Thoughts on “The Death of Sunday School”

“The Death of Sunday School” (PDF, source

This provocatively titled essay has been causing a buzz throughout the UU universe and was the topic of the meeting between Lauren and I and the Westwood professional staff. We have also discussed this with the Board and the RE Committee.

The key point in the author’s opinion is that the old ‘seen but not heard’ classroom format where children go to school while adults attend service no longer fits our culture… It is harder than ever to find parent volunteers willing to give up their Sunday experience. As well, children may learn UU values, but seldom experience or learn about church. We lose them at great rates as young adults.

In our discussions with the Westwood staff we developed an idea where we would keep the children through the majority of the service including the main program piece (sermon) and then go to shorter class sessions during the meditation, closing, announcements and coffee hour.
In recent years we have been doing more post service adult programming – Soup Sundays, Social Justice Q and A sessions with guest speakers, some adult programs Brian leads, congregational meetings (formal and informal)and so on. Typically we have offered childcare during those sessions, but in this new model, the children simply could be at class (with snacks and playtime too!)

We would like to try this during the month of November. We are already planning a four session adult program on “Living and Dying” following the service, so parents could choose coffee hour or attend the course while their children are in session. What would it look like?

Have the children in the service with their families for about 40 minutes including a story for all ages, the usual Sunday rituals and the sermon. We would have a table supervised by our RE staff. It would have art and sensory items to help children deal with boredom. Already the adult version of the table in front of the quiet room/nursery is getting regular use. These activities tables are a recognition that not all people listen or concentrate in the same way.

Following the sermon the children go off to then go off to class. Meanwhile the adults complete the service (meditation, closing, announcements) go into coffee hour. Some may attend the Living and Dying Program.

What do you think?