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When is your Sunday School planning on "re-opening" in your church building?

This survey ended August 15th. See the results and conversation below.

Also posted below: Neil's summary comments about the results and follow-up with several survey-takers.

We are open now in our building.
We have a plan to open in August.
We have a plan to open in September.
We are taking a wait and see approach.
We have decided to stay online/at-home for the next few months.
Other
Posted by Neil MacQueen ·

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I have my planning calendar in place through the end of the year with online programing. After listening to the CDC, local health officials and the Washington State Governor, I will take a look at what the new year might look like. 

Loving our neighbor as our self is paramount when we look at keeping our kids safe during this time. Our neighbor include all the older adults in our community and caring for them. 

We are growing active followers of Jesus Christ and building his community through our online presence in worship and children's programs. 

We are an evangelical church in Canada. Our church service has cautiously re-opened with severe restrictions (limited attendance, social distancing, masks required), but our Sunday School is on hold until we see what happens with the school re-opening, as you said. We are planning to make "camp boxes" for the kids with lessons and supplies so they can do some learning at home with their parents. We have tried to be engaged during the pandemic, so we hope that our families will stay involved and will return when things settle down, whenever that is. Thank you for all the resources here. 

Editor's Note: This post was also copied to the COVID resource forum so more people could see it.

COVID "CAMP BOXES" (at-home lessons in a box)

I was asked to post pictures of what the "camp boxes" that we sent home for the kids looked like.

For the younger group --preschool to grade 1, our teacher made up a set of 5 weekly lessons (seen in photo of the folders) with supplies for crafts for each one.

For the grade 2-6 kids we emailed out the Proverbs lesson set from rotation.org.

For the youth (grades 6-10) we emailed rotation.org's lessons on worship songs. (Editor's note: Plumtree is either referring to this post on worship songs, or this one!)

The grade 2-6 kids all got a pretty notebook, some coloured pens or pencils, an instruction letter, and some Alphabet stickers. The notebook was to write out the lesson proverbs as well as any others from the Bible that they wanted to record, along with prayers or thoughts or questions related to the lessons. I challenged them to use all of the alphabet stickers, one per entry.

The youth got the notebooks and pens but no stickers.

2020 Fall Age 3-5 box2020 Fall Age 3-5 contents2020 Fall Grades 2-10 Contents

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August 17, 2020

Post-survey comments from Neil

Based on the votes, individual comments, and follow-up emails to and from a number of respondents, about 75% of our voters in AUGUST were in the "wait and see" and "staying away for the next few months" categories, rather than planning on opening in August or September.

See my thoughts about these results and other "return" factors below in this post.


I contacted a number of those who voted "We are open now in our building." What many meant was that their WORSHIP SERVICE was open, not their Sunday School. Several said they had opened "children's worship" concurrent with adult worship. One was open in Canada where the infection rates are under control. 

Adjusting for these follow-up responses, I would put the number of responders who were "already back in Sunday Schoolcloser to 6% or 7% than 13%.

Two survey respondents who had voted "Plans for September opening" emailed me two weeks after they voted to say their church had "postponed" their opening to "taking a wait and see approach" due to a resurgence of the virus in their area.

Looking over the votes of "Other" (6%), most of those included an explanation that describes them in the category of "wait and see" or "not returning in the fall." 

It should be noted that traditionally most of Rotation.org's members come from "mainline" Protestant churches (UMC, Lutheran, Presbyterian, etc.) with a smaller but growing number of evangelical members among us. A large proportion of our members are also from the Midwest and Plains states. That's important to note because as you will read below, there is a bit of a "denominational divide" when it comes to "reopening."  Keep in mind that "re-opening" means a return to worship and not necessarily a return to classes or small groups. Non-worship programming seems to be further behind.

 See my updated "Re-Opening Issues to Consider" in our COVID resource forum.

Based on my reading, this survey, and talking to members...

  • "Re-opening" means different things to different churches and in different areas and countries. My remarks here are for the USA and about Sunday School.
  • Not all regions and towns in the US are experiencing the same level of pandemic. Some are already "open" to an extent, and some believe their gatherings and practices are not contributing to the local infection rate. Could be true, or due to lack of testing it could be sadly mistaken. Time will tell. Caution is a good thing right now.
  • The experience of public schools re-opening this fall across the U.S. will likely be the main influencer on when and if Sunday Schools reopen this fall in certain areas. Indeed, as I type this, several major colleges are re-closing their in-class options. I think most churches are wise to take a "wait and see" approach to see what happens with local public school openings.
  • To some churches and leaders, reopening sooner rather than later is part of their denominational/political identity (this accding to the Pew report linked below). This could be a driving force in some congregations and likely point of friction. But it's one thing for leaders to decide and another for parents to follow. We'll see.
  • Due to expected lower initial attendance, when Sunday School does "reopen" it may need to be "phased in" in some places with broadly graded groups, shorter class times, and adjustments due to certain families and teachers not yet returning.
  • Expect "in-class" Sunday School to return much slower than worship in most churches. (See the Disney attendance link below.)
  • Small churches may have an advantage in that their "in-class" return will naturally involve smaller numbers and that means safety and a return to "normal" should happen more quickly. (Finally good news for small churches, huh?)
  • We will still have to have a plan to "include" those who don't immediately return so that they don't feel left behind.
  • Those churches which have been ACTIVELY reaching out to their families and providing encouragement and resources will do better upon their "return." Those who were lukewarm or asleep during the pandemic will likely reap what they have sown. (That's an opinion.)
  • We need to have a larger discussion about the things we have learned from our "Exile," what we need to continue, and what changes we need to make.


One of my personal concerns is that some churches will RUSH to reopen their Sunday School and get people sick. Not only would that be bad, but we also do not need to give millennials and younger people ANOTHER reason to question going to church, or reinforce their growing negative opinion about "the competence of the Church" as an institution -- an opinion that has been sliding for over a decade according to Barna and Pew surveys.

This is a really tough issue, and it's only going to get tougher when Sunday Schools are faced with families who refuse to vaccinate.   

 See my updated "Re-Opening Issues to Consider" in our COVID resource forum.

<>< Neil MacQueen



Looking wider...

I've been looking for other "surveys" of Sunday School plans to reopen and not been able to find any. Most are about returning to worship -- which is not the same thing.

An August 7, 2020 Pew Research report found that a church community's predicted politics and denominational affiliation has a lot to do about their decision to open and "how open" they are. Evangelical and Republican-leaning churches tend to have already returned to their buildings for worship, whereas more mailine and "Protestant" churches are still in various states of being closed. That only pertains to worship, however, not Sunday School or in-building small groups.

Among adults who go to church regularly, only 6 percent said their church was "back to normal" as it was prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. The report didn't define "normal" but I'm guessing they mean "no restrictions" or "full attendance." Thus, regardless of your politics or denominational affiliation, "normal" has not re-opened.   And indeed, some church leaders are wondering if "normal" will ever return for many churches (or should).

For some thought-provoking articles on that subject, read Pastor Cary Nieuwhof' blog:


Will families return? 

Increasers outnumber decreasers!

Ten percent of Americans, according to Pew (Aug 2020), said they’ll go to church more often after the pandemic has abated, while 5 percent said they will go less often.

Of Americans who go to church at least monthly, 16 percent said they will go more often, and 7 percent said they will go less often.

https://cruxnow.com/church-in-...orship-restrictions/

But be prepared...

Even Disney World is reporting LOWER than expected attendance since they reopened.

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