Talk to the teens in your church who are possible candidates for Sunday school classes. Ask those who attend regularly why they do so. Some likely go because their parents make them, but for those who are there voluntarily, ask them what about the class appeals to them. Find out from those who don't attend, why they don't -- and what might make Sunday school more attractive to them.
Make the message relevant. Teenagers often dismiss the Bible and its teachings as outdated and not relevant to their lives today. Whether you use a prepared curriculum or develop your own Sunday school lessons, present the message in a way to which teens can relate. This doesn't mean just using modern language, or diluting the message. Rather, this involves connecting the choices and challenges teens face today with those faced by familiar Bible characters. For example, Ask the teens if they ever feel peer pressure and discuss what that's like. Then relate a Bible story to the discussion such as how Daniel and his friends showed amazing courage by standing up to King Nebuchadnezzar.
Change it up. Even for the kids who choose to come to Sunday school, a straight hour of lecturing isn't very appealing, so it's likely a real turn-off that for the ones who don't want to be there. Intersperse your teaching with occasional videos, humorous anecdotes, music or other means of conveying the message beyond lectures. Involve the kids in the class by having them develop or act out modern versions of Bible stories or role-play situations. Follow up a series of lessons with a game show-style, friendly competition to test the kids' knowledge of what they learned.
Vary the location. Kids sit in classrooms in hard chairs at metal desks or wooden tables all week long. Sunday school won't appeal to most teens if it's viewed as just one more uncomfortable, boring class. Set up the Sunday school room with some pillows or comfy couches and chairs. In good weather, go out to a nearby park and have your class in the grass under a shade tree. Consider meeting in a cozy coffee house or in someone's home for variety. Such locations might help put teens more at ease and are often less off-putting than a standard classroom setting.
When a new child joins a Sunday school class, the teacher might send home information about the class rules, such as items the child should not bring to Sunday school, as well as how the teacher deals with student behavior issues. She might also send home her contact information if the parents need to contact her. This can help the parents learn more about the teacher and what she expects of the child. The teacher could also ask what allergies or food sensitivity issues a child has for occasions when the class shares a snack.
Some Sunday school teachers provide an information sheet each week that details the lesson she presented, questions you can ask on the way home to see how much your child absorbed, as well as ideas you can use to follow up during the week. For example, if the lesson was on the Lord’s Prayer, the teacher might suggest that you pray it with your child each evening and talk more about its meaning to you. She might also provide craft ideas, activities and additional Bible verses for a deeper study of the lesson, or suggest books that you can check out from the church or public library.
Some churches offer social events and activities for parents and kids. Teachers might pass out a monthly newsletter that includes a calendar of events to you when you pick up your child. Or, the teacher might ask for an email address and send the newsletter to you via email. Special projects for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and other special days sometimes need special supplies such as a picture of your child, plastic containers or egg crates. A teacher might send a note by email or with your child requesting these supplies, which defray the cost of the Sunday school activities.
Communication No One Likes
Sometimes kids misbehave in Sunday school and teachers must ask a parent to address the issue at home. The teacher could do this face-to-face on a Sunday morning before or after class, by letter or email. She might also call you sometime during the week to discuss the issue. No teacher likes to deal with this type of communication, but catching it early and nipping it in the bud can prevent a situation whereby you have to come to the class on a Sunday morning to deal with your child who is acting inappropriately. You can also address the teacher if your child has a concern such as a problem with another child in the class or is in disagreement with the teacher. Effective communication allows all parties to find a way to resolve any problem so everyone enjoys the Sunday school class.
After you explain that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey to fulfill prophecy from Zechariah 9:9, you can play a Palm Sunday version of Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Mount a picture of a donkey on the wall with picture tack and add a blob of picture tack on the back of a picture of Jesus so the kids can mount Jesus on the donkey. When a blindfolded child successfully puts Jesus on the donkey, the rest of the kids can jump up and wave their paper palm branches as they shout “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
When was on the road to Jerusalem riding a donkey on Palm Sunday, the crowd tossed clothing and palms on the ground at Jesus’ feet. Paint a paper box to look like a road and have a supply of beanbags decorated with palm branches or clothing. Allow the kids to toss the beanbags into the box. Alternatively, play a Palm Sunday version of follow the leader where the crowd follows Jesus’ disciples on the road, shouting and singing to welcome Jesus on his way to Jerusalem.
When the Pharisees heard the people praising Jesus, they told him to tell the people to be quiet. Jesus told them that if the people were quiet, the rocks would cry out. Give several children rocks painted with a palm branch. Have the kids with rocks skip around the room singing “Hosanna” and praising God. When a child stops praising God, he can pass his rock to another child. Alternatively, play music while the rock kids sing their praises. When the song stops, have the other children in the class pretend to be the rocks, standing up and praising God.
You can create paper games and puzzles to keep the noise and activity level down while teaching the kids on Palm Sunday. Give young kids colorful puzzles to assemble, created from Palm Sunday pictures glued on cardboard backing and cut into pieces. You can also pass out crossword puzzles and word searches for kids to complete. Alternatively, compile a list of words used in the Palm Sunday story, such as donkey, palm, clothes, road, shouting, singing and rocks for use in a Bible charades game.
The little red wagon of old might now look sleek and snazzy, but it still serves the same purpose of simple neighborhood fun for toddlers as it always has. It provides room to stretch and roam, unlike a confining stroller, and gives your toddler a full 360-degree view of the world around him. Give him the opportunity to pull the wagon for a bit, too. Pack up your wagon with snacks, a stuffed animal and a bucket for collections you might find as you take your tyke on a version of the old fashioned Sunday drive.
Grab some old sheets, line up the dining room chairs and take off the couch cushions to create a one-of-a-kind indoor fort. Building and playing in forts are an inexpensive way to spend a Sunday afternoon with your toddler. Create your own variation based on your furniture. It can be as easy as draping sheets over a dining table or along the sides of a bunk bed or as elaborate as a tunnel entrance with separate rooms made out of blankets and sheets filled with piled up pillows. Whatever the caliber of your fort, toddlers love the make-believe aspect of this indoor hideaway that childhood memories are made of.
Feed the Birds
Take bread to a park, lake or nature preserve. Let your toddler throw the crumbs on the grass or in the water and watch the birds or duck come. Toddlers get a special thrill knowing that they are the ones feeding the birds. To enjoy birds at home, buy wild birdseed and a bird feeder at a pet store with your child and set up a feeding area in your yard or outside a window. Set aside Sunday afternoons to refill the feeder with your toddler. It is a simple task that can cultivate a lifetime love for your budding birdwatcher.
Allow your toddler to partake in the simple spring and summer thrill of running through the sprinklers. With bath time looming, Sunday afternoon is the perfect time to let your little one get downright soaked until he's had his fill. Parents can don their swimsuits and take part in the fun, too. Remember to have towels -- and a camera -- handy.
According to a 2013 article in "Boston" magazine, the percentage of people who consider themselves nonreligious has been increasing rapidly since the 1990s. Twenty percent of all adults in the United States now list themselves as having no affiliation with any specific religion. However, many of those people still consider themselves to be deeply spiritual. As this trend continues, more resources should become available to parents who want to share spirituality with their kids without belonging to a religion.
Sharing Your Spirituality
If you consider yourself to be spiritual but not religious, you might wonder how to share your sense of spirituality with your children without forcing any beliefs on them. According to professor Lisa Miller of Columbia University, kids with a spiritual outlook on life are more likely to avoid drugs and alcohol and are better able to deal with personal problems. You can share your spiritual outlook with your kids without telling them what to believe. The first step is to simply answer their questions on the topic. Tell them what you believe in and then encourage them to explore what they believe in for themselves.
According to sociologist Christine Carter of the Greater Good Science Center, spirituality includes several aspects, including a sense of personal connection to something larger than the self, a sense that life has meaning and importance, and a feeling of awe. You can give your kids the chance to experience all these things without necessarily going to church. Take your kids for nature walks and share your awe for the beauty of the natural world. Volunteer for a charity with your kids so they learn to value the experience of helping other people. Share the spiritual activities you enjoy, such as yoga or meditation. Encourage them to pick their own spiritual activities to explore so they can begin to develop a personal connection with spirituality.
Many people who are spiritual but not religious attend services at churches with open and inclusive approaches to spiritual belief. The congregation at this type of church can include people who identify with traditional religions such as Christianity, but can also include people who consider themselves secular, neopagan, atheist or open to all belief systems. This type of church can provide an opportunity to participate in many different family activities and share beliefs and experiences with people of different viewpoints.