Editor’s Note: This article is a follow-up to Day Smith Pritchartt’s tremendously popular “Shutting down the Sunday school” article and to a CMT-convened conversation on February 10 about learning assessment. Day revamped her parish’s Sunday-morning formation as part of our Hybrid Faith Formation Network Initiative.
I left the Google Hangout feeling deeply inspired by the conversation about assessing what participants in our Christian formation programs are actually learning. Several of us had been discussing how we could use various online tools to evaluate what folks were taking away from our programs and how certain creative applications allowed us to expand, and even gamify, content mastery.
Of course, I also had an upcoming program to plan. Our pilot online Christian Education program was about to hold our fifth multi-generational gathering of the program year. I was very curious to know what everyone was retaining; additionally, I wanted to empower parents in their role as primary educators of their children and to surprise them with how much they knew.
The event was billed as “Game Day.” After lunch, we counted off by sixes to get random groups of mixed ages. Because our weekly worship is intergenerational and interactive, no one felt awkward about being assigned to a random team (the youngest participants stayed in their parents’ laps). We played three rounds of “Light of the World” Trivia:
I was gratified to see the adults encourage the children—and to see the beginnings of amazement at the children’s responses. The kids were enthusiastic participants and quite competitive. One lap-sitter, in particular, knew all the songs and shouted the answers regardless of turn, charming everyone.
For the second game, “Put It In Order,” we separated into age groups: younger children, older children, and parents. I adapted three Godly Play stories to game format. The parents had index cards from the Circle of the Holy Eucharist, which they had to put in order.
This task was a bit tricky for two reasons: (1) On Sundays, they are in our Family Service for the Liturgy of the Word with their children, rejoining the congregation at the Peace. So the game demanded that they synthesize what they knew about the two services. (2) Although they worship every Sunday, they may not have clearly isolated and named the service components in their minds.
Oh, and there were two teams: Moms vs. Dads. They were awesome and had many thoughtful questions.
The younger children were all together in one group, and they had to put the plaques from the Faces of Easter in order. We called it the Life of Jesus. The leader read an index card for each one, and showed the plaques, then mixed them up. When reporting back to the larger group, I asked them, “What was first?” and they replied, “Baby Jesus was born!” When I asked, “How did it end?” they said, “New Life!!!”
The older children were also separated into boys and girls. I knew there would be several boy-girl sibling match-ups in this group and wanted each to have his or her own space. I had made Circle of the Church Year puzzles, and they had to put the liturgical colors in order on a background and then add the names of the seasons.
The Circle of the Church Year hangs in the chapel, and we refer to it each Sunday in the Family Service as part of an opening collect and greeting. But I had fretted over whether they could actually assemble the puzzle from scratch.
They devoured it! The two groups finished at the same time despite very different approaches to, um, collaboration. They even got the two red Sundays right (see photo above).
Everyone enjoyed dessert while the age groups shared what each had done. They were both pleased with their own accomplishments and impressed with the others.
In closing, I asked them to discuss, in family groups, the following prompts: (1) What surprised you today? (2) When do you feel closest to God? (3) Share something you hope will happen with you and your family this Lent.
The conversation was lively. I asked for a child to close us in prayer, and one little boy volunteered very quickly, then balked. So he and his mother huddled and did it together.
We also set up a Lenten resource table, and I gave a brief preview of our content for Lent and an introduction to the activities and prayers that will go with our mite box offering program. Although the event was held on Epiphany 7, with Ash Wednesday still ten days away, there was a sense of seasonal transition.
Most importantly, I felt that the group gathering had reinforced what families are doing online at home, with regular worship as the backbone of the program. That’s how this hybrid model is supposed to work, and I pray that we are forming disciples of all ages.
Day Smith Pritchartt, a graduate of the VTS Master of Arts in Christian Education program, is Executive Director of the Evangelical Education Society and Minister to Families at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Arlington, VA.