Sunday, June 12, 2011

Church like the co-op

What if Sunday school classes at my church were run like the homeschool co-op?

Let me give a little background to this question.

After the previous two posts, I started thinking about other systems that allow for variety and transparency under an  umbrella of essential truths.  Our homeschool co-op is an example of this.  There is a statement of faith that you have to agree to before joining.  This is pretty basic evangelical Christian type stuff.  Saved by grace not works.  Jesus was all man and all God.  Jesus lived a sinless life.  You get the idea. 

Within the families that attend, there is variety under this umbrella.  There are "quiver full" families and others that use birth control.  There are families that love Halloween and others that abhor it.  There are those that abstain from alcohol and those that enjoy a beer or glass of wine occasionally. 

When it comes time to decide what classes will be offered the next semester, everyone gets a chance to suggest classes/teachers.  Parents put tally marks next to the classes they would like to see offered in their kids' grade level.  The classes with teachers and lots of tally marks generally make it onto the schedule. 

The class teacher must write a class description before the time to sign up for classes.  The description tells which curriculum will be used and more detailed information on what will be covered in class.  This gives parents a chance to decide if the class fits with their family.  For example, last semester there was a class on movies and world views.  The teacher e-mailed out a list of the movies that would be viewed and discussed before the sign up day.  Parents that didn't want their kids to watch Avatar (one of the movies discussed) didn't sign their kids up for that class.

So what if my church's adult Sunday school worked this way?

We all have member accounts to log in to the church website.  New classes often start in September, so they could have the suggestion process start in April.  They could set up a page for suggestions, and each member could log in and leave the name of the class with a brief description and a suggested teacher (themselves or someone else) and class format type (lecture or discussion). 

After a couple of weeks of suggestions, that feature could be turned off and each member could vote on up to 5 classes they would like to see offered.  

It would take a group of coordinators (just like at the co-op) to figure out the logistics.  300 tallies gets the chapel.  50 tallies gets the library.  Questionable subject matter with lots of tallies could be approved or nixed by the elders.  Suggested teachers that hadn't taught before could be interviewed or something.

After the logistics process, list of upcoming classes and teachers could be published on the website with a more detailed description of what was going to be covered. 

I think there would be several advantages to this system.  First, we would get away from age/stage-of-life centric classes.  Second, it would be easier to get to know people with similar spiritual interests.  Third, you would know right up front what subject matter was going to be presented.  Fourth, everyone would have a chance to have some input into what we learn and the format.  Fifth, people with a gift for teaching could have a chance to actually teach.  There could be practical (parenting, divorce recovery, etc.), wold view (The Truth Project, Resisting the Green Dragon, etc.), and straight up Bible classes (I and II Peter or the miracles of Jesus).  Maybe there could even be a class called "Q and A with the elders" where I could ask all of my questions (see previous post). 

There would be a disadvantage to this system in one respect.  Some people would not want to leave the comfort of going to the same class that they have gone to for years.  So maybe this would be better implemented on the class level.  Then each class could publish their chosen topic and teacher for the semester.  Or maybe a class could suggest themselves in the congregation-wide suggestions by suggesting their teacher and their class perameters and all voting for what they know. 

Any thoughts?

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