@Neil MacQueen posted:
3. I've come to the conclusion that one of the biggest mistakes churches can make these days is holding Sunday School BEFORE worship.
AFTER worship, people are:
(a) already there
(b) feeling challenged and energized to act on their faith
(c) more likely to follow the example of others, including their friends and go to class ("positive peer pressure).
I saw this "after" effect in one of the small churches where I used to volunteer and served on staff for a short time. When they moved to a new building and decided to switch classes to "before" worship, attendance started to drop like a rock. Getting up for 9 am Sunday School is a 1960's way of thinking. Psychologically, worship is the bigger "must do" so why not put it first and use it as the lead-in to Sunday School when everyone is already there? Of course, it's not one change but several, that need to be considered, but this one is rarely talked about. And I know it would be a problem for "two-worship service" churches, but they are the minority. LITERALLY: The times they are a changin.
I agree with Neil somewhat on this. But there are a few problems as well.
While it is true that after worship: people are already there, feeling energized to act on their faith, and more likely to follow others into a class, there are also a few problems that can occur when Sunday School is held after worship. I have served churches that have scheduled Sunday School before and after worship, so here's a list from experience as a pastor.
Sunday School after worship is a problem when...
1. The church wants to schedule a congregational dinner, a congregational meeting, or a special missions speaker, etc., after worship. In all of these situations Sunday School classes get sacrificed because the scheduling of these other big events are given priority over Sunday School. I don't know how many times we had to cancel classes for dinners, etc.
2. Folks want to go out to eat, or go somewhere else, as a family right after worship. A lot of folks tend to think that once worship (the big event) of the day is over, then it's family time. This places families who attend Sunday School classes into a tough bind. Do they attend class and miss out on the family gathering, or skip Sunday School and go with the rest of their family out to eat.
3. Parents who drop off their kids for Sunday School after worship are much more impatient for Sunday School classes to end early because they want to get on the road. I heard much more griping when classes didn't dismiss at the exact time, or earlier, when Sunday School was scheduled after worship than I did in churches where it was held before worship.
4. Worship services run over because of some special event, cut Sunday School time short. The time squeeze shortens the Sunday School hour on both ends when worship lasts longer than expected.
The truth is there are pros and cons to scheduling Sunday School before or after worship. [Actually churches which host two worship services have it easier. Either these churches schedule Sunday School so that they occur at the same time as one of the worship options (there are before and after Sunday School classes) or they schedule Sunday School classes between worship services (like the cream in an Oreo cookie) so everyone is available to attend the good stuff!]
Either way, it is still a communication issue to make Sunday School for kids, youth and adults a priority in the life of the congregation that is important enough to come early or stay late for.