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An Interview with Pastor Ron Shifley

About his Sunday School at Immanuel Evangelical Church
in Needville, Texas

Pastor Ron with Sunday school kids

Many years ago, we spotted a young pastor in South Dakota visiting and contributing ideas. Fast-forward to 2022 and not only has Pastor Ron become a regular contributor, he’s joined our Board of Directors!

Ron has implemented the Workshop Rotation Model for Sunday School in three congregations that he's pastored. And as you'll learn, his latest implementation took place during the COVID pandemic(!) and was met with great success.

We recently interviewed Ron and here’s what he had to say. He also shared lots of great photos too!

How did you first hear about the Rotation Model and what attracted you to it?

I first heard about Rotation Model Sunday School at a regional Christian education seminar in northwest Ohio back in the early 2000s. I was attracted to the idea of teaching one Bible story for a month using different creative approaches each week. I was also attracted to the possibility of teaching with computers and doing higher-quality art projects instead of throw-away crafts. Improved retention and more appealing lessons were important to me.

How does a pastor get and STAY so involved in Sunday School?

I found my passion for working with kids and Sunday School during my seminary years when I was placed in a local church outside of Indianapolis to serve as the Christian Education minister. And I just never lost it. To this day I spend time going over our Rotation curriculum, helping to decide which workshops we might use, and making suggestions to the teachers. As the pastor and lead teacher of the congregation, it’s my responsibility to not only know what is being taught but how it is being taught. It’s also fun.

special tablecloth made by kids for the Communion table
In this photo from Ron, students have created a tablecloth for the Communion table in their Last Supper ~ Lord's Supper Workshop (a Writing Team lesson).

After becoming the pastor at Immanuel Evangelical, you started the Rotation Model during the COVID pandemic. How did you pull THAT off?

We kind of snuck up on them. My wife Deanna and I introduced the Rotation Model Sunday School as a “temporary substitute” when in-person ministry resumed here in Texas.

Because of the pandemic, our folks were naturally worried about attendance and didn’t want to waste a ton of money on traditional print curriculum that might go unused. That gave us the opportunity to introduce them to the Workshop Rotation Model and the great resources at which we had previously used in our Ohio and South Dakota congregations.

The big surprise for them was that kids really enjoyed the new ways of learning and that the teachers would have fun teaching the workshops too. The adults could see that the kids were retaining a lot more of the Bible story because of the four-week focus. And when our attendance not only rebounded but grew, our “temporary solution” became one of the bright lights in an otherwise challenging time.

Tell us about some of your favorite “Rotations” and Sunday School moments.

The story of Gideon was our first-ever Rotation at Immanuel. The kids had a lot of fun making ram’s horn “shofars” out of paper mache and party horns (an idea found at!) and then blowing them like Gideon and his army did. On the first week of Sunday School, kids left the Art Workshop playing their shofars to the delight of waiting parents and others in the congregation. They had never seen kids having such fun with an art project. We also brought in a real shofar and invited them to try to blow it just like Gideon did. That month we also used the Superbook video of Gideon which does a really good job of helping kids visualize the story. What fascinated Sunday School teachers was how much kids retained and how the kids thought it was one of the most exciting Bible stories they had ever learned.

JesusToast from a cooking workshop
"I am the bread of life" JESUS TOAST at Immanuel. One of the extra creative Cooking Workshop lessons found in the Writing Team's Jesus Feeds the 5000 Story and Toast Workshop.

Describe your setup and schedule for us.

We use our Rotation Model Sunday School on Sunday mornings during our 9:00 am Sunday School hour. Kids meet up for an opening and then divide up to go to their various learning centers (workshops). Because we started out being a "temporary" program, at first we didn't do much room decoration.

At a previous church in Ohio, we used the Rotation Model on Wednesday nights for our lessons because Sunday morning attendance there was a bit of a challenge. But here in Needville, Rotation was the right vehicle to motivate kids and parents to come back to Sunday morning worship after the pandemic.

How has the Rotation Model helped your congregation?

Our attendance has grown coming out of the pandemic, in part, because our Rotation-style Sunday School is attractive to families who are looking for something better for their kids. It sets us apart from those using traditional approaches. Needville is on the southwest edge of Houston and is expected to double in size over the next ten years, and the Rotation Model’s scalability will surely help us with that. We have begun featuring Rotation’s “Wormy” logo on our electronic church sign to let people know something different is happening here, and we’re ready to teach churches in Needville as well.

The outdoor sign at Immanuel Evangelical Church
Reaching out to the community, Immanuel's electronic sign features a slide of their Workshop Rotation Sunday School logo. (This photo of the electronic sign is pixelated but you get the idea!)

One of our parents was so excited about how our church was using laptop computers and software downloaded from to teach and keep her child’s attention, that she shared it with her friends on Facebook! It's the kind of personal outreach we want to encourage more of.

What are some of the surprises you’ve experienced using the Rotation Model in your churches?

My wife, Deanna, and I have found that Rotation Model Sunday School adapts well to both large and smaller congregations where we have served. One of the biggest surprises over the years has been how keen parents and leaders have been on exploring the use of computers and software in Sunday School, and how easy it has been to fund and establish computer Bible labs in each church’s Sunday School. People are ready for something different that doesn’t bore their kids.

Computers in Sunday school
One of Ron's favorite "go-to" software programs is Cal and Marty's Scripture Memory Game. It is available for free to our Supporting Members. Learn more

I was also pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to pull more adults into teaching our kids. Whether it’s dads playing Moses and Pharaoh in full costume, that certain teacher who loves to get her hands wet doing a Red Sea crossing experiment in a baby pool, or the ladies who jockey to teach in our “Eating Your Way Through the Bible” Cooking Workshop, it's great to see adults having fun learning and teaching the Bible.

The great thing about Rotation is that it taps our volunteers' many talents: cooking, sewing, drama, painting, sculpture, songwriting, computer tech—while others can fit in with something simpler like teaching with a Bible video or helping us with a game. And they get to experience excited learners. It’s quite a far cry from the old days of worksheets and folding chairs.

This photo shows Ron's students making Elijah's "Prophet Hair" t-shirts—one of the great art activities from the Writing Team's "Elijah" lesson set.

What have you learned about since becoming a Board member?

It has been so refreshing to discover that there are incredibly talented and committed Christians working behind the scenes of, who like me, share a passion for children’s ministry. Every volunteer and every member of the Board loves children and loves the Bible.

When I first started using, I never thought I’d be asked to become part of its volunteer Board of Directors. You might wonder if it’s more like a “corporate” publishing entity, but I quickly learned that is truly a community of down-to-earth volunteers who love Jesus and kids and creative teaching. I also didn’t fully realize how diverse our online community is across denominations and continents!

When I think of all the time and energy that goes into our site, its incredible lessons, its articles and regular flow of new ideas, its downloadable resources, its reach, its supportive community, and its potential, it’s kind of amazing that our “best of” is all available for just $45 a year...and most of it is for free. And now from the inside, I can also tell you that we struggle with keeping it at just $45. We really do need everyone’s support to keep this amazing ministry and online approach going.

How can people contact you?

You can find my email address on my member page here at ( or look me up on Facebook, or visit our church website: I’d be happy to chat with folks who want to know more about or how the Rotation Model can help them grow their church’s children’s ministry.

More Photos from Ron and the Immanuel Church:

Inside the belly of the whale.
Many Sunday Schools have used's Jonah's "Blow-Up Whale" instructions. Ron's church added a blacklight and glow-in-the-dark scripture inside the whale's belly!

Fiery Furnace Prayer Lamps

How do you measure up to Goliath?

See animated presentations about the Workshop Rotation Model


Images (11)
  • Pastor Ron with some of the kids
  • Elijah Tshirt art lesson
  • Communion Table Cloth created by kids
  • Goliath lesson, How do you measure up
  • Jesus Toast Lesson - I am the Bread of Life
  • Inside Jonah's Whale lesson
  • Ron Fiery Furnace Lamps
  • Inside Jonah's Whale glow in dark scripture
  • Immanuel's electronic sign
  • Computers in Sunday school
  • Ron with some of Immanuel's kids
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And be sure to check out Ron's report on his church's Summer Music Camp!


It happens in June each year with an attendance of around 70 kids.  The main purpose of the weeklong event is to learn and present a musical production (based on a story from the Bible) to the public at a Friday night performance. They use lessons and ideas from to create the rest of the week's experience to fulfill their secondary goal which is to teach the Bible story that the musical is based on.  That Bible story becomes the basis of the week's Bible storytelling, crafts, games, and snacks.

Read more here.


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  • SummerMusicCamp

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