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January 1977 · Vol. 6 No. 1 · pp. 27–28 

Sunday School Plus at Clovis

Elias Wiebe

Christian Education must be a major responsibility of every Christian home. Often, however, it becomes almost solely relegated to the Sunday School. The faithful teachers try in half an hour or, at most, an hour to teach the Bible stories and to make an application that is to last at least through the week and they hope, for a lifetime. Meanwhile the Christian Education Committee searches for new, pertinent materials which will somehow also involve the parents at home throughout the week.

The Clovis Mennonite Brethren Christian Education department was alerted to the Sunday School Plus concept late in 1975. Dr. George Konrad, a church member, attended a Sunday School Plus Training Seminar early in 1976. With this added information and explanation enthusiasm was high and the congregation voted to use the materials for a year.

An immediate problem which faced the Christian Education Commission was securing sufficient teachers from those adults who were not parents of children for whom the materials were produced, grades one through six. A positive benefit to the life of the church was the involvement of all the Commission members and enough volunteers to fill all necessary teaching positions.

The opening sessions were devoted to the biblical principles of interrelationships between parents and children. Of the approximately thirty-five (35) families who had children in the grades for whom Sunday School Plus had been prepared, between twenty and thirty families were usually represented in the adult class. Some discontinuity during the summer was unavoidable, and parents were pleased when a regular fall schedule was again established.

The adult teachers found the material for the parents quite adequate. But rather than concentrating on the exposition of the biblical passage under discussion by the children for that Sunday, the teachers found parents wishing to share the experiences of the past week and seeking guidance in specific activities for the following week. Individual differences in parents are just as pronounced as among the children, {28} and some parents very conscientiously prepared for the lessons and then attempted to fulfill their part of the experiences suggested with children while others were only superficially involved in reinforcing the lessons at home or made no effort at all. This raises a question for the future of Sunday School Plus: How long can the necessary high level of interest be maintained? Certainly the writers must continually strive for variety in order to meet the wide range of needs on the part of the parents.

A recent lesson can illustrate what happens in the adult class. The objective for the parents in the lesson “Jesus Loves Me” is to learn to listen and to help. The discussion: How do we listen to children? With half an ear? Take time to just watch your children for a period of time—get down to their level “eye-ball to eye-ball,”—and gain a new appreciation of their needs. Children come to us at the most inopportune times. We go to God at anytime. He listens. So must we.

Teachers of the children’s classes found that the lessons required advanced and thorough preparation. They are not the step-by-step cookbook variety. Some teachers were of the opinion that the familiar music of the church hymnal would have been preferred to the music prepared for the materials. Teachers of children in the lower grades easily adapted the lessons to a children’s church setting. Teachers of students in the intermediate grades found it necessary to present the lessons in a more advanced manner with more specific application to the older children.

Children enjoyed the lessons—especially the division of the activities into sharing, understanding, exploring, and responding. The initial lessons on interrelationships with each other and with their parents were meaningful to them.

Interviews with parents reinforced the fact that good experiences during the week were dependent upon the time devoted to them and the imagination exercised. Many children would not let their parents forget this new relationship, beginning with questions immediately after Sunday School: “What did you talk about? What did you have in Sunday School?” and reminding their parents during the week of activities related to the lesson.

Parents, teachers, and children have been united in new relationships and learning in many instances. Some wish the idea of sharing might be extended to the parents of teenagers. Most would like to see Sunday School Plus continue!

Dr. Elias Wiebe is Professor of Education at Pacific College and has long been on the Education Commission of the College Community Mennonite Brethren Church of Clovis (California).

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