As I noted in Why do so many children leave church when they go to college?, critical thinking about faith seems to make a big difference in whether children stay in church. A big part of that is how Sunday School is done.*
I recommend that churches re-think how they do Sunday School, at least for high school kids. Consider these facts:
- In high school, kids who have taken math their entire lives still have a huge range of classes depending on aptitude and experience. It ranges from basic math to AP Calculus.
- In church high school classes, it is typically a one-size-fits-all approach, even lumping multiple grades together. Some kids have been well-educated theologically their entire lives and some are new to the faith.
So we have a huge range of high school classes for kids who have had life-long training, and a narrow range of spiritual classes for kids who have had a much wider range of training.
Keeping the kids together for many lessons and activities is fine, but it is inevitable that some kids will be bored by lowest-common denominator material (like mine were, which is why they joined another church) and some will find the material too difficult.
My youngest started attending an adult class at their new church with some of her friends. It was amazing. I’ve had the opportunity to visit myself and I love it. The teacher spent three years in 1 Peter, which at first glance sounds like a recipe for disaster. Yet the class grew and grew and attracted people who wanted meaty lessons because he was so thorough and meaningful. She would come home every week talking about the lesson. I’m grateful that she had the opportunity to join the class.
One of the reasons churches may lose post-high school kids is that there isn’t a stable place to study. They can’t go to the high school classes any longer, and the young adult / college classes are too transient to be meaningful.
So why can’t kids with an interest go to adult classes? Are there any Bible verses against parents learning with children? If we expect high school students to learn algebra, Shakespeare, biology, etc., why do we have to dumb down the Bible for them?
Note: I would make the distinction that we should have smaller age / experience appropriate groups (i.e., Mothers of Pre-Schoolers, accountability groups, etc.) where people can share and interact. In this post I am speaking of basic Bible studies.
* Reminder: Sunday School has a purpose, but parents still have the primary responsibility to teach their children. The problem is that most are biblically illiterate. They just take kids to church and hand the responsibility off to someone else. If they actually read the Bible they’d know they were shirking their responsibilities.
Ephesians 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
That’s my youngest daughter’s life verse, by the way, though she prefers the translation that says not to exasperate your children (she likes to tease me by saying, “You’re exasperating me!”). In case you think I’m kidding, this is a picture of her bedroom wall. I’m glad my kids both kept a keen sense of humor!