Sunday, September 19, 2010

Christian Education, With Technology and Without

Today we begin our Sunday School season at my current church. I've seen many ways of doing Sunday School and Confirmation, and to be honest, not much has changed since the time of my own Sunday School experiences. I suspect that Sunday School hasn't changed much since the time of my grandparents.

How strange. We live in a time when secular education is changing at breathtaking speed, thanks to all sorts of technology (go to this week's The New York Times magazine series of stories, for just a hint of what's going on. We have more students attending classes online than ever before--10 years ago, it wouldn't have been possible, since broadband access was limited, and most people didn't have it. Now it's possible to get a college degree without ever leaving your house. A huge chunk of high schoolers get some or all of their high school education online.

That's just a small example. Online resources have changed radically the way that some of us teach the writing of the research paper. Similarly, online textbooks have changed the textbook market--and in some fields, free online information makes the textbook obsolete.

I'm not seeing similar changes in Christian education. Perhaps I'm just in a backwater. Perhaps all sorts of things are exploding, but I don't see it, because I'm not immersed in it.

At our church, we're about to experiment with a pre-technological approach. We're going to infuse our Sunday School experience with drama and improv. I'm not sure what to expect. We've divided up into 4 teams, so I imagine we'll be doing it all in different ways.

But the basic idea is to introduce pre-Confirmation children to Bible stories in a way that they'll never forget. Maybe they'll act out the story. Maybe they'll create new songs. Maybe they'll create puppets and a puppet show. Maybe they'll function as a Greek chorus.

I have a vision of rambunctious, yet controlled, play. I have a vision of the youthful enthusiasm for drama and Bible stories driving out the adults who hoped to have a spot of free time for coffee--we don't have much in the way of classroom space, so everyone tries to share the fellowship hall, including people who really don't want to be involved in Christian Ed at all, since it's also where the coffee hour takes place.

I have a vision of disconnected adults saying, "Hmm, that looks like fun. Let me play too!"

O.K., so that last vision is probably the least probable. But a girl can dream!

Come, Holy Spirit. Move through us in exciting ways, as we try to give our youngest members the Scripture Stories that will sustain them.

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