UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

Reality Check

Missing children

By David Ewart


September means back to school, as well as the start of a new cycle of church programs for all ages. But September is also the month when church elders once again tell younger members about the good old days of flourishing Sunday schools, and offer puzzled anxiety — or accusations — about what’s gone wrong.

In the United Church, Sunday school membership rose with the postwar baby boom, peaking at 757,000 in 1961 as the first of that generation graduated from Grade 6. The decline that followed was not because Canadians stopped having babies. From 1965 to the present, births have hovered at around 375,000 per year.

By 2012, Sunday school membership had declined by 90 percent to 61,000, with half of all Sunday schools having 25 children or fewer. The threshold to be among the 10 percent of largest Sunday schools was 60. And 20 percent of pastoral charges were already facing a future without any children in Sunday school.

Adults can bring energy, curiosity and enthusiasm to church. Adults can learn, play and grow. We don’t need children for these. And churches, like other volunteer groups, can thrive as adult-only organizations.

But we know in our hearts that a church community doesn’t feel right if all generations aren’t fully present. Children embody — in a way that only children can — the conviction that all are precious in God’s sight; that the world is created to be good; that everyone has a place at the table; that all should be treated with justice; and that we need to build healthy bonds with others if we want these values to be realized.

If there are no children, we are missing the truth that Jesus saw: “Unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). Adults need children to show us how to enter the state of grace that Jesus called God’s kingdom. A church just can’t really be a church without children.

Rev. David Ewart is a United Church minister in Vancouver.

Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image

Editorials

David Wilson%

Observations

by David Wilson

If statues could talk

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: Stolen Mother

by Observer Staff

The daughter and adoptive mother of one of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women share their story

Promotional Image

Society

July 2017

From far and wide

by Various Writers

Meet 11 immigrants who are putting down new roots

World

June 2017

A suitcase for Cuba

by Christopher Levan

You’ll find more than giveaway toiletries and hand-me-downs in the writer's luggage. Each carefully chosen gift offers a glimpse into the lives of Cubans today.

Justice

June 2017

Undocumented

by Kristy Woudstra

Up to half a million people are living in Canada without official status. The ‘sanctuary city’ movement is growing, but the fear of deportation persists.

World

June 2017

Resisting genocide

by Sally Armstrong

In August 2014, ISIS attacked Iraq’s Yazidis, slaughtering thousands and forcing women and girls into sexual slavery. Today, the survivors are fighting for their ancient way of life.

Society

April 2017

Dear Grandkids

by Various Writers

Six acclaimed Canadian authors write letters from the heart

Society

March 2017

Called to resist

by Paul Wilson

Liberal Christians in the United States test their faith against a demagogue

Promotional Image