; we may wonder if we have the gifts and the ability to do a good job of a good Sunday School program; and, given our budget, we may wonder what we can even pull off. If these are the things running through our minds, we are probably on the right track, because in the middle of those questions, that is where God seems to do His best work.

-- Teresa Klassen.

Teresa Klassen is a volunteer children's ministry leader working with a volunteer team in Kelowna, British Columbia. If you are looking for free Sunday school lessons and ideas free Sunday school lessons and ideas, please visit

  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • RSS


Post a Comment