Teaching the gospel to children

Published May 8, 2012

A new Sunday School curriculum will be available in September as an online resource for teachers. Photo: rmnoa357

This September, Sunday school teachers in the Anglican Church of Canada will have a comprehensive new online resource to teach the gospel to children.

Designed in recognition of the shortage of Sunday school teachers, the curriculum takes a one-room-schoolhouse approach in which youngsters from five to 11 can be taught by one teacher. It offers detailed and layered lesson plans for Sundays from September to June and has a working title of The Compendium of the Church Mouse.

The new curriculum grew out of last year’s Sunday School contest, an initiative of General Synod launched in August 2011. Importantly, it fulfills the first two of the Anglican Communion’s Marks of Mission: to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom; and to teach, baptize and nurture new believers.

Teachers across Canada were asked to submit their ideas for bringing the Marks of Mission to life in their Sunday classes. The four winners-one from each ecclesiastical province-were brought to Toronto to attend a weekend led by a top facilitator.

"We threw everyone’s ideas into the cement mixer," says Kate Newman, who has been the principal developer of the curriculum. Newman is a veteran teacher in British Columbia’s secular education system, and for 12 years a Sunday school teacher at Vancouver’s Christ Church Cathedral.

"Teachers can choose to follow the curriculum closely or select themes and activity ideas to complement their own lesson plans," she explains.

Enter the Mouse compendium-so called because it uses hand-knitted or sewn church mice that enter the Sunday school room through a paper door printed out from the curriculum and pasted to a baseboard. The mouse leads the lessons’ questions in a way that helps children discover the gospel by relating their own experiences to the stories in the New Testament.

A four-year-old will answer a gospel-oriented question about, say, a time in her life when she’s experienced change differently than a nine-year-old, says Newman, but all ages are included in the discussion.

The plan follows the liturgy of the adult church service, says Newman. "Each lesson explores the same reading from the New Testament that’s used for that Sunday in the main worship service."

The curriculum also promotes youth apprenticeship. Once a month, the Sunday school is encouraged to attend the entire service and participate in all activities from greeting the congregation at the door to bringing up donations of food and following the sidespeople bearing the offertory money. "If they get restless, there’s a quiet place they go to draw or read," says Newman.

At Christ Church, this inclusive approach has been highly successful. "We’ve tripled attendance at Sunday school," Newman says.

The package also features a downloadable clock showing the five liturgical seasons from Advent through Pentecost and linking each season with one of the five marks. All lesson plans suggest visuals and activities to celebrate different marks-puppet making and music making, for instance-and these can be adapted to different ages and inclinations.

For mark 5, which relates to the stewardship of creation, for example, students might be encouraged to develop a connection with a nearby tree. "Some might make a rubbing of its bark, others might choose to draw a picture of it, and others to write a poem about it," says Newman.

The compendium should be available online in early September and may be followed later by a printed version.


  • Diana Swift

    Diana Swift is an award-winning writer and editor with 30 years’ experience in newspaper and magazine editing and production. In January 2011, she joined the Anglican Journal as a contributing editor.

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