More Than One Hour On Sunday
We have stated that some persons feel that it is a waste to build a room that will only be used for one hour a week. Our reply is: That hour is the most important hour of the week. Having said that, we come to the question of using that room or that building for extending that Sunday school beyond just that one hour. There are 168 hours in a week, and one hour per week is not adequate for the religious training of Christians, whether they be children, youth, or adults. Honest efforts must be made to increase the program of a church, if it is to accomplish its highest purposes.
A successful Sunday ministry for young children is the use of a two-hour expanded session. This means that for two whole hours nursery, kindergarten, and even first and second graders have the benefit of a learning, nurturing experience, under the leadership of trained teachers and workers. The children are relaxed, enjoy the participation, and eagerly look forward to it each Sunday. Parents or responsible persons who bring the child are free to attend an hour of worship and an hour of Sunday school. In the church where we work, this program has been used successfully for many years. It did away with the need for child care during worship service and greatly enhanced the teaching ministry for children.
Expand Beyond Sunday
One of the most fruitful activities of a church is the Vacation Church School or Vacation Bible School. In this experience of one, two, or three weeks, children and youth can be given concentrated instruction which it is not possible to provide on Sundays. Every denomination has careful and detailed plans for such a school. The very best leaders should be enlisted. They should be trained. The literature the denomination provides should be used to its fullest potential. Most important, every child and youth should be enrolled.
In a well-planned Vacation School, as much instruction can be given in this short time as can be given the remainder of the year in the Sunday sessions. It does not establish the weekly pattern of being present, but it is through this Vacation School that many new persons may be attracted to the total program.
There are other opportunities for children and youth ministry at the church house in weekday instructions. In many communities the Sunday school can work with the public school, providing instruction in the early morning before classes begin or in the afternoon after the public school has dismissed. This is easier to do in a small town than in a large city, but in many instances it has been done most successfully.
Day nurseries and day kindergartens are parts of the ministry of many churches. Christian teachers, usually extremely well trained and equipped to understand the children, study the faith and how it may be shared with young children through play experiences, storytelling, reading, and real-life experiences from day to day. Leaders and teachers in these schools do a great deal to give youngsters a good feeling about themselves, to free them to be creative, as God intended, and to be receptive for His seeking love.
Working mothers or fathers find day care in a Christian environment to be a precious help. A Mother’s Day Out Program, where the mother may leave her child or children for a few hours, helps the child to be more independent and gives the mother some free time for herself. A church can easily provide this at low cost or provide the facilities and allow mothers to form a co-op. Care should be taken that nurturing procedure is used anytime the child is in the church building. To the child, church is church. Either love for it, or dislike for it can develop on Tuesday or Thursday and aid or destroy Sunday. This goes for all mid-week child care as well.
Throughout the year, special teaching situations can be developed, embracing various age groups, and at times all age groups. We think of such things as music-appreciation week, special weeknight study groups, religious-art studies, special dramas and pageants, Bible-study seminars, personal-growth seminars, marriage-enrichment groups.
We have alluded to special groups within the church community. Their number is almost unlimited. Many churches have art classes, sewing classes, book reviews, senior-citizen days, single-young-adult nights, and so on. Imagination and leadership can make a church both a seven-day church and a seven-night church.
First Things First
Never lose sight of what is important. Two illustrations come to mind:
A circus consists of the main tent and various sideshows. It is a tragedy for one to go to the circus and spend all the time in the sideshows and miss the main tent. Never forget that the main tent of the church is what happens on Sunday. All of the other activities are secondary. However, the weekday activities can be very supportive in gaining interest of other persons and maintaining interest of ones within the church.
In a very populous, affluent area, a beautiful shopping center was built. However, it later went bankrupt. Someone who knew the facts explained that the shopping center was built completely of “cluster” stores. There was no main store in the shopping center. This person went on to explain that a successful shopping center must have a main store. Then the cluster stores can be built around it. So it is with the church. Sunday is the main store. The activities of the week are the cluster stores. Let us never forget that when the main store closes, pretty soon the cluster stores will be gone, too.
For You to Do
A very fruitful activity in any Sunday school would be to pass out slips of paper asking persons of all ages to write their own particular interests and some activities in which they would enjoy participating. It might be very surprising how you would immediately have groups that fit into the same activities, and these could be started with most fruitful results.