If you are in church work, you’ve probably seen enough depressing trend charts to last a lifetime! I know I have. Here is a chart from the Hartford Institute for Religion Research that shows that close to 60% of congregations have fewer than 100 members.
But, I know from personal experience that just because a congregation is small doesn’t mean there aren’t families wanting a rich faith formation experience for their children! In fact, often they are drawn to a small congregation because they really want their children to grow up in a warm, welcoming place where they will be known and nurtured by an intergenerational community. One of the reasons I fell in love with and joined Calvary Lutheran Church, a small urban congregation in south Minneapolis, about ten years ago was because I couldn’t figure out which children belonged to which adults; they were the congregation’s children!
Because in my professional role I am out and about talking with and listening to leaders all across the Church, I often hear concerns about how congregations can provide an engaging and theologically sound faith formation experience when there are only a few children of varying ages and stages of development.
Recently, this query came in the form of an email query from a mom who helps lead Sunday School in the congregation to which they belong in metro New York; a big city, but a small Sunday School. I forwarded the query to my colleague Dr. Dawn Rundman, who leads our children’s faith formation resource development team at sparkhouse. Dawn provided a helpful answer and I thought more pastors, CE leaders, and moms might find it useful, too. Here is Dawn’s counsel:
“Assuming there are fewer than 25 kids in your program, for $150 a year, you could subscribe to Spark Rotation online and access the All-Kids content for 48 Bible stories. In Rotation, you can spend 2-4 weeks on a Bible story as kids explore it through Art, Music, Games, and more. The subscription price also includes Lesson Prep Videos for your teachers, additional activity ideas, Coloring Pages, and take-home Family Pages.
Holy Moly may be a great solution if you want to use a video-based approach to storytelling. Kids of all ages can watch the video. Then you could use refer to the two available leader guides to select additional activities that would be a great fit for your kids. We sell these resources in print and DVD form, or you could pay the annual subscription amount ($150 if you have 25 kids or fewer) and access content throughout the year. An online subscription would give you access to extras like Film Festivals and preteen retreats, as well as take-home Family Pages.”
The online subscriptions to which Dawn refers for this content are available through our innovative, new and easy to use sparkhouse online web subscription resource. You may subscribe to one or more curricula using this tool. If you’d like more information about sparkhouse online, check out our free trial offer and our free webinars that will walk you through the features of this new faith formation resource. In fact, there is one scheduled for Tuesday, October 29 2-3 p.m. CDT. Or, you can go to gatherlearnlead.org to find other dates and times.
In addition to Dawn’s suggestions above, we also receive similar queries about resources for congregations that only have a few youth in their church family. Another of my colleagues, Elissa Zoerb, Customer Education Support Specialist, has a passion for this, so she leads a free webinar on this topic for us. Here is Elissa’s description of the webinar:
“re:form for Small Congregations: Using the perspective of small congregations, this 45-minute webinar will explore re:form, a new approach to youth ministry. Participants will learn how re:form can empower youth to explore their faith and ask the questions they actually wonder about the Bible, creed, disciples, Jesus, other beliefs, and hot topics.”
The next time this webinar will be offered is November 12 at 10 a.m. CST. It isn’t yet on our posted webinar schedule, but watch for it at gatherlearnlead.org You’ll find this and many other helpful free webinars to assist you with topics related to faith formation, worship, music, stewardship and more!
Of course, you need to be creative with finding ways to engage children and youth, where there are many of them or when there are only a few of them and often they are of varying ages. But, these outstanding sparkhouse resources and the advice of my smart and dedicated ministry of publishing colleagues can help!
Beth A. Lewis, President & CEO Augsburg Fortress