In a Small Church
Combining traditional classroom teaching with learning
centers proved to be a most successful summer church school program
for our parish. "Shalom" was the theme for all age groups.
Adults and senior highs used a manual provided in the study series,
for reading and discussion. Students of Grade 1 through Junior High
also participated in learning centers.
Since we are a rather small church, the potential membership
for church school from Grade 1 through Junior High is only seventeen
persons, so we offered no more than two learning centers each Sunday.
On occasion, we used learning centers for the entire hour; other times
we combined a classroom situation and learning centers, or used the
classroom situation for the entire hour. The learning centers provided
a variety of types of activity, from baking bread to learning Bible
verses, and from making Shalom stoles and flags to learning Shalom songs
in a music center.
Integrated with Worship
All the learning center activities were used in two Jubilee Celebrations
for the Sunday morning worship service. The bread was used for communion;
the Shalom flags, banners, and stoles were used as part of a processional
and then placed in the chancel area; the Shalom songs were sung during
the service, and the Bible verses were repeated. Our pastor, The Rev.
Bob Reid, effectively included the children in the worship hour, not
as performers, but as participants. The children sat on the chancel
steps as they talked with Mr. Reid about the meaning of the Shalom and
the projects each child had brought to the service. The congregation
joined in singing the Shalom songs and repeating the blessing.
The materials used were designed for a Vacation Church
School program, so we needed to adapt them for weekly church school.
Since we needed more time than the usual forty-five minute Sunday morning
study period we reversed the congregational worship and Sunday School
meeting times: we held worship first and shortened it so that the church
school hour could be lengthened. One pleasant surprise was that reversing
the times caused the size of the adult class to increase more than double.
(It seemed easy for them to stay once they were there for worship.)
Because the materials were originally designed for two-and-a-half-hour
sessions, there was an abundance of learning activities from which to
Our staff consisted of a director, one teacher for each class by age
levels, and teachers who rotated for the learning centers. We used teachers
persons who did not teach on a regular basis throughout the year, allowing
regular teachers to enjoy summer vacation. We also involved our college
students who were home for the summer and did not have a regular church
class of their own. They served well in several of the learning centers.
There were many favorable comments about our "Shalom" summer
program. I saw these advantages:
We were able to adapt good materials to a small church
situation. To some degree, the children were able to contribute to and
participate in two worship services. There was a sense of unity among
all ages because it was carried over into the worship service. We were
able to relieve our full-time teachers for a short time and rotate the
learning center teachers, thus involving more persons in the church
Because of the enthusiastic response, we are planning
a similar creative summer church school program this year.