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A Brief History of

In 1997, the website was created by Neil MacQueen to share his church's Workshop Rotation Model manual, seminar articles, and lesson plans.

From 1998-2000, Neil and a group of fellow Rotation enthusiasts managed and expanded the site with more lessons, paying for it out of their own pockets and the occasional donation. These folks came from a variety of churches across the US and Canada, and included teachers, pastors, and Christian educators.

During this same time, the Workshop Rotation Model itself was spreading out from its original base in Chicago as individuals began sharing the word at local, regional, and national seminars. In an article about Sunday School in 2002, Time magazine called the Rotation Model "one of the most innovative."

In 2000, a message board was added to --allowing others to post lesson ideas and discuss topics with each other. It was a first for Christian education, and set the course for what we were to become --a website that can collect and archive great materials so that they are here when YOU need them (and not subject to publishing/marketing/product calendars).

In 2001, a donation from a Rotation church allowed us to hire Phyllis and Ken Wezeman as our part-time coordinators. In addition to helping people with the site, they began shepherding a group of volunteer writers known as "the Writing Team."

In 2005, our first official volunteer Board of Directors was formed and took over the decision-making from Neil MacQueen. Neil served on the Board and Carol Hulbert was elected our first president.

In 2008, was incorporated as a non-profit and ownership of the site was officially transferred from Neil to Inc. Later that year, Neil stepped off the Board and into an advisory role.

In 2010, in order to help fund and expand the site, the Board began offering annual Supporting Memberships. It was a smashing success.

In 2012, began a major review and renovation of content. Later that year we also moved everything on our site to a new "software platform" (the software behind our site).  

Acutely aware of our growing technical and editing needs, in the fall of 2012, the Board hired Neil as its very part-time webmaster and "content renovator." From 2012-2014, Neil worked with a group of volunteers and Board members to "read, weed, and feed" our public lesson forums.

In 2013, was accepted into Google Adwords' grant program, which gives non-profits $10,000 worth of free search engine advertising on Google every month.

Early in 2015, the Board decided to replace the original volunteer Writing Team's lessons with lessons that met its creative and formatting standards. In May 2015, the Board hired Neil to lead that effort and he worked with members of the Board to write new lessons over the next three years.

In 2016, our site's software platform once again underwent a major layout and feature transformation in order to make it 100% compatible and "responsive" on all types of computers and screen sizes.

In 2017, the Board approved more work on the Writing Team lesson sets and expanded presence on Facebook. We also began to more broadly adapt our "Rotation Style" lessons to the wider audience that comes to our website and who use a variety of models, times, and places to teach Bible lessons to kids.

In 2020-21, we undertook a herculean effort to adapt many of our lessons for online and at-home use during the COVID pandemic. An entire new forum of resources, lessons, and articles was built to address needs. These resources become some of the most visited on our site.

Here in 2022, we created the new "Go!" Renew, Launch" forum of lessons, ideas, and resources to help Sunday Schools get back on their feet after a devasting two-year pandemic. These "GO!" resources are the Board's birthday gift to our members and will be expanded over the years to continue to stoke renewal efforts. At the same time, we dismantled our enormous Pandemic-era forum, then edited and redistributed many of its wonderful lesson ideas into our regular lesson forums. We also kept our "online Sunday School" inspirations and plan to expand those at a later time.

...and they said it wouldn't last.

Learn more about

Learn more about our Board of Directors

Our Vision

  • To teach others about the Workshop Rotation Model for Sunday School.
  • To be a  "lampstand" for creative ideas, teachers, and lesson writers.
  • To be a place where Christian educators can support one another and ask questions.
  • To be an innovative and open online resource for all types of Sunday Schools.
  • To demonstrate to the denominations not only a great way to do Sunday School, but a way to create and share creative content online across the grassroots and denominational lines.


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Original Post

A Personal History of The Workshop Rotation Model

Where the idea came from
Where the name came from
Where this site came from

by Neil MacQueen, one of the founders of and the Rotation Model

Updated for's 25th Birthday

NeilPhotoI'm occasionally asked, "how did Rotation or come about?" Having been at the founding of both I've written this personal history for those who want to know the story. When I look back at this story, however, what's obvious to me are the many unmentioned people and key moments that made these things what they are today. How often we entertain angels unaware.

The following is an expanded version of the personal Rotation history that I shared a few years ago. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed recalling it.

Where did the "Rotation Model" come from?

Like many churches and church educators, over the years I had experimented with rotating kids through various learning activities or "stations" and theme-y classrooms for special programs, such as VBS. And like everyone else, I concluded that rotating and special set-ups were great, but the level of creativity was unsustainable --especially when you had to change the story each week and do a new setup.

When I arrived at the Presbyterian Church of Barrington (Illinois) in 1989 as the Associate Pastor for Education, I discovered the triple-whammy of horrible classrooms, poor curriculum that few were following, and worn-out teachers. So in June of 1990, I sat down in front of a flipchart with Melissa Hansche our newly hired part-time Christian educator, and Julie Ramseyer our children's choir director --and we listed all the things we didn't like about our Sunday Schoo and try to come up with some solutionsl. Among the many more important issues, one of my pet peeves was that our teachers were avoiding our trove of A-V equipment and audio-visuals. Another was our incredibly bland and boring rooms. After two hours of complaining and no answers, I went home for lunch feeling discouraged.

beanbaconsoupPutting a bowl of my favorite soup in front of me (Bean w Bacon), my wife listened to my discouragement and then said, "What would you do if you could start from scratch?"  I replied, "I'd put all the A-V equipment and audio-visual resources in one room, staff it with someone who liked AVs (like me!), and rotate every grade in there once a month so the other teachers could not avoid using audio-visuals."

Suddenly, that brainstorm of creating an A-V centered classroom exploded into an art* room, a game room, and a drama room --three other teaching methods our teachers were also avoiding. (*I do not consider coloring and construction paper crafts to be "art.")

And that's when my wife said, "That sounds exciting, why don't you just do it?"

I got up and called Melissa and Julie to come back to the church. Amazingly, they said "yes."

When they arrived, I sat them down and started drawing circles on a flipchart --one for each classroom we had available. Then I started labeling each classroom with a different teaching method: "Art," "A-V," "Drama," "Games," and "Music."

I've drawn those same basic circles to describe Rotation
in dozens of seminars over the years. This screenshot comes
from our animated presentation explaining the Model.

I then wrote the name of a teacher beside each circle (room) and a rotating arrow to represent our grade groups.  Then I wrote "Prodigal Son" in the center of the circle. As I remember it, Melissa and Julie jumped toward the flipchart as giddy as I was and started talking about creative teaching ideas for each room.

And that was it. What would eventually be called "The Workshop Rotation Model" had been born.

Only one or two of our teachers didn't like the idea of giving up having the same kids all year. Most were rather relieved when we explained that they would be repeating and adapting their lessons four weeks in a row in a redesigned classroom to a different group each week.

At the time, coming up with the Rotation Model felt like a flash of inspiration, but very quickly we realized that each of us had been playing around with elements of the Rotation Model for many years. We had experienced medium-specific "learning centers" in a classroom. We had decorated creative spaces in VBS. And as a seminary intern tasked with creating a summer Sunday School, I had created three-week "rotations" on single stories using art and filmstrips(!), and drama supplies we already had in our storage room.

We also knew we had a treasure trove of creative lesson materials sitting on our shelves. In some ways, creating the Rotation Model was just a perfect storm. We had nothing to lose and everything to gain.

All we had left to do was convince our committee, the teachers, and the church elders at the Presbyterian Church of Barrington Illinois --and surprisingly, that wasn't hard. I'll never forget the moment after our "presentation" to the church Session when one of the elders said, "My kids grew up in this church and didn't like Sunday School, and now they don't take our grandkids to church. Anything you can do to keep that from happening to other families is all right by me." A lot of heads nodded in agreement with him, and the vote to "try" Rotation was unanimous.

(The original Drama Workshop at the Presbyterian Church of Barrington, circa 1993.)

It all seems obvious now, but in the beginning it was kind of scary. We didn't know how the kids and teachers would react. We had to explain a brand new way of doing things to everyone, including the parents. We had to convert all our rooms. We didn't know if there would be backlash, or if it would burn us out. But within a few weeks, we knew people loved it, and it had been the right thing to do. Attendance grew, we had no trouble getting teachers, and the excitement and sense of possibilities rose like a tide throughout our entire education program.

We've since heard from other educators who had similar program epiphanies. For some, the final piece of the puzzle was spending multiple weeks per story or not rotating their teachers. For others, to convince their own church to change they just needed churches they could point to.

Where did the name "Workshop Rotation Model" come from?

One of our art teachers started calling her room "The Art Workshop" and when we needed names to put on signs for the other rooms we started calling all of them "workshops." Melissa Hansche and I coined the term "Workshop Rotation Model" a few months into our first year as a shorthand way of describing what we were doing to other educators. Within our congregation, we simply called it "Sunday School" or "Sunday School Workshops." Sometime in the mid 90's people started calling it "the WoRM" and that fun acronym stuck.

Here's what "Wormy" our mascot looked when he first appeared in June of 2002.



The above photo is of the A-V Workshop at a church where I served as a Parish Associate --helping them revitalize their children's ministry. I've implemented the Rotation Model at four churches, each time a little differently.

And then it exploded...

At first, we were surprised it all worked so well. And then we started to tell some of our CE friends in Chicago, and it started to work well for them too. Palatine Pres in Palatine Illinois was the first to prove our concept wasn't peculiar to us, and several more churches followed in the early 90's. We started getting together with them and occasionally held seminars, including some that attracted friends from other states. I wrote a few articles in various Christian Educator magazines and newsletters introducing the Rotation Model.

The great explosion of the Model across the national scene happened in 1996. That winter, the Association of Presbyterian and Reformed Educators held its annual conference in Chicago and sent a bus-load of participants to our church to learn about the WoRM.  

That night after the bus-load got back to the conference hotel, they started to tell others about this crazy new model they'd seen in Barrington. The next morning, when Melissa and I arrived at the hotel to do a seminar for those who couldn't make the bus trip, we walked into a crowded room of over 100 people, half sitting on the floor. Honestly, it freaked us out.  

Over those two days in Chicago, dozens of creative educators found the final piece of the puzzle they too had been looking for to revamp their Sunday School. From those two seminars, WoRM churches began springing up in Presbyterian churches all over the country. Others attended seminars led by other Chicago Rotation folks and began telling churches in their own areas. By the late 90's and early 2000's, several publishers had begun to publish Rotation curriculum. From 1995 to 2004, I delivered seminars across the country talking about software in Sunday School and the Rotation Model. I also wrote a book about the Rotation Model.

But along the way, most Rotation Modelers kept sharing their ideas and lesson with one another --an ethos that in 1997 would give rise to

How did come about?

In 1996, I left full-time parish work to pursue my growing passion for teaching with computers in Christian education --an idea that had grown out of my work with the Rotation Model. I started Sunday Software and began leading educator seminars around the country introducing both software and the Rotation Model. (I must have done a hundred of these before retiring from the seminar circuit in 2004.)

But as I gave the "intro" seminars, I soon realized that people had more questions than I had time to answer. They wanted lesson ideas and they wanted to connect with others who had taken the leap. So on August 30th, 1997 I purchased the domain name "" and began posting a bunch of my seminar handouts, lesson ideas, and a free manual online. For the next three years I also collected lesson plans from fellow Rotation leaders. The site took off in 2000 when I installed a message board on it. It allowed people to register, share their own materials without my help, and talk to each other rather than through me. Like the Rotation Model itself, broke new ground on a completely new medium --the internet.

By 2005 we formed a governing Board, and by 2008 we had incorporated as a 501(c)3 non-profit. The heroes of that story can be seen on our Board of Directors page past and present. The creativity, heart, and soul these volunteers have given us, and guided me with, has been nothing short of heaven-sent. I was lucky to have been at the founding of both the Rotation Model and this site, but I have been truly blessed to have been carried on this journey by so many incredible and creative people.

How have the Denominations and Publishers reacted to Rotation?

Some not so well. My own denomination viewed it suspiciously and (rightly) worried about what it would mean to their curriculum sales. By contrast, Augsburg and UMPH embraced it to the point of writing their own Rotation curriculums (which eventually the Presbyterians did too).

By the late 90's, the Model was spreading faster than anyone could imagine. Local networks began popping up around the country. Articles started appearing in denominational magazines and even local newspapers. Resource centers started talking about it and sponsoring seminars. And there were Rotation curriculums starting to pop up. In the early 2000's, when the denoms and publishers realized Rotation was a vibrant option and not a fad, the big curriculum publishing arms of the ELCA, PCUSA, UMC, and even Group published "rotation-like" curriculum. They were a bit watered-down, but at least they recognized that the traditional model wasn't what everyone wanted.

In 2002 it was estimated by one publisher that over 5000 churches were actively using the Rotation Model in the U.S. and Canada. And many more were using ideas and materials generated by the Model and website. That number is now much higher, though nobody really knows. gets about half a million page views a month from all over the world.

TIMEMAGTIME magazine did a feature on the future of Sunday School in its Dec 16, 2002 issue and called Rotation "one of the most popular innovations in Sunday School."

The Future of the WoRM

"Workshop" means kids love creative learning. "Workshops" recognize kids learn best when we vary our teaching methods and have fun in fun spaces.

"Rotation" means kids need to slow down and focus in order to learn, not jump for story to story each week. "Rotation" also recognizes that teachers need less to prepare, not more --so the kids rotate each week while the teachers don't.

"Model" means malleable and flexible, not rigidity. "One size fits" curriculum and formats kill the gift of innovation and ownership.

From its very start, the Rotation Model was also about sharing --sharing ideas and experiments and lesson materials. As a website and non-profit, took that a step further to share across denominational boundaries and geographic borders.  Like the Rotation Model itself, the legacy of may mostly be how it demonstrates to The Church a better and less expensive way of sharing, creating, and supporting one another in the Christian education of our children.

Creative, Focused, Flexible, Sharing. These principles are the foundation of the WoRM, and not so coincidentally, itself.

Neil is a Presbyterian minister specializing in Christian education. He served on the Board until 2008, and returned in 2015 as the Board's paid webmaster and Lead Writer to help revitalize and manage the site's burgeoning content and lead the Writing Team. You can read more of Neil's articles and approach to lesson writing and teaching in our "Workshop" Classroom Techniques forums and "Pulling Back the Curtain" Forum ~ Insights into the creative lesson writing process.


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