September 9, 2013

Trading Spaces: Sunday School Edition

Do as I say (and write), not as I do.

I’m teaching Sunday School this fall for the first time at our new-ish church. Our kids are old enough to make their way to the classrooms so I hadn’t spent much time looking at the space.  Yesterday was an eye-opener.

The walls are a mess, with scuffs and marker lines. The whiteboard would be more aptly named gray-with-squiggles board. The shelves are full of tired books probably purchased directly from Gutenberg. And I swear, the pictures on the wall were stolen from my Sunday School classroom three decades ago.

The room looks like we’re a church that doesn’t value our kids.

And yet, I know that’s not true. Our junior choir (second through sixth grade) sang for the first time this season, and twenty robed kids belted out, “How Can I Keep from Singing?” The middle school youth group gathered in the evening for dinner and a rich discussion about grace. Of the 250 or so in attendance for worship, at least fifty were children under the age of 12.

We are a multi-generational church that deeply cares about our children and the children in the community.

But our Sunday School classrooms don’t reflect that. Newcomers dropping off their children for a first session of Christian formation wouldn’t see this care evident in the space we’ve set aside for our children.

And I’m as much to blame as anyone. Oh, it’s easy to pawn it off as someone else’s problem. But I’m a member of the congregation. I’m a mom. I care about the children and their formation.

I just didn’t pay attention until now.

Honestly, I’m a bit ashamed to share this story with you, because I’ve been writing here for two years, often about the importance of hospitality and spaces that reflect welcome and care. It’s easy to finger-wag at others; sometimes harder to acknowledge where I’ve fallen short.

A few coats of paint and a trip to the store for new books and supplies will transform this room. And that’s my goal for the next couple of weeks. It won’t cost a lot to spruce it up, but I fear the greater cost if we don’t.