Duce's Wild: Doing things differently in Sunday School

Published: Thursday, March 21 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

Come, Follow Me

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As a result of the new youth curriculum, “Come, Follow Me,” my newly-called stake Sunday School presidency attended my class on the day of ward conference and met afterwards for training and feedback.

“You know, my calling has been non-existent for quite some time,” the stake Sunday School president said. “But it is time to do something different.”

He cited a training meeting in which concern was expressed over the number of youths who fall away from the LDS Church between the ages of 12 and 18 and the lower-than-hoped-for percentage of Aaronic Priesthood holders who serve full-time missions.

Statistics aside, I am more than willing as a Sunday School teacher and a mother of teenagers to try something different in order to help the kids I love keep their baptismal covenants and reach their full potential now and in the future. So my correlation meeting with the stake and ward Sunday School presidencies was exciting and fanned my flame of commitment to make my classroom a laboratory of spiritual learning and growth.

I’ve also been inspired by discussions with other Sunday School teachers in my stake. We’ve had our own informal correlation meetings while I was sitting in the dentist chair or placing an order at the bakery and shared ideas of what to do differently. These women I admire are using technology any way they can — like sending emails mid-week to students that include conference talks to prepare for Sunday discussions, or bringing their iPad to church so they can show video clips during class. They smile when they talk of their callings which, to me, shows tailored motivation based on love for the individual kids in their class.

Over the last two months, I’ve received emails from other Sunday School teachers and parents who are trying something different and finding success. Please feel free to add your suggestions to the comment box below.

A parent in Utica, N.Y., suggested showing T.C. Christensen’s short video “The Bridge” during a lesson on the Atonement:

“We had no idea how powerful a message was packed in this simple 10-minute video! What a profound effect it had on all of us, as we discussed the love our Heavenly Father and his Son have for us. It was a lesson that won't be soon forgotten.”

A teacher from West Jordan, Utah, offered the following: “I am currently teaching the 13- (and) 14-year-olds in Sunday School. Every week I try to push the kids and myself to have the kids participate more. They have had years being spoon-fed so I feel like it is a gradual change, but we are getting there. One thing that I do in my class is, I got them notebooks that they are expected to bring each week. (I throw in treats once in a while for them bringing the notebooks). This week our lesson is on the Atonement and the testimonies of living prophets and apostles. I will have them write in their notebooks how their faith in Jesus Christ would be different if they didn't have the teachings of living prophets and apostles. When they are in school they have to take notes in class; why should it be different at church? I have some that take notes and are active in using them. Then, I have others who use the notebooks only if I ask, but I still feel like it is progress in the right direction.”

From a teacher in Arizona responding to my column on the 90/10 rule in Sunday School: “This article is one of the best on teaching I've ever read, and I spent 32 years as an educator. … I would only add one thing: end on time.”

From a teacher in Coalville, Utah, who read my column, “Molding Testimonies in Sunday School,” she said, “I immediately got the play dough and applied it to my Sunday School lesson. My class loved doing this project and came up with some very interesting sculptures. I thank you for the idea and would love more. I felt like my class will always remember that day they learned about their testimony.”

One stake Sunday School president included me in his mass email to the teachers in his stake where he provided suggestions for better teaching and proved that communication is a key to help us succeed together.

A teacher in Alpine, Utah, who team teaches with an inexperienced sister has struggled to find a balance between their teaching styles and the kids' responses:

“I have had such a hard time with getting info to the kids. ... Facebook. Genius!”

One teacher from Kamas, Utah, admits: “I have struggled somewhat since the new curriculum has started at the first of the year. I teach the 12- and 13-year-olds (deacon and beehive age) and they can seem a little tough to get them to participate. Any more suggestions would really help!"

Let’s use this forum to help one another do things different and act based on the needs of our students and our desire to help them succeed spiritually, socially, emotionally and intellectually at these critical crossroads in their lives.

Stacie Lloyd Duce is a columnist and magazine editor featured regularly in several Montana and Utah publications. Her columns appear Thursdays on desnews.com. Email: duceswild7@gmail.com

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