Discovery Day moved us outside the Sunday School box, allowing adults in our community to share their gifts and children to explore spiritual practices from yoga to scripture based art.
Connecting with God Beyond Scripture Reading
There are many spiritual practices in which God meets us, but Sunday school lessons tend to focus heavily on learning scripture reading and prayer. “Discovery Day” was planned as a one time experiment in transforming Sunday school from an age-graded Bible lesson into an opportunity for children to explore new spiritual practices of their choosing.
Our Children and Family Ministry Committee approved this experience because it aligned with core ministry values we identified: building community, nurturing curiosity, and offering choices. In the process, our leadership team caught a glimpse of a Sunday school structure not bound by grade-level limitations.
Gathering Leadership, Learning from Each Other
Three months prior to Discovery Day we created a list of adults in the congregation who might have a spiritual practice to share. Members of our leadership team approached these indivdiuals and asked for their assistance in sharing their practices with children. We worked together with the spiritual guides to create meaningful ways to engage elementary-aged children with their chosen practice.
Our final offerings included yoga, team building games, a nature walk, scripture based art, and interactive prayer sessions. In the future, we hope to offer communion bread baking, knitting, and service projects – the list of potential experiences is long!
How It Worked
We put this special Sunday school format on the calendar once in the fall for our second through sixth grade classes. Parents received several emails explaining both the logistics and purpose of Discovery Day. Children began at our usual check-in station and then were given a list of activities with locations to choose from. Each location had a leader, an assistant taking attendance, and high school helpers as needed. Extra greeters were on hand to direct children to the activities.
We ended with our usual children’s chapel service to keep the morning as routine as possible.
We received a great deal of positive feedback from children and parents who were excited about the variety and the choice of activities. Friends from different grades enjoyed the chance to be together on Sunday morning. Leaders appreciated the opportunity to share their gifts with the children. The congregation enjoyed the prayerful art display which brightened a plain stairway.
Careful planning and keeping as close to our regular routine as possible ensured we adhered to our check in and safety policies. Communication and extra adults were key to keeping things running smoothly. The Discovery Day format would also work well on long holiday weekends when the usual Sunday school teachers are often out of town. While Discovery Day disrupted our normal, sequential lesson plans, the opportunities to develop cross generational experiences and the enthusiasm generated were worth the change in schedule.
Christine V. Hides is a the Director of Christian Education at Kenilworth Union Church, and author of the blog, Bless Each One. As a commissioned deacon in the United Methodist Church, she is called to develop faith formation resources that nurture imagination and participation in God’s vision of peace and justice.