*Disclaimer: Not all churches operate the way I have seen and experienced. You need to use your own judgment as a parent when allowing your kids to attend Sunday School.
We were faithful Sunday School supporters for almost 15 years…until we tried to exercise our parental rights within the church. Keep in mind the Bible says absolutely nothing about “Sunday School”. There is not one teaching, doctrine, or otherwise, in the bible, that gives any mandate to put your kids into a class where the teacher tells your kids what they think your kids need to believe. Most churches separate the children into age classification or grade classification classes. Many times it’s also by gender, girls in one class, boys in another.
As a parent, I recall being thankful there was a place where my kids could go so I could sit through a class without interruption. The clergy always scheduled the lessons for the kids classes to go along with what the adults were learning. But when something came up in a class that my daughter attended, we needed to make some changes. I was interpreting for the deaf in the college class and my teen daughter was 17 years old. We were homeschooling by that time and she had ‘graduated’ early by studying through her previous summer break. My husband and I both felt that having her with me in the college class would be better for her growth and maturity.The dynamics involved in this situation were tricky.
My daughter’s teacher was the pastor’s wife, the college class was taught by her son (also son of the pastor) and my husband attended the adult class where the pastor taught. I had my daughter with me for a couple of months when we were approached and ‘admonished’ to have her go back to the teen class. We graciously declined their ‘admonishment’. My husband informed them that our daughter had already graduated high school and we, as her parents, felt her time was better spent in the college age class. She was growing in the college class. We saw no need to put her back into the teen class.
Then my husband was ‘told’ by the pastor that she would have to go back to the teen class or attend his class with my husband. Under no circumstances whatsoever was she ‘allowed’ to attend the college class with me, (her mother) any longer.
I’m not sure what the purpose of all that was, but in my own opinion, we saw a few dynamics unfolding that increased our concern with this particular church. We felt as though there was definitely a power struggle… the pastor’s power over ours as parents. By his actions, it seemed to appear that he was under the impression that we were supposed to yield our parental rights and decisions to him when we were on the church campus. But when a parent exercises their parental decisions, like taking their child out of a Sunday School Class and putting her in another…without their approval, then people begin to ask questions such as,
- Is there something wrong with the teacher?
- Did the other students do something to hurt the girl?
- Why can’t my teenager go to the college class too?
We didn’t owe anyone an explanation, but we remained firm in our decision to put her in the college class for her own growth. We didn’t want to say anything negative about the teacher or other students. However, this situation opened a flood gate of questions that we had about how the government of the church was being handled and why our parental decisions didn’t matter up against their own.
There were other things we began noticing about the Sunday School program in the other grades as well. We had 3 other children in 3 different classes and when all 4 of our children had their ‘youth activities’ they were all going off in different directions. With our busy lives, we felt that our family was being pulled in too many different directions and our thoughts about Sunday School began to change.
Now, after being out of organized Christianity, I have looked back on those experiences, along with others we’ve had in other churches and still have hesitation about the Sunday School programs.
We do not feel it’s a good idea to indoctrinate children with stories that give them nightmares. I don’t care what the church’s doctrines are, I do not feel it is appropriate to play on the emotions and impressionable minds of children with horror stories.
Horror stories in Sunday School?
Yes, stories that cause my children to be afraid to go to bed at night. Because after all, the Sunday School teacher said, “What if you were to die tonight? You would go to hell.” And on and on the teacher would go about what it’s like in hell (as if she’s been there?). Bed time for my children became treacherous ordeals of facing fears. Stories about Lot and his wife and how the city men came to rape the angels. Are you serious? Our kids need to know this stuff? Lets not forget the flood, Noah’s sons seeing him naked, and the ever popular rapture and “what if you’re left behind?”, type of science fiction. But to my children those stories are presented as ‘facts’.
If you’re going to have Sunday School, stay away from the controversial topics that cause night terrors. Frightening small children into choosing your ‘jesus’ sounds a whole lot more like ‘believe in our nightmares or else’. Let’s not taint our children’s minds with false images of Jesus before they’re old enough to sort through those things with a mature mind and heart.
So the power struggle of who really has the authority over our kids really is a no-brainer. It’s just that more parents need to recognize their rights and begin to exercise them. Pastors are not God and they certainly aren’t government authorities telling you how to practice your religion. Don’t let them fool you with “I’m God’s authority for this church. Obey your authority or suffer as Miriam did when she questioned Moses.” It’s time parents wake up and protect their children.