Like many churches these days, St. Andrew’s had limited volunteer resources and sporadic attendance at Church School. The “regular” families were frustrated and burned out. And my experience had taught me that parental involvement is the single most important success factor in Christian formation. We were ready to do church differently.
We’re an Episcopal church, with a rich liturgical tradition. I have long believed that worship is the most formative thing we do, and worship was working well. We have strong and consistent attendance for our Family Service, which meets during the readings, sermon and prayers of the primary service. We do all the same things, in a more family-friendly setting. Then we rejoin the primary service for Communion, every Sunday. We don’t have any rules about what ages belong where, or parental accompaniment; we let each family make the decision that suits them best. Many parents choose to worship with their children.
So, the decision to cancel regular Church School and adopt a hybrid formation program was really a decision to build on what was working well. FISH combines online program, which families do together at home, and face-to-face gatherings. Their Sunday morning commitment is shorter, but they have a commitment to at-home formation. Best of all, our families worship together, every Sunday.
Families log onto the FISH site weekly, and review the Gospel reading from the previous Sunday. There are discussion questions, prayer starters, and seasonal activities. Then, every four to six weeks, we gather face-to-face for Sunday FISHing. It’s a potluck lunch and teaching program that includes both multi-generational and age-specific activities. The topics vary from the Biblical story, to serving others, to seasonal offerings.
We’ve completed our second year of FISH and continue to adapt the website and the program. This summer we’re challenging ourselves to learn the Lord’s Prayer in different languages – check out the site to see the videos of our brave teachers!
Link to site: www.standrewsfish.weebly.com
Day Smith Pritchartt, Family Minister
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church- Arlington, Virginia