Every once in a while you just need to shake things up a bit. At our church, “every once in a while” means about twice a year. So, twice a year (for us it’s typically at the end of the first quarter and the end of the second quarter), we have what we call “Family Sunday School.” We like that name better than Biannual Intergenerational Sunday School Event.
Our Family Sunday School is a chance for everyone, from youngest to oldest, to learn about Jesus together, serve our neighbor, and get to know one another a little better. One of the reasons we call it Family Sunday School is to illustrate that we are all part of a church family, not just our immediate family.
Here is how we do our event, but you could rearrange or substitute your own ideas to make it fit your own setting and congregation.
We all meet in our school gym, where the adult class usually convenes. There’s plenty of space there for various-sized chairs and tables as well as plenty of room to move around.
We always start Sunday School with snack time. No matter what. Family Sunday School is no different, except that we try to step up our snack game just a little bit since we hope there will be more folks in attendance. As always, be careful about food allergies. We have a nut-free policy in our kitchen.
Fun Music Opening
Who doesn’t love fun Sunday School music? I’ll bet you still remember songs you learned in Sunday School back in the day. For Family Sunday School, I choose three of our favorite songs from the Engage CD. The songs from this CD are also in PowerPoint format so the adults that don’t know some of our favorites can follow along with the words on the PowerPoint slides. I try to choose the upbeat songs so people can tap their toes and move around a bit. Since CPH’s Sunday School quarterly music always includes some hymns, I usually choose one of the hymns so the grown-ups in the room have one song that they know pretty well too. Finally, I like to close the music portion with The Lord’s Prayer song on the Engage CD. It’s so pretty and everyone can sing it together. It seems like this is a good opportunity for the kids to show off what they know and for the adults to get a chance to sing along with the “kids” music. Usually, the grown-ups enjoy the music time more than the kids do.
You can do the music however you feel comfortable. If you have someone who can play the piano or guitar, do that! Do what works for you, but try to make it fun.
After we get done singing, our pastor leads the Bible lesson for the whole group. We usually use the first lesson for the new quarter, but you could also use a lesson that matches up with the Church Year readings. Pastor typically starts it out much like his children’s messages, with an object lesson or something he has the kids do to get up and move around to illustrate the story. Sometimes he even gets the adults up and moving around.
Another option is to use the Express CD skits to get everyone involved in telling the story. We also try to get people interacting with people of different ages. Toward the end, our pastor may throw in a few details or questions about the Bible narrative that interest the adults only. He might also add in some questions that adults and kids can talk about or work on together. This is not a sit and be quiet type of time. Some of that is fine, maybe five to eight minutes, but attention spans in this group might be short. This is purposely a different kind of learning activity.
Naturally, in this time format we don’t have time to go somewhere and do a service project, but we do have time to do a craft-type project that can benefit others. We often make Easter cards or Christmas cards to send to our congregation’s shut-ins, college students, and military members serving away from home. We provide either blank card stock and craft supplies to decorate the cards or Christmas cards with a blank inside area for kids and adults to copy Bible verses, draw pictures, or write a sentiment. We also have addresses printed and copied so that folks can address envelopes when their card is finished. This way, all that’s left is putting the stamp on. Again, we try to encourage kids to work together on these with adults who aren’t necessarily their parents. Or we have teens work with younger kids. Mix it up, get to know one another. Those who receive the cards will also benefit.
We’ve also made small posters with Bible verses on them using construction paper. Our pastor uses them when he makes shut-in or hospital calls. Once the posters are decorated, we laminate them (usually after Sunday School) so that they don’t fade or tear so easily in pastor’s car or in the hospital setting. The lamination really helps them hold up longer. Pastor tells us that people love getting these hand-decorated Bible verses to remind them how much Jesus loves them and that their church family is thinking of them.
You could also make Christmas ornaments or check out the Express Crafts CD for other ideas. We try not to get too complicated to reduce the stress involved in preparation, completion, and cleanup of the project.
While we have a certain amount of structure to our Family Sunday School to keep things running smoothly, it’s not meant to be a rigid or stressful experience. It’s meant to be a time that members of the Body of Christ learn about the Lord and share their faith together. It is also a week that the regular teachers can get a little respite from teaching and come join the fun with the other adults. Or maybe some of the parents who typically just drop off their kids and are uncomfortable coming to adult Bible study will come and join their kids in learning about the Bible. Later, they might feel more comfortable coming on a “regular” Sunday for adult Bible class.
We always have a great time doing Family Sunday School. I look around the room and see so many smiles. It’s not for every Sunday and would likely lose some of its appeal if we did it all the time, but once in a while, you need to shake things up a bit.