I'm sure our church isn't much different than many others. We have an hour of Sunday School followed by an hour of worship. A lot of people just show up for church. Most parents drop their children off at Sunday School, then come back and pick them up (and sometimes stay for worship).
And that's unfortunate, because those are two examples of people only getting half of what they need.
First off, a quick word about "Sunday School." It's a term that conjures up little kids singing "Jesus Loves Me" and learning about Noah and the ark. But it's really Christian education that happens on Sunday mornings -- and that education is open for all ages. Including adults. Christian education can also include evening bible studies, weekend retreats, trips, and other activities. And it can include simple lessons on familiar topics, or an in-depth scholarly exegesis. So with all that in mind, let's get back to our two groups of people: those that attend worship, and those that only attend Sunday School (or rather think that's all their kids need).
Worship without Christian Education
Worship's important, of course, but why? That's a question that Christian Education (CE) explores. And the words recited every Sunday -- the Apostle's Creed, Lord's Prayer, etc. -- what do they mean? Some CE studies look at those texts line by line and provide insight into our basic beliefs. Every element of worship means something -- and without understanding that meaning, one's worship experience can be superficial. And worse yet, you might not even be aware of it.
Christian Education without Worship
So what about the kids being dropped off at Sunday School? Well, it's one thing to study scripture and worship practices, but without attending services, what's the point. Worship provides the context for that knowledge. And something else -- when parents don't attend Sunday School themselves, they send the message that it isn't really that important (or at best, it's something only kids do).
Wrong and wrong. One of the best things about CE is that it's usually not a solitary activity. In the discussions that take place one usually gets different viewpoints -- sometimes challenging viewpoints. Adult Sunday School teachers in our church often talk about how they end up learning as much (if not more) than the classes they lead. And the fellowship can help bring congregations together.
We'll be working on this problem at our church this year. Too many of us are only getting half of the whole.