Our story is so common, a 125 year old congregation, inner-city, wants to minister to the community around it, I’m sure you have heard it all before.
Our average attendance: 170ish
Average Sunday school was: 30ish (all in, all ages)
Most families attended once a month
We have a separate family chapel, attended by substantially more persons than Sunday school hour.
Our take away was that families are interested, but not in our traditional model.
We kept coming back to the old adage “it takes a village…”
We have one service each Sunday, and following that we gather in our fellowship hall (which is what mostly everyone was doing anyway!) We have been using the Faith5 concepts (Dr. Rich Melheim, Faith Inkubators) for several years, so we begin each month with a potluck meal and we do the Faith5 in table groups as a community. Fellowship leads to sharing and it is a slippery slope from there into closer friendships and stronger connections.
The rest of the Sundays we gather following worship for fellowship, but there in the middle of the room is a square of tables for Christian Education. In that square I have 2 activities each Sunday for families to complete, related to the gospel reading, or the church season. The tables have chairs, and there is no time limit. The activities are appropriate for 2 different ages (preschool and elementary) but most families do both. Grandparents pick-up take home supplies for grandkids who can’t attend, and adult members without children have gravitated to participate as well.
We still have a retired pastor offering a bible study class in the library, if someone prefers that, and our confirmation and high school groups meet separately, because that’s just best for us. There is also room in the village for the Music Ministry team to plan hymn sings, or a camp songs day. The beauty is the flexibility, we make it what we want every Sunday.
What happens on Sundays is only ½ of the story though. We wanted to empower families to take Christian Education into their homes, every day, even if they can’t make it to worship on Sundays. So we made our Facebook page and website a tool for everyone. Each month there is a downloadable “fridge page” with lectionary readings to do the Faith5 daily, the page also has Christian education ideas to keep the fun going at home. Almost all those ideas come from Pinterest, so our church Pinterest page is another resource for families. Lastly, we created a Facebook group called @Home with St. John’s. I post there almost daily to encourage Faith5 participation in the home, share teasers for the coming Sunday’s village, and just start conversations about how this is working. We have been at it for a month now, and I am sure there will be much adjustment as we grow and change.
Here is a copy of their “downloadable fridge page” for Lent. –KLD
Katie Rode, Director of Family Ministries, St. John’s Lutheran Church, San Antonio