We will be focusing upon Vacation Bible School shortly, and this is a tool which in the past few years people have been asking if it has "outlived its usefulness". Even publishers seem to be asking this question and sadly, coming to the conclusion they think it has as more of them stop producing VBS materials and resources.
I believe VBS is still a tool we can use to reach children and families for Jesus and help them grow in their walk with Jesus, but as I thought about this again this year, I remembered an article I read by Melissa Pandika where she asked if the "Sun has set on Sunday School"? She said; "Between 1997 and 2004, churches lost tens of thousands of Sunday school programs, according to data from the Barna Group, and more recent studies show enrollment has fallen across denominations. From 2004 to 2010, for example, Sunday school attendance dropped nearly 40 percent among Evangelical Lutheran churches in America and almost eight percent among Southern Baptist churches, prompting speculation that the problem may be more than just a decline in American religiosity."
Melissa went on to say parents and children are just too busy on the weekends to attend church and churches in general are paying a higher price than they anticipated for the occurrences of sex abuse in some churches leaving some to wonder if, "Sunday school has outlived it's usefulness". She wrapped up her article saying churches are trying new things to get people to come back to Sunday school. (You'll find her full article at this link.)
So, has Sunday school outlived its usefulness? Is our answer to give it one last "push" by trying new things to get parents and children to return? Do we need to use "gimmicks" to "compete" with sports and the other things children attend and participate in on Sundays?
God's Word has absolutely NOT outlived its usefulness, so I believe the "answer" is not to try new "gimmicks" to get children and families to return. Those things may give us "results" for a time, but they will only need to be replaced by something else in short order. Our focus needs to be on helping children understand God's Word is for them. It is not just for adults. Rather than trying "new things", we need to stand firm on God's Word as it has stood the test of time and help children learn how to open their Bibles and find the answers to the questions they have. We need to introduce children to Jesus so they can put their trust in Him. Then we need to help them discover how God's Word can help them know and walk with Jesus!
We also need to focus on helping children build relationships and make friends with the other children at church; this world will do all it can to try and distract them and tempt them away from following God's Word. If children have friends who are also trying to choose to know and walk with Jesus, it will help them continue to choose to do the same.
This week I'm going to write more about doing these two things - focus on God's Word and help children build relationships and make christian friends. I'd love to read your thoughts about these things.