Break Free of the “School” in Sunday School: Faith is a Relationship

Break Free of the “School” in Sunday School: Faith is a Relationship
August 16, 2017 Jessica Sausto
Faith is a Relationship
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If we want kids to know that faith is a relationship and not a subject to be studied, why do so many children’s ministry environments have a school-like feel?

Why do we teach kids in a classroom where we memorize Bible verses? Why do we study about God and encourage good attendance in Sunday school? Why do we drill kids to recite what they’ve learned?

At face value, these practices are great! But we seem to be teaching kids that faith is a matter of memorizing facts or learning concepts so they can “pass the test” with Jesus.

Is this really how we want kids to perceive God and Jesus?

As a children’s ministry leader, you know your friendship with God didn’t come to you through performance. God’s love surrounded you before you believed, and he’s patient with you as you learn to trust him. Any “facts” you’ve learned about God that have stuck with you have served to deepen a closeness and enjoyment out of your relationship with God.

So let’s ditch the “school” in Sunday school and focus on showing kids that faith is a relationship. Group’s Sunday School curriculum is centered around teaching kids just that. Here are a few examples from DIG IN to illustrate this teaching style:

  • Mary learns she’s pregnant with Jesus: Why was Mary favored, anyway? This is the kind of question kids might be grappling with, as they’re often concerned about popularity and being favored at school or in their neighborhoods. Through a “popularity” game in the Deeper Bible activity, kids discover that Mary was an ordinary person, like they are–and God can do impossible things through them.
  • God creates Adam and Eve: God breathed breath into Adam; so kids draw a face on a balloon and watch it come to life as they blow air into it. Through this activity in Core Bible Discovery, kids explore the special things God “breathed” into them when he made them, and they hear that God made them for a reason.
  • Adam and Eve eat from the tree of good and evil: Kids might be wondering—if God wants us to make good choices, why does he let us make bad choices? When kids make their own “It’s Your Choice” gameboards in the craft activity, they find out that God’s there for them when they’re making choices and he’ll help them.

Looking for more examples? Download four weeks of lessons from both the The Life of Jesus and The Bible in One Year and see how DIG IN can transform your children’s ministry.

Jessica Sausto is an editor in Group’s children’s ministry department and a key leader in the preschool program at Flatirons Community Church in Lafayette, Colorado.


  1. Joyce Gilliland 10 months ago

    I had simple memory verses when I was three.. I still remember it.. God is love… The Word is The MOST important thing for children to relate to! We WILL be judged by The Word… God recognizes His children through the Word… WHEN we speak it… How do you figure that these little children are better off without the Word! OR did I misunderstand what you said… Stories are just that.. Stories… BUT when we add a scripture that relates to the story within their appropriate age groups, They will learn how scripture fits into their lives, individually…. I remembered this scripture from age three! No one ever loved me like Jesus.. through His Word…

    • Author
      Jessica Sausto 10 months ago

      Thanks for your comment, Joyce! It’s so great to hear how God’s Word has impacted your life, even from age three! This article simply addresses a trend we’ve seen where churches take a very “school-like” approach to faith formation across all age groups. We’re not saying this is an “either/or” scenario, but rather, we want to encourage children’s leaders that in addition to learning information, such as the memorization of scripture, leaders are taking Bible knowledge deeper into its overall purpose: to build a personal relationship with God. If children memorize a verse, but don’t know what it means or how it applies to their lives, then they won’t know what to do with what they memorized. But when they understand how the verse relates to who God says they are and who God says he is, then they’re able to use it in their personal lives. This way information can lead to transformation (like you said) – which is a key part of Group Sunday School’s philosophy.

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