"I am really excited about this opportunity to start the year with a bang and I hope others will join me in trying it out this year and in coming years."
All that Energy!
Do you remember the excitement of a school assembly? Perhaps you remember sitting on the hard surface of the risers in the gymnasium or maybe you’re in a darkened auditorium. In either case, you can probably still feel the way the room pulsated with presence of the whole school. You’re gathered from your individual rooms and individual tasks for a collective purpose. And it is so exciting to have a break for the normal course of things. You’ll hear a message from the principal soon, but first there is some music from the marching band and a few peppy cheers from the cheerleaders to set the mood. When the principal finally stands up to speak, the room is hushed to hear exactly why everyone is gathered.
As I pondered how to start the Sunday school program this year, the idea of a Sunday school assembly popped into my head. What if we channeled all the anxious energy of “Welcome Back Sunday” into something greater than just getting everyone settled in their individual classrooms? What if we had some fun with all of that crazy energy?
Details of our Assembly
Okay, so we won’t have a marching band or cheerleaders, but we will have collective gathering that welcomes the kids into a new year, acknowledges their advancement into a new grade and establishes behavioral norms for the year. We’ll also have skits and songs that invite the students’ participation. As I was considering this idea, here are some reasons I used to convince myself to go ahead with it:
It will be fun to start the year with some excitement.
As the “Principal” of the Sunday school program, I will able to say why I think Sunday share my vision for the program with the kids and teachers at that same time.
We will able to share information about our programs and build excitement about all of the upcoming events for the fall and the year.
I will be able model for my teachers how I want them to interact with the children (i.e. sharing their faith, excitement and passion in a fun way).
Through a collective exercise that establishes the behavioral and participatory norms, students will become stakeholders of the Sunday school program and not just clients.
If I have piqued your interest, you may now be wondering what would such an assembly look like. Well, we’ll start our assembly with the liturgical act of Blessing the Backpacks and offer prayers for successful Sunday school year. And like all good assemblies we’ll have music! I am inviting our director of children’s choirs to lead us in a song or two (including one with body percussion so that we can all get energized). Then I’ll share short Bible story.
Themes and Focus
Given the readings for our welcome back Sunday, September 8th, we’ll use the pottery metaphor of being shaped by God that is in the Old Testament reading from Jeremiah 18. Of course we’ll have the requisite props for an engaging story. We’ll apply the story by pondering how Sunday school might form us. Then we’ll discuss ways for us to allow ourselves be formed including the kind of participation and conduct we’ll want to have. Finally, we’ll introduce all of the teachers and have them escort the students to their rooms for brief and age appropriate “get-to-know-you” activities.
I am really excited about this opportunity to start the year with a bang and I hope others will join me in trying it out this year and in coming years.
The Reverend Luke Fodor is the Assistant Rector of St. John’s Church in Cold Spring Harbor, New York, where he works with children, youth and young families. Having spent nearly 5 years working at Episcopal Relief & Development, Luke works to empower children and youth for God’s mission in this hurting world.