11.11.2022 – Is it a Sin to Bore a Kid?

It has been a disappointing week for many of us.  Unless you are one of my regular readers in Altadena, California, you may be disappointed that your Powerball ticket wasn’t the $2 billion winner.  Better luck next time.  If you are enamored of partisan politics, you may be disappointed that we are in for another two years of split-down-the-middle governance. “We lost by less than expected” or “we won but not by much” don’t offer much solace.

So, a disappointing week. I think I will write about Sunday School curriculum.

For algorithmic reasons I will let Mark Zuckerberg explain, my Facebook feed has featured an ad from a group known as Christianity Cove.  They are selling an Advent Sunday School curriculum they call “Nativity Escape Room.”  Everybody loves to crack a code – our new Escape Room activity gives players the chance to hone their problem-solving skills while discovering more about the birth of Christ. 

You have to buy an Escape Room kit to learn all the details, but the promo tells us, “In order to escape, players must solve the 4 mysteries and complete the final challenge. This will require reading, answering questions, and solving puzzles using the decoders in the time allowed.” We are told that Nativity Escape Room is “100% turn-key.  In just minutes you can have your kids fully engaged in this one-of-a-kind experience.”

It has been a long time since I spent much time evaluating children’s Sunday School curriculum, and that is not my point today.

What I have noticed since the days when I spent time evaluating children’s Sunday School curriculum, though, is that many curriculum publishers have gone out of  business – the market has shrunk.  The choice in our partisan age seems to be between what we might call the gotta-make-it-exciting enthusiasts and the catechism purists.

The make-it-exciting enthusiasts want Sunday School to be fun, entertaining, and easy to teach. Hence Nativity Escape Room and lots of plastic parts from China. The founder of Young Life, the parachurch organization, once said, “It’s a sin to bore a kid.” I’m not sure I agree with the statement, but it is, to be certain, the underlying sentiment of the make- it-exciting enthusiasts.

Catechism purists, on the other hand, seem to believe that point is to bore a kid, and they do so with long, sit-still-and-be-quiet, lectures about Reformed theology. The fact that the five-year-olds are squirming and misbehaving seems to be a badge of honor. I kind of like the catechisms in general and think the Children’s Catechism in particular is quite good. But does it have be 145 ways to bore a kid?

Earlier this week I was in a meeting with some church folks, and they started talking about children’s sermons in worship services.  They’d heard them done by make-it-exciting enthusiasts who don’t think you can be too exciting, and they’d heard them done by catechism purists who don’t think any theological minutiae is beyond a five-year old’s need to know.

“You’re a pastor. What do you think?” they asked.

My answer came quickly.  “One point, five minutes, and an object to share or a story to tell.”  Not bad, if I say so myself.

Sunday School classes are longer than five minutes, but the principal applies.  One point, five minutes, and an object to share or a story to tell.  Sure, add a craft that is not made with plastic parts from China, and maybe a song about “This Little Light of Mine” or “Zacchaeus was a Wee Little Man.” The principle applies.

Yes, it has been a disappointing week for some of us.  In the end, though, getting Sunday School right is more important than winning $2 billion or having a majority in the congress.