Is Sunday School Boring? Change the Environment

This is the quote I saw today,

“When a flower doesn’t bloom you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.” Alexander D. Meijer

Many times as ministry women and families we can easily pinpoint problems or “sins” within the lives of other people. Discernment and experience allow us to figure out why they aren’t growing spiritually — we can see maybe that it’s their home life, or it is that they are not dedicated enough to the things of God, etc. But I will propose today that maybe it is not always the plant…

I want to highlight a specific part of ministry, one where you might have a larger influence, the Sunday School class. Not all women will have that influence because I know you serve where you’re needed or where you’re gifted, maybe you’re not a Sunday School teacher. I think that the idea and many of the basic principles can apply with this theme. Apply to any situation where you’re the teacher. If your church has grown stale and the people and flowers are not blooming it can be the environment of the church as much as it could be the environment they are cultivating in their own lives.

Boring Sunday School classes create bored students. If things are not going well in your class, it may not always be the students, it may be the environment.

Minutes before I saw the quote about flowers, as I was scrolling through Facebook, an advertisement asking parents and adults “Why do 75% of children quit going to church by the age of 18?” The premise of the advertisement said that the reason was because children learn the same Sunday School lessons year after year even into junior high and high school. Their curriculum was a topical lesson series that was meant to answer common questions children have about God and spiritual matters.

The advertisement almost made me laugh because our children actually have had this happen between 3 churches we have attended in the past 3.5 years. When we were serving in ministry on staff they learned about Samuel and went through the book of Judges. When we joined the church plant the teacher curriculum was also in the book of Judges. Then, this year when we followed our pastor to a new church (it’s a special story I hope to tell down the road) guess where the Sunday School teachers were in their curriculum series!? You guessed it! Judges. And we’re talking about three different curriculums, classes, and teachers.

Our kids had mentioned they were bored and I explained there must be some important lessons for their life right in that part of the Bible. Can you see how church could have been really boring if they were not engaged in their classes with good teachers giving different life applications over the past 3.5 years? Or they only went to church on Sundays? Or what if we did not talk about spiritual things at home? You can see how that there might be a possibility of becoming bored with church if this was the case.

Changing the Environment

While I realize it’s not our jobs to “entertain” per se’ in the church, but we should be making our ministry work appropriately engaging. Sunday School is no exception, it is a significant opportunity for children to hear Bible teaching on their own age level.

Classroom Environment

  • Cleanliness of the room should be maintained.
  • Seats that allow the child to sit with their feet close to the floor. Tables that allow them to comfortably do their work or play.
  • The walls should have neat decorations that are not a distraction. Decorations should change too and compliment the purpose of your lessons and class or at the very least, the seasons.
  • You also want to have a window or the door to public walkways to allow accountability and prevent accusation, especially if you do not have a classroom helper.
  • Do the best with what you have — maybe you’re using one-size metal chairs and they’re you’re desks for filling out Sunday School papers too, or you’re in a classroom that was not really designed to be a class, then you can only fix and work with what you have.

Sunday School Teacher Environment

The receptiveness of the spiritual message of the lesson is dependent upon the teacher’s effectiveness to communicate God’s intended purpose for the lesson. The heart of the teacher is the key to competent teaching. The character of your actions before and during class also will dictate “success” in teaching.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Are you preparing enough in advance to study the lesson and allow God to work in your heart?
  • Have you prayed for the Sunday lesson time and the children of your class?
  • Do you have flexibility when things do not go as planned, to be able to come up with new ideas that will create interest or deal with problems?
  • What is your personality in the classroom? How do your students perceive you? Which fruits of the Spirit are you exhibiting or should you incorporate?
  • Are you engaging the children through eye contact and appreciation of their responses?
  • Do you have sins exhibited in the classroom? For example, do they see impatience or anger when you deal with difficult people and situations?

Lesson Environment

Through time often as teachers we can begin to rely on specific methods that we are familiar with and get into a routine of using the same types of methods of teaching. I’m going to encourage you to spice it up and try something new.

  • Preparation of materials and supplies should be done ahead of class time.
  • Utilize visual aids – Eyes and brains are connected, if you’re engaging their eyes they will more than likely be listening. A friend suggested engaging children by using the five senses, use a number of visual aids that will help them see AND experience the lesson.
  • Use your voice – No monotone! Whisper, speak with excitement, use voices to portray characters. Read the Bible in an interesting way.
  • Plan more activities than you will think you need. Always have time fillers whether they are little simple games, conversation starters, or simple coloring sheets, etc.
  • Rotating through lessons systematically by grade levels (each age level is doing something different). Joyful Life’s curriculum has a great way of rotating the age groups through different parts of the Bible and not repeating year-to-year.

When I was teaching regularly I would write out a classroom schedule including the songs we would sing, rules and expectations I had for the students, the lesson, review games, any other activities if we ended up going through the lesson faster than expected. Preparation and planning both the inside of you and the working parts of the classroom time can be a make-or-break element to a good learning environment.

 

 

While in no way are any of these lists exhaustive, we are always in a need to liven up our skills and sharpen ourselves to effectively educate the younger generation about the truths of the Bible.  I pray and hope that there will be an idea that you can use to be able to bring life to the environment of your Sunday School class.

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12 Things Church Visitors Wish You Knew

First-time church visitors have feelings about their visit to your church – here are twelve things that they wish you knew! Check and see as you read through the list if there are things that you or your church could work on to help guests to feel more welcome in your church services.

12 Things Church Visitors Wish You Knew

1. “We’ve already checked you out on your church website.” Your church website says a lot about your church and can also help visitors find vital information about how to get to your location, the service times, etc. If your church has sermons online people will use them as a way to decide whether they would like to visit your church. If you need help building your website or updating it, invest some time and money into making it a great tool for helping guests feel welcome before they arrive.

2. “Introduce yourself with your name, not just a handshake.” Tell someone your name, don’t just ask for theirs. This makes them feel like they are connecting. Make it a point to remember their name, write it down if you have to and keep it on a piece of paper in your Bible so that when they return you can recall their name and make them feel welcome again.

3. “We have no idea where we’re going, we need someone friendly to show us around.” Greeting people in your church (whether this is your “official” ministry in your church or not) and showing them the ropes gives them a sense of direction and safety. Wandering hallways and feeling lost is a difficult way to begin a visit to a church, so have people there with a smiling face to show people around.

4. “Don’t just get to know me and my wife, be interested in our children and their needs.”  Learn the names of the children and help them go to classes for their age or introduce them to a child/teen in their age group. Show the mother the nursery and/or cry room if she has a baby, etc. Sometimes the choice of whether a family chooses to visit a church again rests on whether the children felt welcome.

5. “We’re looking at the relationships and interactions among other church members with each other.” Guests expect that you will be friendly to them but they are also looking for the positive and negative interactions between church members. Keep those relationships right between you and others! It is a genuine sign of love to see church members be a blessing to each other and could be the draw that has guests keep coming back!

6. “We want people to be interested in our life by asking us questions, but we don’t want to be interrogated.” 20 questions is a fun game to play… just not with guests. You never know the story or background behind why a new family is coming to your church. Each guest has a different reason for attending (reasons can be good or bad).  Be friendly and interested without delving into the deep questions of life on their first Sunday(s) to your church.

7. “Include us! We don’t like to feel isolated by not knowing what’s going on, we want to begin to have a feeling of connection.” Explain the “inside information” that your church is talking about from announcements, prayer requests, etc. so that your guests feel included. Your inclusion can make all the difference.

8. “We’re watching for professionalism from the platform without an obvious attempt at showmanship.” Both pride and unprofessionalism are a turn-off to people who are looking for quality in the church worship service. People know the difference between genuine servants of God and phoneys. Be real. Be professional even if it takes practice beforehand. Be humble. This should be for everyone that approaches or steps onto the platform – staff, singers, and the pastor, etc.

9. “We want to leave the worship service feeling like we were a participator, not just a spectator.” Three things can help you in this area: First, Sunday morning songs and hymns should be familiar because this is when most guests will attend your services. Second, give background information in the sermon if you are in a series so they can be up to speed on where you have been and where you are going. Finally, direct people to what you want them to do at the end of the service, if it’s an invitation tell them how to do it. If it’s a quick dismissal, make them aware so they are taken by surprise by an abrupt change. People are more inclined to take part if there is good communication explaining how to participate.

10. “Make accommodations not to single us out in an awkward way in the service.” If at all possible have specified seating for church guests at the back of your auditorium. Wandering church guests who try to find places to sit filled with Bibles and purses will not feel welcome. Consider having a personal worker approach them with a guest information card personally and not having them raise their hand or stand in front of everyone in the middle of the church service. Embarrassment is an unwelcome feeling.

11. “Invite me back to another church service. Don’t make me commit to coming back again.” Invite guests back by saying something like, “We’re so glad you came today, we want to invite you back to our services tonight,” or “We would love for you to join us again next Sunday.” Let the visitors tell you if they are coming back, because some people may not have enjoyed the services. They do not want to be compelled to lie and tell you they are coming back when they really will not. Invitations will leave the door open for them to return if they would like.

12. “We don’t mind a follow-up visit or call but we don’t want to be overloaded with being contacted after visiting your church.”  Visitors like to be recognized for their visit to your church, it lets them know their presence was acknowledged and you care about them. Just don’t overload them with follow-up calls, visits, letters, or mail-outs. (Hint: It can make you seem too desperate to gain church members which can be a turn-off.) Keep it limited to two contacts at the most in a week following a first-time or subsequent visit.

Did you notice anything in this list that you need to work on? Could you train people in your church to do some of the things that would make a visitor welcome in your church? Take an active approach in making your church more friendly to those first-time guests. You never know if their life might be changed by Christ by implementing a few new ideas into your welcome!