Innovative, two-week program introduces new Sunday Club
by Emily Enders Odom | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE – If all God’s children have a place in the choir, First Presbyterian Church of Dallas is already well on its way to filling the risers.
By intentionally combining its Sunday school and children’s choir programming into a new Sunday Club—an expanded, holistic 90-minute session on Sunday mornings for elementary-age children—the church hopes to involve many more children and families in its ministries of faith formation.
In launching the new Sunday Club concept, however, one of the creative challenges that immediately faced Miatta Wilson, the church’s director of Children’s Ministries, and Diana Taylor, director of Children’s Music, was what to do between the last session of the church’s 10-week, intergenerational, summer Sunday morning programming that ended on August 14, and the start of the Sunday Club on September 11.
“We wanted to do something kind of fun and different during that in-between time to encourage everybody to get back into the swing of things and to highlight worship education,” said Wilson.
So she and Taylor brainstormed and came up with “Waffles and Worship.”
“This is also a time when most families are coming back into town from vacation,” added Taylor, “and attendance is always up around the beginning of school.”
“Waffles and Worship,” Wilson further explained, was also conceived, in part, as an extension of the church’s existing Worship 101 series for Kindergarteners, a worship education class held each fall during the six weeks prior to Advent as this age group transitions from being in child care during most or all of the worship service to attending for the entire hour.
Recognizing that not every child wants to sing, Wilson and Taylor now call the music portion—the first half—of the new Sunday morning program “Music Makers” rather than choir.
“That was intentional, because we have kids who didn’t want to come on Sunday afternoons because they didn’t want to be in the choir,” Wilson said. “Diana is very gifted at finding ways to have all of the kids involved in music-making by using all different kinds of instruments and finding ways for those kids who would rather not use their voices to get involved.”
In fact, introducing the children to the role and function of various instruments in the church was a highlight of the first session of “Waffles and Worship” on Aug. 21.
And then there were the waffles, of course.
“Having the waffles and strawberries and sausage up in our multi-purpose gym was part of the fun and enticement of getting the kids there,” said Wilson.
After first playing a multiple-choice game that Taylor had designed using the free, game-based learning platform, Kahoot!—with quiz questions having to do with the order of worship, the sacraments, and other worship-related topics—everyone went into the chapel where Tom Froehlich, the church’s organist and associate director of Music, talked about organs and pianos and demonstrated how the organ works.
“The kids asked so many questions that we ran out of time,” Wilson said, adding that they might still take the children into the sanctuary during the final session of “Waffles and Worship” on Aug. 28.
“Last Sunday, they were able to be right up next to the organ and see the pipes really closely and talk about how the air comes in and out,” Wilson said. “They were mesmerized. After the demonstration, one third grader said that she was already interested in playing the organ.”
In working with Taylor to create a new approach to the congregation’s programming for children, Wilson said that like the Presbyterian Church in general, education has a central and essential role at First Presbyterian Church.
“We are in an amazing position here, where there are three of us full-time, professional educators on staff for youth, children, and adults, who are able to partner with other people on staff who have this passion and understanding for education,” she said. “That enables us to plan and work on things together that cross generations as well as cross disciplines—to see it all holistically as faith formation.”
And beyond that, Wilson is always working on ways to provide resources and connections for parents in thinking about faith formation and the opportunities they have at home. This summer, for example, Wilson created a pizza box “takeout church” with faith formation games, activities, discussion questions, and more, that parents and grandparents could put in their car.
“Sunday school at 9:30 is not the only time your kid gets to learn about faith,” said Wilson. “We see connecting all of these things together and providing resources to families as part of what we as individuals and as the church do because of the promises we make every time we baptize a child.”
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