Rethinking Religious Education

At the end of September, I attended Pot of Gold, a one-day conference organized by the Pacific Central District of the Liberal Religious Educators Association (PCD-LREDA). The keynote address was titled “Reimagining Sunday School”.

The presenters recounted trends happening in our society that I also see here at UUFRC:

  • Families are pulled in a variety of directions with many potential activities competing for their time. Sundays are often the only time of the week families can recharge and/or do things together.
  • Competing priorities, demographic shifts, and changing cultural attitudes and norms about church have led to a sharp decline in Sunday school attendance for many years now.

The presenters also stated that, within our own denomination, it is estimated that less than 20% of children who grew up in a UU church return to a UU church as adults. A common comment to this statistic is “I don’t care if my child identifies as UU. I just want them to grow into ethical adults.” That’s fair enough. But, where will the next generation learn ethical living if the UU denomination fails to sustain itself?

When it comes to the religious education of our children, resources in UU churches are put into the following three areas, in descending order.

  • Sunday morning religious education
  • Whole congregation worship
  • Parental influence

Ironically, this is the reverse of the order of their influence on whether or not a child returns to their faith tradition as an adult, based on data from multiple denominations. To instill a UU identity, we would get more bang for our buck by redirecting resources into supporting families in their faith practices at home and in the world.

This would be a big change at UUFRC. It would require rethinking many things and changing priorities. But, the issue is too important to ignore. I look forward to conversations about this with all of you.