Where Have All The Older Sunday School Teachers Gone?

10 09 2011

Random thought while I was sharpening colored pencils this morning: “Where have the older Sunday School teachers gone?”

When I was a child, almost every Sunday School teacher I had was over 40; somewhere between 40 and 60 actually, some older, some younger. Now, as I am looking at our “SunLand” schedule I am realizing how very young almost everyone is. I am so grateful that these have chosen to put the servant’s towel over their arm, but it puzzles me that the page looks like this.

I am thinking about how God has called one generation to teach the next; from the wealth of one’s life-experience and the riches of having walked with God for many years, this is the well we draw from to tell the next generation of God’s faithfulness. So where have all the older teachers gone?

Is the program the problem now?

  • I think many “mature” teachers have been scared off or shut out by the swing in how Sunday School is led. We have moved from an organized classroom approach to an entertainment approach; and who can keep up with this except for those who have a lot of youthful energy and a willingness to be super-goofy at times. Many Sunday School lessons read more like a drama script than a Bible lesson, and I think that just doesn’t fit most people moving past 40.

Is the problem the kids now?

  • Respect is a HUGE (please picture very large letters) issue. Many children do not have respect for adults anymore. They speak to adults as equals and don’t flinch when corrected. “Sitting still and listening” is really a lost art. Showing respect, feeling a sense of duty to be respectful, is also largely lost.  You can’t correct behavior in an hour, so how should someone moving past 40 feel about that hour? Is it worth their time? Do they have the energy to deal with all those behavioral issues? Will parents listen if they tell them that their child’s behavior was concerning? Is it hard for us to love children who are disrespectful?

Is the problem perspective now?

  • I have heard more and more adults who are 40+ say, “I have been there and done that.” They do not feel responsible to invest in the youngest generation. In fact, I have heard of grandparents who don’t really want to be grandparents, and really want minimal involvement with their grandchildren (this I cannot understand).  I think we have this idea about “retirement”…like retirement is our goal in everything. Literal freedom from responsibility, or being responsible for someone. If someone “had” to serve in Sunday School because they had young children, once the kids are out…adults are out too? Is that the only reason they served, I wonder? Is the goal to be able to sit in church without bothering with much else week to week? And then, whose fault is that. Theirs for just moving on? Or leaders who don’t share the truth about how children are dear to God’s heart?

Is the problem our lifestyle now?

  • I wonder if, like the younger generation, the older generation has “nothing left” to give. Maybe their own wells are dry, their own pace has not found a rhythm where they are replenished enough to give to others. Maybe the “tyranny of the urgent” has left them not tending the church of their own hearts so that they aren’t able to shepherd others either. We press a lot into our lives, is there no room to pencil in “pouring into the next generation”?

Is the problem a simple oversight now?

  • I think those of us who plan Sunday School programs must also take some responsibility. Have we planned a program that works with someone who isn’t 20? Have we set the table in such a way that it works to make a reasonable ask? Um…have we extended an invitation so that they feel wanted?

Is the problem that there is a bigger problem now?

  • I wonder if adults 40+ are maturing in their walk with Christ? I am over 40 so I think I can speak to this without sounding presumptuous. I wonder, if we are spending time in the word so that we know it and love it. I wonder if we are talking with Christ (how many older adults lack confidence in even praying out loud?). I wonder if we are listening? I wonder if our roots are deep, deep enough to feel an urgency for those following us? I wonder if our faith matters enough to really understand the terrible tragedy of those who might walk away if not guided lovingly to have an unhindered view of Christ? It is true that there aren’t too many grey heads anymore because we color and cover it all up; maybe we are covering up for our lack of “wisdom that comes with age” too. Maybe we ourselves are too immature to pass anything on. Ouch.

Why did older adults used to serve in Sunday School? Why did that man, week after week after week, teach a class full of boys so that those boys – now grown up – can remember his name to this day? Why did that older lady serve in the nursery forever. Why did that couple teach a class of twelve-year-olds Bible stories, every single year?

Why do I remember them doing that? Why do I remember the verses they taught me? Why am I so familiar with the Bible stories, Old testament and New? Why do I remember the interest they showed in me, and even now if they cross my path, why do they say, “I remember when you were in my class”?

The church is to be a place of fathers, of mothers, of sisters, of brothers and all of us teachers – one generation to the next. Are we?

— Teresa Klassen



One response

11 09 2011

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: