Articles From the November 1995 Unification News


How to Start a Sunday School... Parent Involvement

by Vicki Henry-Minneapolis, MN

I will start with a quote from "The Busy Parent's Guide to Involvement in Education" brochure published by the National PTA:

"Parent involvement-your involvement-in education increases your children's chances for success in school. Studies show that children whose parents are involved in education are more motivated in school. Motivated students are more likely to participate in class, more likely to complete homework, and more likely to achieve academically. In short, motivated children become students with good chances for bright futures."

This, I feel, not only applies to secular education but to religious education as well. Are we not a movement which prides itself on service to others? Are we not a movement which advocates the need for education and education reform? Are we not a movement which explains how important it is for parents to be good role models for our children? Parent participation in your child's Sunday school activities can demonstrate, to your child, your attitude toward serving them, the church, your community, True Parents and God.

Volunteer teaching

The best and most involved way for you to participate in Sunday school is to volunteer to teach or assist for a certain number of days out of the year. This does not just apply to mothers but to fathers as well. Children need to have a male role model who is not afraid of acting silly while doing a presentation with puppets, not afraid of showing a sensitive heart in a tearful prayer or concern and appreciation for the children's work.

It is important for the Sunday school director to have periodic teacher training sessions for all volunteers in order to arm them with confidence. Training should consist of: 1) understanding children's characteristics and what they are capable of understanding at the various age levels, 2) practical help info such as how to write a lesson plan and why they must write it, 3) teaching techniques. All of this can be done by way of lecture, handouts and role playing. After your volunteers have the basics down, more advanced workshops can be held on the creation of teaching materials and involvement in curriculum development.

Don't just think that, because there is one teacher for every class, everything is OK. Assisting in a classroom can prove most beneficial for all involved. This is especially true if you have one or more of the following happening in your Sunday school: 1) K-12 classes with more than 12 children in each of them; 2) a pre-K class with more than eight children (this age needs constant supervision to help them stay on task as well as to help in the arts and crafts activities; 3) a class which has a child with a special need; 4) classes participating in field trips for their lesson. The assistant's job is to assist the teacher, not become the teacher themselves. The assistant must always follow the classroom teacher and support his or her lesson and teaching style. The assistant can help in maintaining order by quietly instructing the children to pay attention. Above all, do not disrupt the class, but find ways which allow the teaching to go smoothly.

Other ways to help Sunday school

If you are handy at making things from wood or by sewing, there are many ways to help build necessary materials and furniture for the classrooms. The pre-K class can use play stoves, refrigerators, doll houses and even portable room dividers to block off areas or contain students in order to help facilitate their attention. Tables are always needed. Sewing is necessary to make puppets, flannel boards, supplies and wall hangings. If you are artistic, you might lend your hand at sprucing up the rooms themselves by repainting the walls or doing some wall graphic or mural.

Lend yourself to be a guest speaker by sharing your testimony of a special assignment such as the 40-day foreign mission or the Russian Student Workshops, for example. Talk about what you do now and why. Talk to classes on why you joined the Unification Church.

How teachers can involve parents

This not only lends itself to parent involvement with their own children but is a good witnessing tool to introduce guests to church. Items in this area include having parent and child events (sports, art shows, dinners, dances, picnics, etc.). You may even want to have mother/son, mother/daughter, father/son, father/daughter events specifically. If you do, be sure when advertising it that you do not exclude those coming from a nontraditional family, such as a single- parent home. If a child does not have a father, let it be known that a grandfather, uncle, older brother, etc., is equally acceptable. Remember we are not here to create an elitist group of people who stick up their nose or pooh-pooh those who do not conform to how we may believe they should be living. Our mission is to be able to embrace those people, thereby educating them by our example, not lecture.

This leads into developing a family education program which could include guest speakers, discussion groups, activities and events. Guest speakers do not always have to be Unification Church members but may include educators and community leaders whose philosophy is similar to ours. Topics can cover things such as: What does it mean to be a father? (or mother?); TV sex and violence; helping children combat peer pressure; child safety inside and outside the home; child abuse; etc. Remember again that just as children have different learning styles, so do adults. So don't have your entire family education program be in a lecture-only format.

When initiating these events, open them up to both members and the public. Advertise them in the newspapers by way of a Calendar of Events column or the like; free-of-charge, public service radio spots are also free. Don't forget flyers and posters. I might also add that if you provide free child care (and I do mean care, not just baby- sitting), you will attract more people. Child care can be provided in the Sunday school rooms; separate the age groups here as well, and have a scheduled group of adults be responsible for activities which include both small and large motor skills. Good child care needs as much input and organization as a good Sunday school.

Periodic parent/teacher conferences are nice. (This means you must have a system of student evaluation in place.) Have homework assignments which involve both parent and child. Perhaps a type of PTA or Sunday school parent association would be a way for parents to have input into the creation and development of Sunday school. It would also make them feel the importance of it and take it seriously thereby having it be a natural part of their schedule.

In conclusion

Above all, communication must always be present in all its forms- through the printed word (i.e., newsletters, flyers, letters), telephone calls, announcements at Sunday service, face-to-take talking at church, home visits, and outings together. It is actually in this area of parental involvement where the state and regional directors should work together on an equal basis with the Sunday school director to help facilitate not only a working, dynamic Sunday school but a powerful, vibrant and growing church community as well.

Next month: Evaluation

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