The Free Church of Scotland’s Youth Committee has published a report from the denomination’s largest-ever Sunday School survey.
Entitled ‘Pointing to Jesus’, the committee wants to help Sunday Schools and other youth groups point children to Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour.
The report is intended as a means of equipping teachers with new ideas to connect the never-changing message of the Bible to the ever-changing world in which the children of this generation are growing up.
Every Sunday there are over 1,100 children attending, with numbers virtually the same over the past five years (nominally up).
Most Sunday Schools meet during part of the morning service, with some starting at the beginning of the service in order to join with the rest of the congregation to hear the service.
Mission Board chairman Rev Alasdair Macleod, who wrote the report, said: “Transitioning children from Sunday School attenders to those who are part of the worshipping congregation is absolutely vital.
“The last thing we want is for children to reach the end of their time in Sunday School and have an inability, through lack of exposure, to sitting through church services.”
One of the biggest challenges identified was retaining young people who are making the transition from primary to secondary school.
The committee are also keen to encourage more congregations to use modern teaching resources, such as dvds, apps and other web-based resources.
Mr Macleod added: “Many of the newer sources have multimedia clips, photos or songs to accompany the scripture lesson.
“The use of these accompaniments become an essential element of effective communication to children who are visual learners.
“This connects with the method of teaching which the children are exposed to in regular school classes, where interaction and participation with the use of computers, smartboards, projectors and the internet are the norm.
“Making sure that we do not expect the children to be taught in one way for over 30 hours each school week and then suddenly be taught a completely different way for 30-45 minutes in Sunday School is important.
“While we recognise the different nature of the teaching of spiritual truth, it is unrealistic to expect Sunday school to be using teaching methods from the 19th or 20th century when the children are trained in every other subject using 21st century methods.
“The message of the gospel has contemporary significance for the children.
“65 per cent of Sunday Schools use some sort of visual aid, with a large, and hopefully increasing, number using DVD, video and internet resources.”
The report added that the use of memory work will always be one area where Sunday Schools will differ from the mainstream education system today.
The Ullapool minister (pictured above) continued: “Where memory work is not in vogue in our current education system it is one essential part of the teaching of our children.
“Why is it so important? It is biblical. Passages like Deuteronomy Chapter 6 verse 7 and Joshua Chapter 4 verse 21 show how important it was to commit to memory the works and words of God.
“A very effective way of memorising scripture is in song, with or without appropriate actions.
“A number of congregations intimated that they have found this to be a very good way of sharing together as a full Sunday School, as well as learning the truth concerned.”
The Free Church’s Youth Committee will now consider the best way of taking the findings forward.
Rev Dr Colin Dow, who is the new chair of the Youth Committee, said: “The Youth Committee believes our primary desire must be to nurture, train and keep our children.
“This puts important responsibilities upon the Christian home as well as our congregations, and in the coming months we will be thinking about how we can best help to resource parents and Sunday School teachers in this challenging but ultimately God-glorifying task.”
You can download the Pointing to Jesus report by clicking here.