A Sunday School "Makeover" Story

Introduction from Amy Crane
Rotation.org Board President

When I started seeing member JoHannah's posts in our lesson forums, I was inspired by their creativity and intrigued that they were right up the road from me here in Louisiana. So I called on JoHannah and asked about her Sunday School's story. Now five years into their Rotation Model "makeover" and going strong, what makes their story even more inspiring to me is they did it with an all-volunteer staff. 

The following are excerpts from our conversations and photos from their church. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. If you want to know more about "starting" the Rotation Model or simply want ideas for remodeling your Sunday School, read this story and others like it in our "start up stories" forum and look for inspiration in our "Starting the Rotation Model" articles and photos of creative classrooms and workshops.  


A Sunday School "Makeover" Story

From an interview with JoHannah Stroud
Goodwood Church of Christ, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Introduction from JoHannah
Like many Sunday Schools, we were experiencing problems with dwindling attendance and recruiting teachers. Every Sunday and Wednesday a new and different lesson had to be put together. Teachers were tired and were getting discouraged that after all their prep, they'd only have only 1 or 2 students.

Discouraged, we knew something had to change. but what?

That's when a group of us got together in 2014 to brainstorm solutions. I had seen Rotation.org online and found the Rotation Model very interesting. We had taught our VBS like this and I did not see why it wouldn’t work on Sundays. Here's a photo of the original five women who gathered at my house to discuss what I had found. They too were excited and we celebrated our new-found enthusiasm and vision with ice cream!! 

Goodwood-IceCream

The church Elders were a little hesitant at first. Initially, I don’t think they fully understood the Rotation concept but I presented it as a program similar to VBS and they approved it. We laughed when one of our elders got up to announce before the entire church that he was confident in these new ideas because teachers have "over 100 years of teaching experience combined!" Apart from feeling a bit "old" after that comment   ...it is true -- the five of us leading the change were "seasoned" and ready to lead in this new direction.

One of our biggest needs was the "renovation" of our old rooms and boring hallways. So we shut down our Education Hall for a month to go to work. 

Goodwood-Makeover

We used "Caution" and "Keep Out" tape across the hall entrance. We also found a traffic control business that was kind enough to lend us cones and different items that added to making it look fun rather than just a big mess. It also helped build the anticipation.

Hallway Renovation Before:

GoodwoodReno5

Education Hallway AFTER Renovation!

Goodwood-MakeoverHallway

On the first morning Sunday of renovation, one of our volunteers dressed as a construction worker with a bullhorn and very loudly directed the kids to our temporary class area. (You can see her in the photo above.)

Volunteer workers gathered every weekend for a month to transform our classrooms into Rotation workshops. A lot of carpentry and painting went on as we worked towards our February 1, 2015 launch when that Sunday after worship, everyone was invited to come see what we had been up to. The response was tremendous.

Goodwood-JoHannahAmy: Tell us about yourself and your fellow teachers.

JoHannah: I'm one of the Sunday School volunteer teachers at our church. Having taught for 37 years, this is the first church where I've taught Rotation-style classes. 

We decided that each of our teaching styles naturally fit into the different rotation workshops that we wanted to teach with:

  • I chose the Movie room because I love movies.
  • Terry chose Drama (she's so creative).
  • Denise chose Games (she was often our Ladies group's game leader).
  • Chris & Liz chose Art because they were known for their artistic abilities.


Amy: How did you get started with your makeover?

JoHannah:  To present the idea, we asked for a meeting with the Elders of our church. They were a little hesitant at first. I don’t think they understood the concept, but I presented it as a program just like our VBS, only we would do it all the time.

We laughed when one of our elders got up to announce before the church that we were making a big change in our Education Program. He stated that he felt confident in this idea seeing how the Ladies who presented it have approximately, between all of them, over 100 years of teaching experience! We said, “Well, in a nice way, you said we are old!” LOL

But it is true that all 5 of us are older, well-seasoned teachers, and we fell in love with this program.


Nuts and Bolts

Amy: Where do you get your curriculum?

JoHannah: Each teacher is responsible for her own lessons. As mentioned before we all have MANY years of teaching experience and have a wealth of old materials to pull ideas from. Denise (who has games) and I are Supporting Members of Rotation.org and we often go to the site to get ideas.

We are currently in Year Five of a six-year "Scope and Sequence" of stories. I called on many churches that use Rotation and talked with them about what order of stories and how many years worked best for them. But as I learned, this program is so flexible you have the freedom to do what is best for your teachers and your students. We chose to spend three years in the Old Testament, two on the life of Christ, and our final year in Acts (after which we go back to start the OT again).

When we started we decided on 4-year-olds through fifth grade. But we discovered that bringing preschoolers into the workshops wasn't working, so each year we have raised the age at which our kids start in the workshop. Currently, we start at Kindergarten.

Our teacher in Art, Terry McClure, is very artistic and we now have a running mural of the Bible starting at one end of the hall to the other end. It truly is unbelievable. We are now having the students go locate the lessons on the wall mural which helps them place it chronologically within the Bible and also their memory. 

Goodwood-mural1

Amy: Do you have the same workshops for each rotation or do they vary based on the Bible story?

JoHannah: Pretty much we stick with :

  • 1st Week – Movie room
  • 2nd Week – Art
  • 3rd Week – Drama
  • 4th Week – Games
  • For those months which have 5 weeks, we have started having a singing class.

Also, if a lesson fits something different, we do it! Walls of Jericho was great for a cooking rotation: we used food to build the walls.

Since I am in the Movie room my favorite lessons are the ones taught with the Superbook series of movies. They are well done and relevant to the kids. They always look forward to the lesson when I say it will be a Superbook Movie. Noah was especially good, and who cannot like Moses?   (You can see a video of JoHannah welcoming the students to their newly renovated Movie room here.)

"I am a happier teacher"

Amy: How do you as a teacher feel about teaching in a Rotation style Sunday School?

JoHannah:  I think this will be how I teach from now on! I am a happier teacher in that I feel that the pressure is gone to finish teaching a lesson on Sunday only to have to hurry and come up with something for the next class which was not too many days away. The students love the new and different approaches each Sunday and Wednesday.

I encourage anyone who is hesitant to jump in. We have learned as we have taught and have tweaked our program as we needed. You will fall back in love with teaching God’s word to his children!

 We are grateful to JoHannah and her church for sharing their story and photos. 

And in case you haven't seen it, here's their famous "Jonah's Whale" video that first drew me to their story. Hope you enjoy it 

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Original Post

Sunday School Makeover Story: Part II

Chris Goodrum, one of two art workshop leaders at Goodwood Church of Christ, had shared some additional insight about how they implemented the Workshop Rotation Model at their church. She concludes with TIPS TO PASS ALONG to new startups.

"Rotation has been an answer to prayer"


I have been teaching Sunday school about 30 years, various ages from nursery to middle school girls. This was in traditional Bible class settings until 5 years ago when Rotation began. 

When JoHannah saw a need for a change in our Bible classes due to teacher attrition and families with our students moving away, she started researching and found Workshop Rotation Model. She then presented the idea to a core group of teachers to see what we thought. We passed it by the Deacon over education in our church, and our four classes/workshops were decided on. Each Workshop was spoken for by one of the ladies who agreed to make a presentation to our elders. We presented reasons why this would work best for our congregation, who would coordinate each class, how we would handle classrooms, and for the future, how we can modify the schedule when our congregation grows. The change was approved by our elders.

We started our Rotation "trial" workshops with well-known Bible stories. While we worked on our new workshop rooms, each week we organized one Rotation workshop in our large fellowship room with all the children. It went great!

For the Art Workshop, we have moved into a double classroom (2 rooms made into one large one) that has been painted with bright colors and has extra tables for our projects. It’s wonderful to have plenty of room to work.

We strive to have something engaging beyond the old coloring sheets. We have used cooking, crafts, science, and hands-on projects that are then used in the Drama Workshop. We have incorporated take-home projects that help each child remember the lesson or as a gift for others. We teach an application for their lives, and sometimes the craft has to do with that application.

The children benefit from different modes of teaching from four or more teachers. By the time the fourth Workshop comes around, they have heard the story four times, four different perspectives, and four different activities.

Tips I want to pass along:

  • We have a set of age-appropriate Bibles, assigned to each student, that travels with each class as they rotate. from workshop to workshop. When the children graduate to the youth group, they take their Bibles with them with notes from the lessons they studied in our Workshops.
  • Children’s ages: K – 5th grade.  For us, it didn’t really work well with preschoolers.
  • Fifth Sunday activities: We have an electronic Jeopardy game that can be programmed with questions and answers. The kids have fun with this game and we occasionally have a square-off between the kids and the adults over that month’s lesson! Great fun!
  • We have an Ice Cream Sunday in August (timed with the school year) to say goodbye to kids moving into the youth group, to welcome kids moving up to begin their Rotation experience, and to mark the beginning of a new Rotation Year.

Overall, Rotation has been an answer to prayers for those of us who are dedicated to teaching but would like more time to prepare quality lessons and activities than the weekly class responsibility will allow. At this time, we each teach once a month and we have time to really study and develop our lesson when it’s our turn to present the lesson!

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