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Reply to "Breathing New Life into Your WoRM Sunday School"

Originally posted by Neil MacQueen in the "Breathe New Life Into Your WoRM" forum.

Comfort Zones ⇒  Ruts ⇒ Change

Human beings and organizations are prone to finding ruts because they often start out as comfort zones, and we love comfort zones. But as anybody who has sat in their favorite recliner knows all too well,  comfort can lead to stiffness and soreness.   So it is with programs at church.

Of course, we already knew this:

"Familiarity breeds Contempt," 
"To everything there is a season."

At its heart, Rotation was and is a model that seeks to change, adapt, and reinvigorate. It is not supposed to be come another rut.

Rotation recognizes that change is good. We change the workshops each week for the kids to expose them to a different "lens" or style of learning the story. So it shouldn't surprise us that the way we do Rotation Model, or our rooms, or our teachers and leaders need to change too from time to time.  

After a number of years of launching Rotation Sunday Schools in a couple of my churches, there's something to be said for taking a break, too. All things need to be laid aside from time to time.  This is the concept of "Sabbatical". God took a day off, so it's okay to take time off from the WoRM and come back refreshed.  Sabbatical can mean taking a break from "the same workshops," or "from the same teachers," or "same decor." It can mean doing something else over the summer, or during Advent, or in the Spring.  See the "Jubilee" concept linked below for an entire year off from "regular" Sunday School.

One of the big reasons we should institutionalize "change" in our schedule is to force OURSELVES to learn something new.  Any good habit or familiar approach can become a crutch that stops you from thinking outside the box. Creativity often arises due to necessity. So create a need in your schedule. 

Change can be as simple as circling a few weeks or months on a calendar and writing, "Do Something Different."  Nothing like a deadline to motivate!   Do it a year in advance, and spend time brainstorming throughout that year about what you might do.  And here's a tip: invite some different people to do that different thing, rather than using the "same old go-to leaders".  

A concept for change: The Year of Jubilee

One of the things we created in a former church's Rotation Sunday School was a "Year of Jubilee." It was a year in which Sunday School would be completely different, even experimental. We created it to get us to dream, to predict our rut in advance and put ourselves in a position to learn something new, stretch ourselves. It was a good idea for us, for the teachers, for the kids, and for the parents. Out of it came some good learning ministry too.

I've talked about it a little more over here in the "recruiting teachers" topic. Difficulty recruiting teachers is one of those signs that a "rut" has developed, and that topic has some good advice in it about that.

Other ways to re-invigorate your Rotation Sunday School

Re-design and Re-launch a workshop or two.

Remember the initial excitement your cool rooms attracted? Do it again. 

ADD a special feature, or brand new workshop or two. This is how a lot of computer labs get started.  Or look around this site for some new exciting ways to do a certain workshop and implement it.

How about changing up your schedule? How about creating "A Year of Teaching Assistants" which prepares a group of teens and brings them into your workshops to lead/help. 

What's the ONE WORKSHOP that's been STUCK IN YOUR CRAW?  Music? Tackle it. Puppets? Focus on it and go whole-hog. 

On your SECOND GO-ROUND of Rotation stories?  This time, teach Exodus from front to back, Egypt all the way to Jericho, and include lots of music and drama. How about making it the church's focus, too?

Try the once-a-month FAITH MENTORS workshop described here at It's simple: parents attend one of the workshops each rotation to learn with their student.

Create an intergenerational workshop for each rotation where you invite parents and other adults to attend. (Pick a story and learning activity that lends itself to inter-generational learning).

Change in leadership can reinvigorate. Who have you NOT been recruiting?  And change your recruiter while you're at it, or the way you staff workshops. How about asking the choir to take over your music workshop every couple of months?  Or have the youth group lead your drama workshop for Advent?


Is it YOU who have run out of steam? And how could you address YOUR need for re-invigoration?

The weight of a program can produce drag. How can you administrate things more efficiently so that you can have time to work on these other issues and problems? What do you need to stop doing, that's not that productive anyway, so you can do something that's more important, or more creative?   (This is advice I regularly address in my own business). Less is More.



Message Fatigue?  or Message Failure?

After a few years, parents and leaders can forget why they are rotating, or start to take the creativity for granted. That's normal. Part of the problem is we are always in an "announcement mode" to explain "WHAT" is happening, rather than "WHY" it's important, or "why" we are doing it that way.  As mentioned in the "How the Rotation Model Can Fail" article, if only the leaders know "why" then when they leave, the congregation and parents can revert back to "whatever." 

Our volunteers and congregations can only handle so much information. Use their attention span wisely, making sure you explain WHY you're teaching like you're teaching.  Reduce the constant drum beat. Change your approach. Get personal.

<>< Neil

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