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Jan 7, 2010

Children, Religion and Sunday School

Hi All,

Today I would like to post about church: or to be more clear, Sunday School.

Growing up, for most of my childhood I did not attend Sunday School/Youth Group etc. My parents came from the line of thought that Sunday School was not applicable: that instead children should attend church with the adults. Why this was so, I am not sure. But regardless, we usually did not attend.

As a side note, when I was googling to try and jog my memory (as to why we did not go) I came across this blog by Ken Ham (that wonderful fount of mis-knowledge): Already Gone. Seems like the conservatives are getting all concerned as to why young people (aka my generation) are leaving the church. Hmmm! I wonder why!

Miss D is very interested in religion, thanks in no small part to the RE at her school. One day she came across some of my old books from when I was a Christianite, and got very excited. I talked to her about it for a while, and then mentioned Sunday School. Her eyes just lit up and so, I cracked and asked her if she would like to go to a few! Of course, she said yes, and I said crap (not literally, in my head: lol). After discussing it with her mother and Justin, we have come to the conclusion that, yes, we will be taking her.

I started off with a rapid fire email to a number of churches in the area. I said,

A child I care for is interested in attending a Sunday School here in R, and in the interests of her parents and I making a sound, safe and forward thinking decision as to which church/group is best suited for her I would really appreciate the following information. 
I am just wondering what is the deal with your Sunday School: hours, curriculum, activities etc. The child in question is 6, if that is of any help. Do the children attend any part of the adult service? If so which part and for how long? As a matter of course, I (and my husband) will be attending the adult service, so information on that would be helpful as well. I have attended church for many years, so only the basics (who, what, when, where) is really required. 
And with regards to the leaders of the children's program, do they have blue cards? How many adults/leaders would be present? 
Do you promote female equality and empowerment? Are there powerful female leaders/role models/pastors present in your church? Are hobbies/work for women outside the realm of home and children supported? 
I am aware these are a lot of questions :-). I know I sound like I am interrogating you, but I would prefer to have this information and make an informed decision. 

At this stage I only received one reply from the Baptist Tabernacle. So props to them for the quick response, in relation to your peers. They said:

Hi Jo

Your email to the Baptist Tabernacle was passed on to us to respond.  D & J  (us) head up Kids 4 Christ and have been doing so for 16 years here at the Tabernacle and before that at our church in Gladstone.  We have been involved with Scripture Union Queensland facilitating primary school camps and beach missions.
Sunday morning service at the R Baptist Tabernacle commence at 9am and are usually finished by 10.45am. The  Young Disciple Squad stay in the service for approximately the first 30 minutes (sometimes a bit longer; sometimes a bit less) and then go out to age appropriate activities.  We have SONSHINE KIDS (Ages 3 years old to Grade 1);KIDS 4 CHRIST (Grade 2 to Grade 6) and TIME OUT FOR TEENS (Grade 7 to Grade 9).
Anyone who works with children (except helpers under 18 years of age) MUST have a blue card. Parents or carers are able to stay with their child at any time if they wish to do so.
Our congregation consists of  a variety of ages, families and singles.  Apart from our Sunday Services there are a number of Growth Groups that meet through the week and also Girls’ Brigade on a Tuesday evening (6pm to 8pm) a craft group meets on Thursday morning etc.
There are a number of wonderful role models both male and female.  Both sexes are represented in our leadership teams.  As for working outside the home we have some who do and some who don’t.  That is a decision for the individual.  As with a lot of things what works for one does not work for another.
Why not come along and meet some of the people.  Our childrens’ programmes commence again on Sunday 7th February.
Also we have a Childrens’ Holiday Club during the week of 11th January 9.30 to 12.30.
Please just let us know if you have any other questions or if we haven’t answered all your queries.

D & J 

This is heavily ironic because, well, my family has had a lot to do with this particular church, and I know for a fact it isn't really one I would like to attend, due to it's biases etc. I will happily take her there once so she can experience it, but I wouldn't do it more than that!

Our plan is at this stage, to go to each one until we find a comfortable fit for her. We are planning on attending  along with her to ensure that she has a balanced experience in each one etc. We want to give her a wide experience so we will be attending everything from Catholicism (her actual religion) to the local Salvation Army Church (and maybe at some stage, if I can organise it, Buddhism) . It will be good for Justin as well because he didn't have much of an opportunity growing up to attend many churches of different faiths.

But why am I going? My blog, after all makes it very clear that I personally don't think very highly of organised religion, particularly Christianity. Well, as I wrote to D & J:

For us personally, it is really about what makes the child happy, and what we think will suit her (and our) personality and encourage her to grow and fulfill her best potential. We (and her parents: we are not her parents, instead we are family friends) believe as part of that that it is essential that she experience the religious side of life from many different perspectives so that she is best equipped to chose the one she thinks is best when she is ready and of an age to fully comprehend the decision (which may be many years down the track). For my husband and I (whom will be attending as well) it is more of a matter of supporting her in these varying experiences regardless of our personal beliefs.

I think that pretty much sums it up. I believe it is more important for her to be able to have experienced the full litany of choices so that she has the full set of knowledge to be able to choose, and choose well for herself. I will probably do the exact same thing for my children, or, at least I would like to hope that I will.



shadowspring said...

Those sound like wonderful and supportive parents! That is one very blessed little girl.

I always loved Sunday school as a child and I love teaching Sunday school, but some of the curriculum out there is pretty lame.

Not that my opinion matters to anyone but me :) but I love classes for young children that have crafts, hands on activities, and, no matter what Bible story or verse is in that week's lesson, it should always be redirected to the great love God has for all people.

My guess is that your parents personal experience and the bias of the adult church differs from what you are hearing from the Sunday School leader because the SS teacher is writing from her own heart.

Sunday School is one of the few places in traditional churches that women are actually allowed to use their talents and ambitions. Women are allowed to teach children and in some more forward thinking traditional churches, even carry the title Sunday School Pastor or Children's Church Director or some such.

Anyway, that's my experience. I hope your young person has a great experience every place she visits.

Marylynne said...

On my journey from avid Catholicism to atheist, I spent some time at Unity and Unitarian churches - both perfect at the time for me (I went through churches with less and less God, trying to find a fit, until he poofed away).

Anyway, they both are open, inclusive belief systems with little dogma. Unitarian had a lot of agnostics and atheists who felt very comfortable. They both had really great children's programs that were more about critical thinking and creativity than dogma. They might be worth looking into to round out your experiences.


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