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VOLUME 2 • ISSUE 3   |   Release date: July 15, 2004

In This Issue
U.S. Constitution to be Canonized!
Apple CEO Offends
Church Dumps Free Will Offerings
Increased Home Sunday Schooling
Gibson Near Top of Name-Dropping List
Survey Results
July Church Sign of the Month

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Christian Ed. Directors Lament Increase in Home Sunday Schooling
Sunday school enrollment in decline

With the academic year having ended in many parts of the country, Christian educators are disturbed by a dramatic decrease in Sunday school enrollment for the upcoming year, a trend they say is largely due to the growing popularity of home Sunday schooling. Home Sunday schooling, a system in which a child obtains Christian education at home rather than in traditional church-sponsored Sunday schools, dwelt in relative obscurity—primarily in New England and the Pacific Northwest—for nearly a decade before the recent upswing.

Supporters say home Sunday schooling provides a vastly superior learning model for children, especially those who do not flourish in traditional classroom settings. Critics contend that home Sunday schooled children miss out on vital opportunities for socialization or fall short educationally.

Katherine Eusibio, president of the Nashville-based nonprofit Homestead Christian Education, has been advocating for home Sunday schoolers for eight years. "Many, if not most, students have difficulty learning about the Christian faith in traditional classroom settings," she argues. "Bringing the experience into the home allows children to learn at their own pace while spending more quality time with their families."

Ms. Eusibio insists that the results lauded by Christian Educators as signs of Sunday school success—such as high rates of scripture memorization and the ability to identify flannel cutouts of major Bible characters—are indications of conformity, not evidence of actual learning. "Traditional Sunday school may seem to be a great success, but most of these kids are not really learning; they're just doing well at standardized Bible quizzing!"

Not so, says Harriett Petsche, Director of Christian Education for the United Methodist Church, who considers home Sunday schooling a dangerous trend that she says "threatens the future of Sunday School as we know it." According to Ms. Petsche, success at competitive exercises such as memorization and Bible quizzing correlates to a deeper understanding of scripture. "Children in a structured curriculum can often recite very long portions of scripture without even thinking about it. That's what I'd call 'allowing the word of Christ to dwell in you richly.' "

The attraction of home-based Christian education won over Neva and Allan Magrath in 2003, when they began home Sunday schooling their two daughters Erika and Ellen, ages 7 and 10 respectively. "Erika was having some trouble with a Sunday schoolyard bully, and Ellen had severe allergic reactions to the combination of Oreos and orange juice from concentrate," recalled Mr. Magrath. "It got to the point where the girls just dreaded getting dressed on Sunday mornings. So we agreed to try this for a year, and we all love it. Now we sleep in an hour later on Sundays, and we all study Bible stories together in our pajamas. Or sometimes we just have pancakes and skip the stories."

It hasn't been all fun for the Magrath family, however. They say they've received harassing phone calls from the Sunday school president at their church, whose name they declined to disclose. Even their friends from the adult Bible study they attend have expressed concern over the decision to pull Erika and Ellen out of Sunday School.

But despite the criticism they've received, the Magraths say they are quite content with their current arrangement. In fact, they're contemplating broadening their domestication of the church experience. "Now that we're home Sunday schooling, we're considering just home churching while we're at it," says Ms. Magrath. "We ordered some sermon tapes from Willow Creek and some got some worship CDs at the local Provident store. "We're just trying to decide which media ministry to send our tithe check to, and then we'll be all set."

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