I wrote this story for my church magazine. It's revolves around a dream seen by a Bible School teacher. It is a dream that I too as a Sunday School teacher, treasure deep in my heart. Today I am alone in making this dream come true. Sunday School today is more like another school with it's syllabus and exams. There are very few activities that the kids enjoy doing. Hopefully, tomorrow there will be more hands who will help me in working towards giving a better time for our dear children while they are at the Sunday School.
It was a beautiful Sunday morning after Christmas. Sandeep saw the Sunday school in the distance, all adorned with Christmas decorations. A few Santa Clauses were hopping from one classroom to the other, playing pranks with the kids. The church service had just got over, and all the members were still having their morning coffee and the after church chat. He made his way through the crowd to the Sunday School.
Somehow he seemed to be finding Sunday School teaching to be a different experience over the last few weeks. He loved being there to groom the children. Every week there were some fresh surprises, and that was what that made it so interesting. Last week, immediately after the starting prayer, there was a game that children in different age groups got to play. And the week before, there was big picture puzzle they had to solve. And he was very thrilled about what was going to be there today.
The day had started with a young boy leading the group in prayer. Then the students were divided into three groups for playing activity games. One group played the treasure hunt where they got to search for objects like Goliath’s sword, Pharaoh’s crown and more, hidden in the corners of the classrooms. The students were given biblical clues to search each object.
Another group was played passing the buck. A parcel got passed while a music piece was being played and when it stopped, the children were asked to come forward and do a task…and there were number of challenging and interesting tasks related to situations in the Bible that were being done.
The other group which had all the tiny tots was busy learning an action song and simultaneously joining dots on a huge sheet of paper, and then sketching and painting parts of the huge resulting picture.
This suspense every week was thrilling. It was real fun and the whole thing would be totally different the next week and this kept the children totally motivated to attend Sunday School every week. Sandeep and a few other teachers were experimenting with new methods of teaching the children, and he was so happy that God was getting his experiments to work.
After the games, the children moved over to the Christian Experience and Challenges Centre. There were computers and projector screens here. He saw that the children were divided into batches based on their age. Each batch depending on their age and understanding capability had its own set of movie lessons, presentations, activity cards, crosswords, group discussions, workshops, music and more that gave the children interesting and practical sessions on people who lived a life which had a strong Christian content in them.
The children were also planned to be put into mock life situations and then taught on how to react to these situations assertively in a Christian way. He saw that the group discussions, workshops and activity groups, were very good to progressively groom the children, into those who could speak assertively on Christian faith. The young ones had more of drawing and colouring too. There was great activity for all. He liked it.
The movie projector’s light went off in the middle of the movie, and the children of Class VIII became impatient. A short movie lesson on St.Peter was being screened. The movie got over soon and the children went into rapture. Sandeep was distributing crossword sheets for this lesson. The students got into focused activity, cracking the crossword based on what they saw in the movie. Last week a movie was followed by a rapid quiz. Next week there would something new and the students loved the suspense.
He saw that the Sunday school also had several streams like singing, musical instruments, games, puzzles, quiz, debate, speech, religious discussion, Activity Idea Centre support and Christian Experience and Challenges Centre support and many more. Soon the students from all the similar classes were regrouped into these streams. Sandeep was the mentor of the quiz stream. He saw his son Joel running for joining the Activity Idea Support stream. Joel was also a part of the debate stream.
The best part was that each student in the Sunday school was mapped to at least one stream and that made a huge difference. Sandeep observed that students who would otherwise involve in plain chatter, while song and quiz sessions were on in the old system, actively involved in Bible data gathering or other activities through which they could contribute to the Activity Idea Centre or participate in singing, games and other streams.
There were no competitions and no winners or losers. Every time a student participated or contributed in a stream, he or she earned points which could be redeemed by the student to buy whatever they wanted. They could also contribute the points to the church. And Sandeep was very happy that Joel was contributing to the Charity wing of the church, from his accumulated points, and that made him very happy. He observed that some students even bought valuable books they liked and some contributed to the poor too from these points.
Sandeep saw a lot of changes over the last one year in everything what Joel did. He saw him taking ownership and showing more interest and involvement. He recalled how distracted a kid Joel was, always playing pranks with someone and never paying attention. Joel now chose the stream that he was interested in, and he was putting his full heart into it. He loved Sunday school and he could talk and debate about personalities in the Bible and faith. As part of the Activity Idea Support Team, Joel was able to give valuable ideas.
Sandeep also could feel the happiness in him as a teacher, in seeing very similar changes amongst other students too. All the children were bubbling with excitement and a lot of interest. He could see a lot of changes in everything that the Sunday school students did. He could see them showing more interest and involvement, as they felt a sense of ownership towards the activities that they had helped to plan. Sandeep was glad that he took the perspective of the children into consideration while planning for their development, as they used to come up with several simple but interesting ideas. Sandeep also noticed that the Church choir got some good instrumentalists and singers from the singing stream. He felt it to be really great, as it was a good way of ensuring continuity in the Choir!
In another room within the church building, he could see a few elders and members of the Church’s youth wing get together with notepads, pens, paper, scissors and glue. It was the Activity Idea Centre, and all ideas for the children’s Fun and Facts games for the next few weeks emanated from here in advance. There was a similar group that planned out the movies, presentations, puzzles, games and activity cards for the different age groups, for the classes too, for the Christian Experience and Challenges Centre in consultation with the Church Vicar. Sandeep observed that it was totally different from a regular school, but still there were loads of fun along with strong lessons in Christian faith.
One important philosophy that these groups believed in and consistently implemented was that, the Sunday School should be totally different from a regular school. They ensured that the children had activities that had in them loads of fun along with strong lessons in Christian faith.
At another corner, on the church steps, a group of mothers, waiting for their kids who were at the Sunday school, along with some more youth members, were busy with sheets of paper, hardboard, scissors and glue. They were giving final touches to the outputs that came out of the Activity Idea Centre conceptualized last week. A number of puzzles, paper objects, paper designs and others lay all around. Sandeep was happy to see them put in their piece of effort too.
He suddenly felt someone prodding him. He got up and saw his son Joel trying to wake him up. He realized that he had been sleeping all the while. Whatever he saw was a big dream. It was a Saturday, and Joel reminded him that he had to submit his Sunday school project the next day. Sandeep had to collect the names of all the items kept on the altar for the same. The Sunday school books were lying all over the bed, as he was on this work of preparing for the next day’s classes and setting up the question papers for the exams, while he fell asleep. Joel had his regular school exams on Monday, and he had to spend time with him for that too. The pressure was mounting on both.
He realized how beautiful the dream was, and how great it would be, if the Sunday school reached that level, where children would be filled with boundless energy, and where there would be more activity oriented learning than classrooms, exams and competitions filled with truckloads of pressure. But then he also knew that there was a long way to go. May be it was possible over the years in slow but sure steps. He decided to talk to the Church members and the Vicar on this the next day, and started working on the Sunday school project for Joel. The dream was great..but now he had to get back to regular work….