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"After so many years of Rotation, what are you doing to breathe some new life into it?"

This "article" is a collection of excerpts gleaned from an old forum at our site that was dealing with that question. In some cases, members were talking about how the initial creative energy and response was fading after a few years. MESSAGE FATIGUE is a natural thing. So are old habits creeping back in? Everyone used to love your "new" murals and workshop decor, but they are now 7 years old. So what do you do?

As you will read in Neil and Carol's collected comments/responses, the Rotation Model is not meant to be a "new rut", but a concept of continuing to address the needs of our kids and church.

 You may also find this article helpful:  "How the Rotation Model Can Fail in Your Church."

You are welcome to add your own suggestions to this discussion and ask questions related to the topic. If you have a lesson or resource-related question, post it in the Help Lounge.

Last edited by Neil MacQueen
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Originally posted by Neil MacQueen in the "Breathe New Life Into Your WoRM" forum.

Comfort Zones ⇒  Ruts ⇒ Change

Human beings and organizations are prone to finding ruts because they often start out as comfort zones, and we love comfort zones. But as anybody who has sat in their favorite recliner knows all too well,  comfort can lead to stiffness and soreness.   So it is with programs at church.

Of course, we already knew this:

"Familiarity breeds Contempt," 
"To everything there is a season."

At its heart, Rotation was and is a model that seeks to change, adapt, and reinvigorate. It is not supposed to be come another rut.

Rotation recognizes that change is good. We change the workshops each week for the kids to expose them to a different "lens" or style of learning the story. So it shouldn't surprise us that the way we do Rotation Model, or our rooms, or our teachers and leaders need to change too from time to time.  

After a number of years of launching Rotation Sunday Schools in a couple of my churches, there's something to be said for taking a break, too. All things need to be laid aside from time to time.  This is the concept of "Sabbatical". God took a day off, so it's okay to take time off from the WoRM and come back refreshed.  Sabbatical can mean taking a break from "the same workshops," or "from the same teachers," or "same decor." It can mean doing something else over the summer, or during Advent, or in the Spring.  See the "Jubilee" concept linked below for an entire year off from "regular" Sunday School.

One of the big reasons we should institutionalize "change" in our schedule is to force OURSELVES to learn something new.  Any good habit or familiar approach can become a crutch that stops you from thinking outside the box. Creativity often arises due to necessity. So create a need in your schedule. 

Change can be as simple as circling a few weeks or months on a calendar and writing, "Do Something Different."  Nothing like a deadline to motivate!   Do it a year in advance, and spend time brainstorming throughout that year about what you might do.  And here's a tip: invite some different people to do that different thing, rather than using the "same old go-to leaders".  

A concept for change: The Year of Jubilee

One of the things we created in a former church's Rotation Sunday School was a "Year of Jubilee." It was a year in which Sunday School would be completely different, even experimental. We created it to get us to dream, to predict our rut in advance and put ourselves in a position to learn something new, stretch ourselves. It was a good idea for us, for the teachers, for the kids, and for the parents. Out of it came some good learning ministry too.

I've talked about it a little more over here in the "recruiting teachers" topic. Difficulty recruiting teachers is one of those signs that a "rut" has developed, and that topic has some good advice in it about that.

Other ways to re-invigorate your Rotation Sunday School

Re-design and Re-launch a workshop or two.

Remember the initial excitement your cool rooms attracted? Do it again. 

ADD a special feature, or brand new workshop or two. This is how a lot of computer labs get started.  Or look around this site for some new exciting ways to do a certain workshop and implement it.

How about changing up your schedule? How about creating "A Year of Teaching Assistants" which prepares a group of teens and brings them into your workshops to lead/help. 

What's the ONE WORKSHOP that's been STUCK IN YOUR CRAW?  Music? Tackle it. Puppets? Focus on it and go whole-hog. 

On your SECOND GO-ROUND of Rotation stories?  This time, teach Exodus from front to back, Egypt all the way to Jericho, and include lots of music and drama. How about making it the church's focus, too?

Try the once-a-month FAITH MENTORS workshop described here at It's simple: parents attend one of the workshops each rotation to learn with their student.

Create an intergenerational workshop for each rotation where you invite parents and other adults to attend. (Pick a story and learning activity that lends itself to inter-generational learning).

Change in leadership can reinvigorate. Who have you NOT been recruiting?  And change your recruiter while you're at it, or the way you staff workshops. How about asking the choir to take over your music workshop every couple of months?  Or have the youth group lead your drama workshop for Advent?


Is it YOU who have run out of steam? And how could you address YOUR need for re-invigoration?

The weight of a program can produce drag. How can you administrate things more efficiently so that you can have time to work on these other issues and problems? What do you need to stop doing, that's not that productive anyway, so you can do something that's more important, or more creative?   (This is advice I regularly address in my own business). Less is More.



Message Fatigue?  or Message Failure?

After a few years, parents and leaders can forget why they are rotating, or start to take the creativity for granted. That's normal. Part of the problem is we are always in an "announcement mode" to explain "WHAT" is happening, rather than "WHY" it's important, or "why" we are doing it that way.  As mentioned in the "How the Rotation Model Can Fail" article, if only the leaders know "why" then when they leave, the congregation and parents can revert back to "whatever." 

Our volunteers and congregations can only handle so much information. Use their attention span wisely, making sure you explain WHY you're teaching like you're teaching.  Reduce the constant drum beat. Change your approach. Get personal.

<>< Neil

Last edited by Neil MacQueen

How to Get Back Out of the Box

At the Chicago conference a long time ago, I attended a seminar by Beth Wagner of Potter's Workshops called "Year 3 and Beyond". It addressed this very issue (and was a good seminar by the way). Much of what Beth had to say has been already suggested here - how do we "get back out of the box" (we got out of it once when Rotation started but maybe we are now in a different "box"?)

Many of the suggestions were in the refresh/renew category - as has been suggested already - i.e. adding new workshops. So the idea is:  what can you do that's "different?"

Some other suggestions I gleaned and some of my own thoughts:

  • Regrouping kids. If you separate by grade-group now, how about multi-aging instead? 
  • Do most kids come only once a month? Maybe it's time to go to 5-week Rotations instead of 3 weeks?
  • Try adding things like Celebration Sunday's or Shepherd Sunday's (for strictly team-building).
  • Go on a field trip during Sunday school (admittedly a huge undertaking and not something you'd probably want to do more than once a year.) 
  • Take a drama production or puppet show on the road. (We occasionally ask our 6th graders to perform a show for our pre-schoolers.
  • Rotate kids every other week. Have a two-week art project, a two-week cooking project, write a play one week and act it out the next.
  • Have kids prepare to present what they have learned in church service. 
  • Under the add a workshop idea: add going to worship as a workshop. 
  • Quick shot-in the arm change: redecorate the hallway.
  • Give parents a reason to keep coming. Much like there is always big attendance around "milestone" events like Confirmation or getting a Bible, plan other types of milestones for each grade.

As others have said, we will always need to be innovating/renewing. And, I find we always need to be educating! People keep coming into the program who know nothing about Rotation. How are you educating them as to why you are Rotating?


Last edited by CreativeCarol

In September we will begin our 17th year of rotation. Wow. That is crazy to think about! We've had ups and downs in attendance over the years, but it still seems to be something that people appreciate and say they like. Recently though, we've seen a general decline in participation across all areas of our church -- worship, outside activities and Sunday school. We are actively praying for God to stir the hearts of people in our church and to help families make church a priority -- not just something we do if there's nothing better on the calendar. It's really about the hearts of our families...  

A couple things we want to try (and I would LOVE other suggestions):

Family Bible Journaling
We are going to invite families to do a weekly Bible Journaling Project together this fall (we will do a 20 week "semester" (16 weeks + Advent) and then try something again in winter/spring -- possibly around Lent. (Our youth director and I are working on this together) We're going to use simple spiral notebooks for the journals and use 16 different psalms as the scripture. It will be pretty basic -- a simplified Lectio Divina in a way -- read the psalm, close your eyes and listen to the words. Then a few questions... What pictures do you see in your mind? What words jump out at you? What do you learn about God from this verse? How does this verse speak to you in your life at this time? Invite them to draw/write in their journals. End with a prayer. The idea comes from this site primarily...

Prayer Stations
This is sort of a not-totally-gelled -in-my-mind plan... What if we had an interactive prayer station set up at the church in a central location (we have three worship services on Sunday morning).
There are TONS of ideas at this site:

What if we invited not just kids, but parents and other adults to participate? What if we rotated the prayer stations so that every few weeks (once a month) the station changed? Would that help families realize that prayer is more than a formal "close your eyes and fold your hands" rote practice? We've done something like this during Holy Week, but never ongoing... Wondering if anyone else has done something like this? 

I guess I'm thinking that my planning, programming, and striving to entice people to participate is missing the real heart of the matter -- people's hearts. I know this is the work of the Holy Spirit, not me... so... we are definitely in prayer for God's guidance and wisdom to help us lead purposefully.

Thoughts??? Anyone else find themselves in a similar situation?





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