USA Today reports on the decline of Sunday school as an institution. The reporter finds that parents are suspicious and busy:
Parents, especially middle-class ones, have become ever more concerned about the welfare of their children, whether it’s demanding chemical-free playgrounds or ensuring they get into the best preschool. At the same time, Christian churches have been rocked by a series of sex-abuse scandals that are the worst nightmare for any parent, from youth groups being coerced into sex acts to priests’ confessions of molesting boys. Even if the revelations have subsided somewhat in recent years, “people know the reality has been exposed,” says Robert Orsi, a professor of religion at Northwestern University. “I’m sure parents are thinking of this.”
LeeAnn MacNeil, a homemaker in McLean, Virginia, is a devout Catholic with four kids, but she has serious qualms about teacher selection at her church’s Sunday school. “They’re not vetted properly. That’s a valid concern in my book,” she says. And she can speak from experience: As a Sunday school teacher for several years, she says the sign-up process “was done very quickly. It’s like, ‘Have you been in jail before?’ — the generic questions, like on a job application. They don’t really check your background as much as they should when you’re dealing with young children.”
Yet it’s worth noting that the reason MacNeil’s kids don’t attend Sunday school is lack of time. Instead of a day of rest, Sunday has become just another day for over-scheduled kids to be chauffeured from sports practice to music lessons or SAT tutoring. It doesn’t help that parents themselves, so overwhelmed by life, are skipping church. “You would go to church, and then an hour or hour 15 minutes of Sunday school. It takes up all your morning. It felt like more of a chore for them to go, when you’re giving up some of your weekend and attending school during the week,” says MacNeil. “By the time they come home, it’s 12 noon, and when you have a weekend, you want to play with your friends outside and be a kid.”
Would a return to the Ten Commandments help? If Christians really worried about God’s law, and if Sunday were actually a day of rest and worship, would Sunday school be more popular?
Would grades help? Term papers?