I am wondering when during Sunday mornings other churches are running their rotation classes. We are currently running our rotation during the worship service hour, since there are so few children in the church during our Christian ed. hour. However, we hope to change this and run rotation during Christian ed. hour, starting in the fall. (We anticipate more people being in church during the Christian Ed. hour because we are juggling the service times.)

How many people run their children's programming DURING the worship service? How do you find volunteers? What do you think about families missing out on having a family worship time together? What are the pros/cons of having your rotation during the worship service?

If you are not running rotation during worship, did you ever do it during that time? If so, how did you go about changing the time that rotation is offered?

For those who do not run their rotation program during the worship service, what (if any) children's programming do you offer during worship? What are the pros/cons of having rotation at a time other than during worship?

Thanks for any insights.
Original Post
We run our rotation during education hour. In theory it helps get parents to attend education classes but there are a number that are dropped off. During worship we run a children and worship and a kids in worship program. This time is to prepare them for when they will worship in the sanctuary. It has the feel and elements of our regular worship but the sermon or biblical presentation is done with manipulatives. It is done in a Montessori style. It incorporates singing, bible readings, prayer, a time for sharing and reflecting activities. The program does a wonderful job of preparing children for the corporate worship experience. I would also think that it is easier to get volunteers for rotation if it is not done at the same time as worship. I suppose that depends on what your worship services are like! It will be interesting to hear others comments.
Before we went to Rotation, we had 1st Service 9:00-10:00, Sunday School 10:00-11:00, and 2nd Service 11:00-12:00.

This year, through a combination of Pastor's wishes, and Chilren's Ministries wishes, we have gone to this: 1st Service 8:30-9:30, Rotation Sunday School 9:30-11:00, 2nd Service 10:00-11:00. Adult Education is 10:00-11:00. We do much space sharing as we have more kids/adults than rooms. The children meet with their Life Guard (Shepherd) from 9:30-9:45; then they go to Worship from 9:45-10:00, then they go to their Rotation rooms 10:00-11:00. This is for children 1st Grade through 8th grade. I teach the 4/5 year olds and that means I have 1.5 hours to fill. We don't
"Rotate" them, but I do follow the chosen curriculum, which means I teach the last supper for 5 weeks (I do trade with 2 other teachers so it is not me only).

All of our volunteers go to 1st service. It has been difficult, especially for those of us with little children. Some of our kids go without breakfast, and so we do have healthy snacks for them because we know that sometimes kids just don't want to eat right away in the morning. We struggle with getting volunteers, even though it is only a 5 week commitment. They are more afraid of teaching than anything. But we have an excellent recruiter so she has been able to fill each rotation.

Also, we have both nursery & Children's Church during 1st service. So kids like mine, who are there for 2.5 hours, have options. Some weeks my 6 yr. old goes to Nursery with her sister, and sometimes she goes to Children's Church.

We have a strong Children's Ministries team of 6 who really take up the slack wherever needed. I don't think our program would be as successful without this core team.

I hope this helps.
Our rotation is during the worship service. We have no Christian ed hour. Our service runs about 2 hrs long, so after the praise and worship, we take a coffee break, then the kids go to Sunday school. This works well for those who have problems being on time! I always get my two volunteers--sermons are long-winded.
We are doing rotation during the Sunday School hour. Last summer we did it also during the worship hour, because that is also when we have the majority of kids. But, we don't do that anymore because of the hard time finding teachers and also because the time is too short. Our kids spend about 20 - 25 minutes in the service before they leave, which didn't leave enough time for quality workshops.

Our sunday school rotations run for 55 minutes (if they start on time Roll Eyes Wink
Yes, we do Rotation during both Christian Ed hour and during worship. In fact, that's why we started using Rotation: many of the same children are here all morning and we needed some way to coordinate both hours. Teaching two different stories was very counter-productive.

We moved on from Children's Church during worship because our children do attend regular worship -- they just leave before the sermon which is about 25 minutes into the service. Our service lasts about 1 hour 15 minutes. We have much bigger attendance by children at the worship hour. The worship hour attendance by children is at least twice and sometimes three times larger than Christian Ed hour.

We begin our Christian Ed hour with 15 minutes of music and signing the Bible memory verse. This works well because virtually everyone has arrived by the end of the 15 minutes and music is much easier to start without everyone present than a class is. This makes both "hours" of Christian education about 45 minutes long.

Worship Hour Teacher Recruitment We do our Christian Ed hour workshops in the orthodox way, with the same teachers leading their workshop throughout the entire rotation. For the worship hour we recruit one set of teachers for each Sunday of the month. The same teachers teach on the first Sunday; a new set of teachers on the 2nd Sunday; etc., throughout the school year. The teachers lose the benefit of teaching the same story several times, but they also don't miss consecutive weeks of worship. From the worship hour teachers' point of view we might as well be doing traditional curriculum - they just receive one lesson at a time. However, the kids still get the benefit of "slowing down" and having multi-media workshops.

We had hoped that Rotation would boost our Christian Ed hour attendance, but there hasn't been a significant increase. The families who are only going to come to worship aren't ready to come earlier just for a cool computer workshop. I do try to schedule what I think will be most fun mostly in the Christian Ed hour, with the occasional teaser during worship. "See, if you came early, you would get to do this more often." I suspect that bringing children to Christian Ed is mostly a parental choice, except when the kids are bored and really dislike Christian Ed -- a problem I rarely encounter with Rotation.

Because we're doing different workshops in two time slots, our Rotations have often been only 3 weeks long (6 workshops, 2 each Sunday). But we've changed that some lately. Even with 6 workshops, three weeks go by too quickly. The trade-off is always having to come up with 8 good workshop ideas.

We've been doing workshops this way since Lent 1998 and wouldn't think of changing -- unless and until we can convince the leadership, the congregation, and mostly the families that having children and adults alike ALL attend Christian Ed for an hour and ALL attend worship for the whole service would be fabulous, but we all need unattained goals ;
Doing CE during worship is always a subject of debate among educators. I grew up with dual church school hours during dual worship services and hated it. I rarely attended worship as a child so it was relatively foreign. When I was confirmed I started attending worship and thus missed Sunday school. As a professional educator I am not in favor of running rotation or education during worship (and we don't do it), unless there's no choice (ie large attendance with multiple services/church school times, etc). In fact the PCUSA basically states that educational activities should not be scheduled that will prevent regular worship attendance -worship is our primary activity of Christians. What do we teach our children when we exclude them?

We offer children's chapel during part of the worship service (don't agree with that either), however rotation is church school and happens separately from worship. Occasionally I'll have a parent who wants education at the same time as worship and they'll as much state it's so they can worship 'in peace.' That's lamentable, as worship should be for the whole family!
Let me start by saying, I don't believe there is any secret formula! Sometimes you have to just try something and see what happens.

Over the past 15 years that I've been part of my church (Presbyterian), we've done:
2 identical worship services with SS being offered during the 2nd (kids left after children's message)
A traditional service, followed by education hour, follow by blended service (this format brought us to an all time low in SS attendance)

And currently (since 1/01) we do:
9:00 Rotation for kids. Class for adults. Traditional worship. Nursery for 0-2's.
10 - 10:30 fellowship time
10:30 Contemporary worship. Kids (in K-6th) have the option after children's message to go to kids choir. Adult class. Nursery 0-5's.


We have found that only our "core families" are interested in staying for 2 1/2 hours with parents and kids attending class, followed by worship with their whole family. Sad but true. The majority of new families send kids to Sunday school and parents go to worship for the one hour approach. This could be due to various reasons: that's what parents grew up with, too many other options out there on Sunday mornings competing for their attention, parents don't recognize they need to continue their own faith education, or ??? This format we currently have offers options and that's what families have told us they want.

While we stress the importance of education for all ages and offer some really great adult opportunities on Sunday mornings, and we stress that kids need to worship, too, we also realize that we're blessed to have families at all! There are still way too many options out there on Sunday mornings that compete for our families. We are currently being intentional about raising the bar, and we're doing it family by family.

While we do keep track of weekly attendance numbers, I focus more on "how many kids this month attended". Let's face it, the majority of families today do not attend church every week. Like I said, we have a core group, but they're in the minority.

Interestingly enough, we have very few "older adults" who are interested in Sunday morning education ... those who are interested go to midweek or once a month Bible studies.

We're going to do our 2nd summer of "Family LIGHT" (our rotation is called "The LIGHT") with parents attending Sunday school WITH their kids. While some families just "check out" for summer, those who participated last summer enjoyed it.

Blessings,
Jan @ FPC Napa CA
In Jan. of this year we began a Worship for our kids. We wanted it to be a worship experience for our kids on their level and it has been very successful. One of the main concerns from parents and our pastor was that we would take the kids out of Worship every week. our intent was not to eliminate the kids from family worship and did not intend to do worship every week. So it has been something looked forward to twice a month...back to back weeks. Our kids do everything...Greeting, praise team, pledges, sound, offering, sermon helpers, scripture readers etc. they love their worship time and amaze every adult who shepherds as to how well they behave and enjoy their worship time together. Rotation has influenced how we have approached this and we are mindful to use what we have learned in reaching the different ways of learning to enhance our worship time.

Dian
What a tough subject. I think most would intellectually and theologically agree that Kids Belong in Worship. If they are not worshiping God, what are we educating them FOR?

The problem with the issue is expectations and habits. Changing them is very difficult in some churches.

I've been in two churches where we made major schedule changes. In one, it worked well. In the other, my current church, the change has not gone well.

History, personalities, leadership, and "the fates" all factor in. The "church change" literature/books/consultants say that changing your congregation is hard to do. Rather, they suggest you have to change WHO your congregants are. It can take years for "the change" to take affect in some churches.

Part of the problem of going to "classes before worship" is getting people to make the extra time commitment AND get up and going earlier in the morning. I'm not a morning person, so I know how hard this change can be to make.

A big problem is now you have to appeal to the ADULTS too. Your adult classes must be appealing. Yet many adults have not been in a Bible class since childhood.

Another problem is that leaders forget to "lead" ...they just vote in the change and expect people to follow.

One final problem is worship itself. If you put classes BEFORE worship you will now have kids IN worship. Worship needs to be more accommodating to both kid needs, and the parents who must watch them in worship.

Faith definitely "rubs off" so I believe in families worshiping together. I sit with my children in worship. It's part of who we are as a family. They join mom and dad praying, listening, singing. It's a special time. Having said that, we do have kid-oriented worship at the end of Fellowship on Wed nights. Both are good things.

<>< Neil

[This message was edited by Neil MacQueen on April 21, 2003 at 09:58 PM.]
I agree that children need to be in worship.

We've found some things that help:

An adult education class on how to teach your children to sit through worship.

Repeating again and again and again the importance of the congregation being tolerant with children and families as they learn to worship together.

Children's bulletins and activity bags that change regularly to keep the child's interest.

A children's time message that includes a handout -- something to do or eat during the sermon.

Occasional children's church, just to give parent's a break (about once a month), and nursery care for the little ones.

Lisa
Just this year our congregation changed our late morning service to a more contemporary style, leaving our early service more traditional. Christian Ed. is held during late service partly as a draw for parents who'd like to attend service without their children. Most of the adutls who attend Ed. hour prefer early service, as do parents who want their children in worship with them. One bump in the road we've found is that if the Sunday School kids are presenting something as a group during worship (singing a song, reciting a Psalm, procession, etc.) it really cuts into our class time for that day. Personally, I also feel that kids should be experiencing the worship service, so those kids whose families only come during the CE/late service time are missing out.
Wow! Lot's of great input!

We offer rotation during our both of our 2 morning services, 9:00 & 10:30. The kids go to Sunday School for approximately 50 minutes, and then enter the service for communion, so they are with their families for the Eucharist (we're an Episcopal church & have communion every Sunday).

The teachers commit to teaching a 4 week block; most teach once in the autumn and once in the spring. I e-mail them the sermon each week they teach, so they don't miss Father Adam's inspirational words.

We have a Children's Sermon twice per year, (where the kids are in church for the entire service) -- once on Teacher's Recognition Sunday (this Sunday, 6/8), and once around Thanksgiving, which is usually an "off" week between rotations, before the Advent rotation begins.

This works very well for our church, and I'm not aware of any grumblings. The children are getting an excellent Sunday School experience because of the rotation model and terrific teachers. The congregation can listen to the service and the sermon before the children arrive. And families are together for the Eucharist.
Hi
We are a very small church who's SS enrollment had dropped considerably. We chose to begin using the rotation system and move SS from 1 hour before service to during service. The children stay in church for about 25 mins. The minister than has a children's story and the children then leave for about 50 mins. of SS.
We struggled with the children not having a Family Worship time as we teach SS during church service. We have broken our teaching out this way. 1st Sunday of the month - Communion and Outreach Sunday, all children gather together to work on a project to benefit the community ex, making soup for soup kitchen and they also attend Communion. The 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month we use for rotations. The 3rd and any months with 5 Sundays are Family Sundays - the children remain in service. The minister has a very friendly family sermon for those weeks. This seems to be working well for us.
Our church has two morning services (9:15 and 10:45). Our Sunday school program runs the same time as the 9:15 service. We have the children (kindergaten through senior high) in church for the first 15-20 minutes. They are dismissed to classes after a children's moment (geared toward K-5). Our workshops are for kids in grades K-5. We have felt that the children need to be in church and experience that time and have adjusted our time accordingly. When we study The Lord's Supper and later the Lord's Prayer we will try to have the children come in to attend that part of the service as well.

Our 9:15 service is generally filled with younger families, and the 10:45 service is generally an older crowd. We have a senior housing complex adjoining our church property.

I love hearing all the other ways people are handling these situations. Thanks for all the input.
I just love reading about the different ways we all worship and learn. Neil is right, there is no one perfect way of doing anything, but here's how we do it.
Sundays we have three worship services.
The 8:15 am is a breakfast service in our Fellowship Hall. Although it is composed of more traditional elements, it is informal and very family friendly. (particularly very young children) Children (4 years old through 2nd graders)are dismissed right after the children's message, but before the sermon, to the Worship Center where we do Godly Play. They return as soon as the sermon is over to finish their worship as a family.
The same thing happens at 10:30 am (our more traditional service in the sanctuary) and the 5:00 pm contemporary service in the sanctuary as well.
We offer Sunday school for 2 year olds through adulthood at 9:15 for one hour. I do rotation with 1st through 5th grades only. There is Nursery care for infants through 3 years olds during all services and CE hour.

My ultimate goal? To have the children remain in service for the whole time, hopefully we are teaching them to that end.
There is talk of offering another education hour in the evening, either before or after the contemporary worship, although only about 8-12 children ever show up. And of those I'm not sure who would stay (or come early) for class. Each of our morning classes (divided by either age or grade) has on average 23 - 25 children.

Okay, that's a lot of info. Hope it's helpful to someone. Roll Eyes
Our Church has 3 Sunday Services--an 8:00 meditation service, an 8:30 (45-minute) service and a 10:00 family service. Our rotation Sunday School runs concurrent with the 10:00 service. Adult education and Bible Study offerings occur at other times during the week.

I feel that we have achieved a nice balance of family worship and children's activities at our 10:00 a.m. service/Sunday School hour. Children stay for the first 15 minutes of the family service and then go to a brief Children's Worship Service and then on to their rotation workshops.

This arrangement has many plusus:
  • It allows children to worship with their families for an amount of time that is age-appropriate and therefore enjoyable for all. The children are exposed to hymns, to prayer, to the choirs singing and special activities, like the lighting of the advent candles. They also have the opportunity to hear a child-friendly mini-sermon by our pastor.
  • Following this family worship time with rotation workshops (that themselves are often "worshipful" in nature) and that allow the children to experience the wonder of God's world through all their senses is a nice blend. I try to remember that children do not necessarily engage in worship in the same way that adults do. Developmentally, they are not able to grasp the deeper meanings of a pastor's sermon or to sit for long periods of time in reflection. Their job is to move, jump, play, interact, talk, sing and share. From my point of view, this is worship in action!

    The drawbacks:
  • Staffing is obviously a challenge when rotation workshops and a worship service are running concurrently. Adults want to attend the worship service as often as possible. We also have several active adult choirs in which many of our volunteers sing on various Sundays.

    Solutions:
  • We have been able to create teams of shepherds and co-teaching arrangements so that our volunteers are not completely excluded from worship. This does mean managing more people in any given rotation and the need for a very organized, active "HR dept" to do staffing.
  • We encourage teaching "breaks" for volunteers who have consistently taught during the year.
  • CD's of the sermons are made available to volunteers.
  • Volunteers can attend the 8:00 or 8:30 service, though no childcare is provided.

    From the feedback that I have received from families and volunteers, this arrangement is working very well.

    Monica Buzbee
    Community United Methodist
  • We too have rotation during the main worship hour (11:00). One way we've compromised is by doing 3 week rotations and declaring the first Sunday of the month (communion Sunday) a Family worship Sunday. Elementary children stay for the whole service and only the preschoolers have class. During a rotaiton unit the children stay through the Children's Message and then are dismissed to classes. B/c this often cuts into our time, we state up front that we keep kids until 12:15 and return them to their parents with coffee hour already in progress. The parents get a cup of coffee and teachers actually get to teach a full lesson.
    The down side: Adult education hour is at 9:30 and if you have elementary children you don't get to go b/c there isn't anything for the kids to do. I simply don't have enough volunteer support to program 2 hours (much to my senior pastor's dismay). I would love to switch it, but space would definitely be an issue then.
    Beginning this fall (9/04), we will be doing rotation during Sunday school and the worship hour. This will allow us to run 2 rotations a Sunday, teach consistent lessons, and hopefully draw in the kids who come only for worship to the other activities that we have during Sunday School. Also, since we can do eight rotations in a month, we can teach more topics throughout the year. Wish us luck!
    We have 2 worship services (9:25 and 11:05)--the 9:25 service is more traditional and we do our rotation program for 3 y.o. through 5th grade at that time. Our 11:05 service is more contemporary and we do our Children in Worship program at that time for 3 y.o. through 2nd grade and the 3rd grade through 6th grade can go to our children's choir. We found that typically the adults that attend the contemporary service prefer to help with the more contemporary sunday school (rotation program) so that's why we have them at opposite times. Adding the choir during the second service has really increased our participation in choir. We also have all of our children attend the first 15 minutes of the contemporary service so they get a chance to experience worship as a family. We are finding all of this to be very successful
    More on this topic added here to consolidate info...

    Bren Finn
    posted April 06, 2004

    Our Rotation Sunday school is held at the same hour that our most highly attended worship service is held. We have incorporated worship as one of the 5 rotations of each unit. The children have the option of sitting with their parents in the service or sitting with their class and shepherds in a designated area of the balcony where they can have their questions answered, discuss what is going on, etc. Our goal is that each class will receive take communion with their class twice a year. Additionally, we spend the first ten minutes in a gathering time that is patterned after the traditional adult worship service. The worship is led by the children who do all the scripture reading, prayer, song leading, acolyte duties, etc. In this way, they are made familiar with the traditional worship service, so that they are at ease when they sit in on the adult service. Hope this is helpful. Blessing, Brenda

    --------------------
    Kristi-NH
    posted April 06, 2004

    Prior to rotation, we had one main service during which we had Sunday School, and a less-attended 2nd service during which any and all kids had a lesson and craft together. Now our church is growing, but our historical sanctuary is unable to. So, 2nd service was strengthened, and it was decided to add a full Sunday School program during 2nd service. This was at the same time as the initiation of rotation. So last fall we started with 4 classes rotating first service, 3 classes during second service. This has meant 2 sets of teachers and shepherds, not an easy feat. The overall concensus is that rotation is a huge change for the positive, and people really enjoy having a full Sunday School program during second service.
    We (CE Committee) often lament our children not attending service, even infrequently. We have toyed with the idea of including the 5th and/or 6th graders one Sunday each rotation, incorporating commuion education with these older kids. It's all "in the works" at this point. Change comes slowly here in New England

    --------------------
    Dianne E.
    posted April 15, 2004

    The long-standing tradition in this church is for parents to drop off kids at Sunday School while they go to worship. We started rotation last fall, and we start with a 15-min gathering for music, then the shepherds take their classes to the workshops. The 4th Sunday of each month, the kids go to worship with their parents for the first 15-min. We have a children's message, then the shepherds take their classes from there to the workshops. It isn't perfect, but it gets the kids into the sanctuary as part of the worship service once a month (even only for 15 minutes). I like the idea of including worship as part of the rotation. I'll have to recommend that to my curriculum team.
    Dianne
    We have rotation during both the Sunday School (10 a.m.)and Worship (11 a.m.)hours. We break for Gathering Time (10:45 to 11:15) for presentations by special visitors, such as; Naomi or Boaz (during Ruth rotation) or others. We also have our music time then. It makes for a smooth transition and allows for those who come only to church hour to join us without feeling they are walking into the middle of a rotation. As our church has a continental breakfast every Sunday at 9:30, we usually do not have late comers to the Sunday School hour. If the students are finished eating early, we have activities for them to do. We put books, puzzles (jigsaw and word), games, and other reinforcement activities related to the rotation in the baskets. The students may choose whatever they want to do. This cuts down on the children running wild while their parents are busy visiting with friends and supports the rotation unit. Pastor rings the bell in the church tower at 9:55 as a signal to go to Sunday School. The children clean up and come to our five minute opening that is held before they go to their first workshop.

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