By Ada Brownell
Twelve preschoolers sit quietly in a circle on the floor with a middle-aged woman telling a story. They watch, eyes twinking with excitement, as Mrs. McPherson shows pictures. Then she drops baking soda into a bowl of vinegar. The liquid foams up and boils over and the lady explains how anger affects us, creating a mess between us, our friends or family.
“Say this after me,” she says, “Love your neighbors as yourself, Luke Ten Twenty-Seven.”
The children repeat the verse several times and then she asks, “Who can say it by yourself?”
Volunteers wave their hands and several of them say the verse, sometimes confusing the numbers a little. Then they begin to sing “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know.”
The class now begins art work, coloring a provided picture of hearts coming down out of the clouds toward an open space, where they draw a sketch of themselves and talk about God’s love for them.
Before there were preschools or Head Start, children were equipped with school readiness because scenes like this were common everywhere in America. In my day, schools didn’t even have kindergarten. Church showed me long before I entered school how to sit still and behave in a classroom without my parents, introduced me to art, music, memorization, the pleasures that come with reading, and how to interact with an adult we don’t know and other children.
Hence I was ready for school.
Yet, being in church and Sunday school affected me positively in other ways. Scripture gave me a good self image (God loves me and has a wonderful plan for my life) and taught me how to live: Love God and others; Honor your father and mother; Don’t steal, lie, kill, commit sex outside of marriage, or covet. I learned the tongue is a fire and I should watch what I say. I was taught to be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath, although I sometimes messed up on that.
I also learned what I do has eternal consequences—reward or judgment.
Considering the advantages, why have parents ceased to take children to Sunday school and many churches eliminated Christian education?
Sunday school connected me with friends and recreation without charge. Ice skating parties (we skated on ponds and canals). Picnics. Game get-togethers. Home prayer meetings where I learned doctrine and we often had refreshments and fellowship as well.
Congregations still do that. Many churches have gyms. Sometimes recreation costs a small amount, usually because classes go where there is a fee. We used to rent swimming pools (women at one and men at another) and pay 50 cents each.
The church offers counseling, often without charge. I didn’t need that because I grew up in a great home, even with seven siblings. My role models were people in the church, musicians, teachers and my relatives.
Church connected me with great people. We’ve moved more than 30 times in our marriage and everywhere we’ve lived we became friends with wonderful folks. Because Christian education gives more opportunities for connections, Sunday school was at the heart of it all, even for our children, and still is a vital part of our lives.
Ada Brownell is a retired reporter for The Pueblo Chieftain.
Her website: http://www.adabrownell.com