Multi-Generational Sunday School: Webinar Recap

Multi-Generational Sunday School: Webinar Recap


Serving in Children’s Ministry means we are constantly learning, we are learning from our kids, from our volunteers and staff members, as well as from the parents in our community. We’re learning about new theories, new ways of sharing the good news with our kids and even different strategies for engaging them in a new and ever changing generation. One of the most important things we must do as Children’s Ministers and Volunteers is to constantly be aware of the areas we are lacking or the areas in our ministry that are good but could be great. I’m dedicated to a constant pursuit of learning and growing and gaining a deeper understanding of how I can help children come to know God’s heart for them. I’m also committed to providing opportunities for you as well. I want to be able to resource you well, whether you’re on staff at a church, volunteer in the nursery or are a parent who desires to know more – I want to provide you with resources that will help as you journey with the children in your life. It’s because of this desire that last Thursday I registered for a 45min Webinar hosted by Sparkhouse which focused on Multi-Generational Sunday School. The Webinar hosts (Bryan Bliss and Erik Ullestad), covered a wide variety of content and answered many of the participant’s questions as well as posing questions and allowing participants to engage in conversation with one another. I spent the full 45min listening attentively, typing notes frantically and scrolling quickly through the participant chat. What I would love to be able to do is recap for you the webinar I participated in – I’d love for you to scroll through the notes below and perhaps there are one or two ideas that can be implemented to practically serve your church!

A Case For “Why?”

  • Majority of churches tend to group their children on a Sunday morning based on interest, age, and situation in life
    • For example: many churches may have one grade per room or perhaps several grades in a given room but will commonly group together children who are in similar life stages i.e. all the infants together, all the walkers together and all the children who can crawl together)
  • The reality though is that grouping our children this way can actually have a negative impact on the group and on the congregation as a whole
  • Moving towards a multi-generational model allows church communities to eliminate the segregation and grouping and allows for a more holistic approach to the morning
  • In a previous time or era there was an understanding that those two to three hours on a Sunday morning were dedicated to church – but we live in a different day and age and the church needs to understand the change as well as be willing to adapt to it
  • As leaders or volunteers in a church (or even parents in the church community who attend regularly) we believe that if families value church they will be there on a Sunday morning but we also don’t want to ask our kids not to participate in sports or extra curricula’s (especially considering it is on these teams and at these events that they will be able to interact with parents and kids who may not follow Jesus. It’s here that they will have the opportunity to share more about their faith in a natural and comfortable environment.)
  • As a church our question then becomes “How do we minister to the whole family without asking them to give up other things they love?” and “How do we minster to these kids now?”
  • Due to this change in attendance it can mean that church communities are only having a handful of children attend the Sunday morning Children’s Program – when only a handful are in attendance it may mean that the volunteers leading that morning must resort to altering or modifying their lesson plans in order to accommodate the small group.
  • In a traditional model like this when teachers lead from the front and children listen and respond the morning can go a variety of ways when attendance is sparse or changes on a week to week basis
  • What we want to lean towards or at least be open to trying is seeing Sunday morning as an opportunity for new discovery, to have it be transformational as well as collaborative
  • Perhaps by taking down the age barriers and by minimalizing our need for age segregation we can allow for transformation and growth in not only the lives of our kids but our community as a whole because growth happens when the whole family is involved in faith formation

 

Suggestions for “How?”

Having the Conversation:

  • You have to first ask yourself, “Are you ready to make the change to Multi-Generational Sunday School?”
  • There are many benefits to this option but it needs to make sense in your context
  • So how do you get started if you currently exist in a church community that has assumed an all-ages model to ministry or has grouped a few grades or ages together?
    • 1. Build a team – These may be the current leaders who are serving or leaders you bring on board who catch the vision for what you are trying to do. Some may stand in the way of you creating and allowing for change but it is important that you communicate effectively why it’s worth trying and moving towards (again – if your context allows for it to work well)
    • 2. Involve Your Pastor – a significant part of their call as a pastor is to pay attention to all the ages in the congregation. They will offer you a broader perspective on your church community and will also be able to have good and healthy conversations with members of the church who may push back on what you are trying to do.
    • 3. Congregational Forums – these will allow for community members to hear what your plans and goals are as well as provide them with an opportunity to inquire and ask questions or voice their concerns. It will also allow you to be clear in communicating your vision behind your transition and to create excitement and anticipation for the transformation and growth that will come as a result
    • 4. Be Clear About Your Goals – Let your leadership team, volunteers, parents and community know what your vision for this transition looks like. Are you planning on having multi-generational Sunday School once a month? Or every other week? Or once a quarter? Understanding vision allows for greater buy in from your community
    • 5. Ask People for Input – allow time for people to respond. You will need to be ready to receive the input no matter whether it is good or bad. Listening and understanding is an incredibly important part of this process, people want to feel like they are a part of what is happening and so we need to allow them the opportunity to be as involved as they would like to be. For some that involvement will look like volunteering or prepping crafts during the week or finding new worship songs while for others they simply want to be involved by being a part of the conversation
    • 6. Use a Variety of Media – Ensure that this change is communicated in a variety of ways so that everyone (no matter where or when) has access both to what is being communicated and is able to join the conversation. Use video announcements, slides for presentation purposes, and handouts and make it all available to that community members have full access to the information and presentation content
  • Some Potential Challenges you may face when transition to a multi-generational Sunday school model in your context:
    • The inability to relate to adults and children simultaneously
    • Fear that people may not bring their kids
    • Community members may assume it won’t work well without a willingness to try it
    • Ensuring that families with children will actually participate
    • Fear that adults will miss out on in depth discussion
    • Parents will be frustrated in having to give up their quiet worship time
    • Church members without children may complain about loud and rowdy kids
    • Given your context logistics may present an issue (how to have that many people in a given space)
    • Some Adult topics may not be ok for children (sermons that are topical not bible stories)
  • Be prepared for the fact that this transition process from one model to another may take up to 4-6 months. Do not be discouraged but rather use the time to invest into launching this new model well

 

Execution

  • When it comes to Lesson Planning in a Multi-Generational context there are many things to consider. You must take each of these things into account when trying to craft lesson for that morning:
    • Think about how individuals learn and how they are engaged. Be sure to consider each of the things below and think about how you can incorporate them into your lessons
      • Visual (Spatial)
      • Aural (Auditory-musical)
      • Verbal (linguistic)
      • Physical (Kinesthetic)
      • Logical (Mathematical)
      • Social (interpersonal)
      • Solitary (intrapersonal)
      • Naturalistic (nature)
    • As you consider these things make them practical in your lessons. Use visual aids to describe what you are talking about or teach using object lessons so that children and adults can link an abstract concept with a concrete object. Consider including activities that allow everyone to get up and move around the room so that your kinesthetic learners are learning while moving. As you create activities and lesson plans make sure that you are creatively engaging a wide variety of learners and a wide variety of age levels.
    • You will also need to consider conditions that are specific to your church context. For example:
      • Physical Space – having tables available is a great option so that people can converse around the tables and so that children can complete crafts and activities over the course of the morning
      • Chairs – you will need chairs of various heights for individuals of various ages (little children will need to sit higher up in order to use the tables)
      • Open Space – do you have open space available to you? What will you use that open space for? How can you maximise the space you have?
      • Audio Amplification – do you have sound equipment? Can everyone hear you? Can you give directions clearly?
      • Size and Age of the Group – there isn’t a “perfect” size for your group so you will need to learn to accommodate the average number of attenders on a Sunday morning. As you craft what your morning will look like you will need to slant your lesson towards the larger group in the room ( you will still need to offer something for all ages and will need to offer activities that forge interaction between all age groups)
      • Activity Flow (find a flow that works well for you!) Here is an example of one:
        • Opening Discussion (5 min)
        • Music (10min) – consider having kids teach their parents songs they know
        • Bible Story (5min)
        • Video (5min)
        • Activity Stations (20min)
        • Wrap Up (5min)
    • Below are a few examples of activities that may work really well in an all ages setting:
      • Breakfast (or any meal)
      • Art
      • Dodgeball
      • Prayer Activities/Stations
      • Sunday Morning Cartoons
      • Service Projects / Projects for missions trips to send with teams
      • Craft and meal
      • Book Study
      • Church Hallway Artwork
      • Grieving Together

Multi-Generational Sunday School is an idea that will take time to consider and implement into your Sunday mornings. The benefits of working and learning together are valuable and the concept of sharing in that meaningful time together demands consideration. While many contexts may not allow for this model to succeed it is at the very least intriguing to consider how we as the church can create opportunities where children and adults interact on a regular basis. The growth, transformation and blessings that will come as a result, I believe, will serve to expand God’s Kingdom.

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