An older member of our congregation revealed to me recently that a younger relative of hers (a young parent) had left our congregation long ago because of one thing: Coloring.
Our Sunday School wasn't serious enough. "All they did was color," she said, conjuring up for me visions of past Sunday Schools with lots of Bible verse memorization and gold stars for attendance.
Now, I knew that this wasn't exactly true. I knew that we had Lectionary based Bible lessons, which also included crafts, not just coloring. (In fact, I had one mother tell me, long ago, that her young daughter wanted to become Lutheran "because of the crafts.") But I was cut by the word of judgment, even though it was relayed to me at least ten years after the fact.
No one likes to think that they are falling down on the job of transmitting their faith to their children. No one likes to think that they are coloring instead of helping children learn Bible stories, pray, and know, in an age- appropriate way, what they believe. And our congregation does plenty of things besides Sunday School, including special Faith Milestones where chldren learn with their parents about Prayer, The Ten Commandments, Reading the Bible, and the Apostles Creed.
But it's challenging to find ways to share faith with the children. Especially in this day and age when even on Sunday mornings it's hard to find time to gather regularly. For one thing, there's hockey (yes, I live in the upper midwest). Families are mobile and have obligations that interfere with regular Sunday School attendance.
And -- dare I say it? -- even if every child was at every Sunday School session every year, one hour a week is not enough time to share faith, especially if we consider friends, TV, school, and the myriad other things that children are experiencing. Even if all we do is sit in chairs and memorize Bible verses and recite them for the whole hour, it's only an hour.
It seems to me that if we want to share our faith with the children, it's best if we are doing it all the time, not just for an hour on Sunday, but at mealtimes and in the car and whenever we have the chance. It also seems to me that coloring is not the problem. It's not so much how we teach the children, but how and what we teach adults that matters.
So, I think: go ahead and color with the children. Color with the children, but teach adults: teach them to pray and to talk about their own faith, teach them to listen and pay attention to children's questions, teach them the vocabulary of faith: grace and sacrifice, repentance and love, Jesus. All the Time.
And then, let them color with the children.