Last month a little known article was written by Melissa Pandika that was then published by USA Today. It’s title… “Has the Sun Set on Sunday School?”. Obviously, since Sunday School is a viable and effective form of group life/disciple making, this title caught my eye. I’ve got to confess, there were a lot of moments when cringe factor jumped off the page and attacked my senses.
For instance, in the margin, the tease phrase reads, “Why You Should Care… For the devout, the survival of Sunday School matters a h*** of a lot.” Then there’s the opening story…
It’s a chilly Sunday morning in Oakland, California, and in the glass-paned school adjacent to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Allison Sass is on a mission to teach 12 small children to love Jesus. Bless their hearts, and Sass’ heart too, because despite her smile, this is going to be quite a struggle. One messy-haired boy, all of 6 years old, refuses to budge from the lap of his mom, who’s there because he’s a little shy. Two girls, both barely 10, are frankly dozing off, sprawled out on the carpet.
Sass holds up a drawing of Mary, Joseph and Jesus, and asks the kids to “help tell the story of the Christ child” through toys and other objects in the room. Some of the children pluck wooden figurines from a Nativity scene, and one girl with, yes, purple-tipped hair, chooses a baby doll in a white baptismal gown. It’s a move that rouses some of the kids, who gather around the doll and, as Sass watches on, start chanting in a playground manner: “Take it off! Take it off!”
The girl obliges. Then she peeks beneath the doll’s underwear and announces her verdict: “I think he’s transgender.”
My first thought was, you’ve chosen the wrong church to check out. It’s obvious the sun has set on this Sunday School or the Christian education of the parents of these children. When children between the ages of 6 and 10 are in the same class and children 6 years of age are being indoctrinated as to what a striptease is by children 10 years old (although I’m surprised they know the phrase, “Take it off!”.), that people abuse women by ganging up on them and screaming, “Take it off! Take it off!” and then that a child under 10 knows to make a joke about someone being transgender tells me one of two things, 1) the author exaggerated the story or, 2) this is undoubtedly an ineffective church that hasn’t taught parents to guard their children from some things until those things are age appropriate.
One last thing… What’s wrong with a girl having “purple tipped hair.”? I’m wondering why the author even brought this up.
Mandika, in order prove her point about the decline of Sunday School, quotes some Barna stats from an article he wrote. I checked that article out. That article included this statement, “Anticipating that some people will infer that Sunday school is fading, David Kinnaman, the director of the study, explained that, “rumors of Sunday school’s imminent demise are greatly exaggerated. Every weekend more than 300,000 churches offer some type of systematic religious instruction in a classroom setting – and those programs are attended by nearly 45 million adults and more than 22 million youth and children. In fact, nearly 9 out of every 10 pastors said they consider Sunday school to be an important part of their church’s ministry.”
Sometimes it’s best to ignore an article. “Has the Sun Set on Sunday School?” is definitely one of them.