Sunday School Lessons Are Failing

June 30, 2009

[The following article was originally published by Church Relevance on June 30, 2009 and written by Kent Shafer.]

Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis commissioned America’s Research Group to investigste why young people leave the church. The findings are published in Ken Ham’s new book, Already Gone. Some insights include:

Among 20- to 29-year-old evangelicals

  • 95% attended church regularly during elementary school
  • 95% attended church regularly during middle school
    >> 40%
    first had doubts about the Bible in middle school
  • 55% attended church regularly during high school
    >> 43.7% first had doubts about the Bible in high school
  • 11% attended church regularly during college
    >> 10% first had doubts about the Bible in college

Oddly, the study discovered that those who attended Sunday school (61%) are actually more likely than non-attendees (39%):

  • to not believe that all the accounts and stories in the Bible are true
  • to doubt the Bible because it was written by men
  • to defend keeping abortion legal
  • to accept the legalization of gay marriage
  • to believe in evolution
  • to believe that good people don’t need to go to church

Clearly, most children’s ministries are failing at producing long-term disciples. So what will it take to change this?

On the one hand, I believe that every children’s ministry can absolutely improve what they do. There is always room for improvement, but I also think these failed children’s ministries are the byproduct of failed churches.

If you want to reach and disciple children, you must reach and disciple their parents. Church going kids spend only 1% of their time at church, 20% at school, 30% sleeping, and much of the rest watching TV and playing. Children’s ministers can determine the 1%, but it is the parents who have the power to decide what reaches their kids during the other 99%. If you disciple the parents, you disciple the kids.

For Discussion:

  • How can children’s ministries better disciple kids in the Sunday school classroom?
  • How can churches better train parents to disciple their kids during the rest of the week?

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One Response to “Sunday School Lessons Are Failing”

  1. Hannah Says:

    I feel sort of bad saying this (being as I am a twentysomething, but have not ever been a member of this type of faith community) but the harder you guys try, the more young people you’re probably going to lose.
    For starters, you will never have complete cultural control of children’s lives; no matter how many alternative movies, video games, etc. you supply, mainstream sources will be more attractive to most. And the harder parents try to forbid such things, well, the more the average teenager is likely to want to watch or play or do them.
    But what should really set off a warning bell is the statistical observation here that early teaching (slash indoctrination, in the eyes of your newly liberal former members) actually does the opposite of what is intended.
    I am interested to hear any replies to my thoughts, or potential solutions to the original problem posted – although I do not consider it fatal to moral life as I perceive it.


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