The Ideal Church Experience for My Child
Q: If you could create the ideal Sunday school or church experience for your child, what would it be like?
Susan Heim: When my two oldest sons, now in their twenties, were in middle school and high school, they had the ideal youth group experience. They had a leader who was committed to sharing the Word of God with the preteens and teens in his care, but in a way that built fun and camaraderie into the experience. In addition to their weekly gatherings at the church, the group went to baseball games, movies, theme parks, Christian concerts, and more. They raised money to send themselves on mission trips. My kids’ best friends were all in youth group, and I never worried about what they were up to when they were together. My youngest children— twin boys—will be entering middle school next year, and I am praying that we can find the same type of experience for them, one in which they will be excited to hear the Word of God while making good friends who share their same values and commitment to faith.
Chere Williams: Sunday school is such an integral part of our children’s spiritual foundation. An ideal Sunday school experience for my nine-year-old daughter resembles what she currently experiences at our church. I believe teaching our kids about God starts at home, but it needs to be reinforced throughout the week and luckily for my daughter this happens on both Wednesday and Sunday. Wednesday night she attends Bible study and on Sunday goes to Sunday school. There she is taught Bible verses, learns about
stories in the Bible and gets to fellowship with her peers in an environment that is safe, loving and encourages questions, even the hard ones. I think it is important that our children have mentors in church and are able to develop into mentors themselves. Not only adult mentors, but their older peers that can relate to some of the challenges and temptations that kids face at different ages. I also want Anya to learn how to be a mentor to others. For example, on Wednesdays she has had the opportunity to assist the teacher in the 2-3 year old class which has been not only a rewarding experience for her, but it is teaching her the importance of serving in the church.
Kona Brown: Firstly let me say that I feel blessed beyond measure that I do not need to create the ultimate Sunday school experience for my kids, and that their hearts and minds are being touched weekly by a group of precious volunteers who are more passionate and patient and creative than I could ever be. And I guess that is what the “ideal” church experience boils down to for me: Passion, patience and creativity. My boys are 6 and 8 and like most boys, they are active, sometimes attentive, sometimes distracted, always a hand full. But regardless of the curriculum, regardless of whether there even is one, to me the experience is ideal if they are being shepherded by people with a passion for seeing the Gospel sown into tender young hearts, people who are not in it for short term glory but who are patient enough to journey with my kids on Sundays, and people who can hit the creative mark in terms of engaging my kids at an experiential and interactive level that leaves them remembering, questioning and thirsty for more of the wonders in God’s word.
Relationships: It’s super important to me that my children know the people who are teaching them on Sunday mornings. It’s powerful to have other men and women integrated into the life of a child—these adults don’t just teach them for one or two hours on a Sunday morning, but these are men and women who show up around their dinner table or in their yard to play a family game of flag football.
Developmentally-appropriate experience: I want the Sunday church experience to be a really fun time of learning about the Bible with other kids their age in ways that make sense to them. I want my kids to LOVE gathering with the church, and I want it to be nurturing to their soul.
Community-based: Ideally the church building would be in our neighborhood, and the other kids in my children’s classes would be kids they go to school with. I would love for my kids’ spiritual formation to be so integrated that “church” isn’t something totally removed from their everyday life.
Julie Kieras: As a Sunday School teacher myself, I am always struggling to fit in everything we want to do into the time allotted. For me, the ideal Sunday School for my preschooler would be about an hour (but ideally 90 minutes!), and would include a mix of hands-on activities (searching for items in a sensory bin, molding with play dough, etc), music time (perhaps with some movement to get the wiggles out, and a Bible story). Where I’d love to improve Sunday School hour is having the Bible story taught either through visuals like puppets, or role-play with the kids involved. I think any time you can get the children involved in helping tell the story, it will be more memorable for them. Another option for low-cost storytelling is having paper characters on sticks that children can hold up while the story is told.
A final element of my ideal Sunday School would be encouraging the children in some form of outreach— whether that’s giving to missionaries, collecting items for shelters, or drawing cards to send to sick friends and church members. I’d also like to encourage parents to get their kids out to Sunday School regularly—the other children look forward to worshipping with their friends, and often a longer story is told over a series of weeks, so skipping weeks takes away from the continuity of the story and experience for kids. It’s also a huge encouragement to the teachers who prepare lessons to see their little students coming week after week!
Jill Williams: My husband and I have a thirteen year old son, an eleven year old son and a seven year old daughter. I’ve been corrected from, and continue to be corrected in, my visually appealing, personal preference measurements of church. I’ve come to experience that church can look very different for my kids than I expected. So, my creating the ideal church experience for our children begins with what I ultimately hope for them, rather than what I may specifically hope from my church. I hope for my children that they know God, not just about Him or how to behave. I hope for my children that they love God, not just their church or pastor or the way we “do church”. I hope for my children that they learn to love and serve others, not just themselves and their own comforts.
Finally, I hope for my children that in all of this knowing, loving and serving, they embrace relationship, all of its highs and lows and inefficiencies, even when it’s uncomfortable and requires some courage. My ideal church experience for my children, then, is not really too remarkable. It is one that would lead my kids to know God, love God, and love others all in the context of encouraging, real, imperfect relationship. Relationship founded in the truth of Jesus’s love for us. My kids would see people modeling the freedom of life in Christ through intentional investment in their lives leading them to also long to live in that freedom and to be that same encouraging, relational investment for others. So, ultimately, they may live a life that perseveres in proclaiming and relying upon God, because they know Him, love Him and serve others in His name. (Hebrews 10:19-25)
Thank you, Mom Mentors! Learn more about them here and connect with their blogs. We would love to hear about your experiences, too! Do you have a question for them? Please post it below. And share your answer with us. See children’s books for growing up in God at grahamblanchard.com.