The Computer Comes to Sunday School

by Cheryl Kirk

When was the last time you found children and youth playing Bible-related games in their free time? At Trinity United in Wallaceburg it’s been happening quite a lot . . .

It all started when the church needed to upgrade its computers in the church office. The old pc’s had been left to gather dust on the shelf, and I figured we could use them to add diversity to our Christian education program. Our fledging computer centre was launched with three old DOS computers; and the "test-site" was our Vacation Bible School of August, 1998. The computers were a Learning Centre option and used a word processing program to enable children to create their own booklets. While we soon saw the technical limitations of the old, slow units, we also saw the potential of a new Christian education tool.

Ten years ago, very few church offices were computerized. Today, many own computers and fax machines, and some have developed their own Web pages. Even small churches are becoming equipped with computers, often through a donation. However, it is still rare to find computers in the church school. Yet, as a Christian educator, I see computers as a vital way to communicate the faith — the goal of Christian education is to tell "the old, old story" in ways that speak to today’s world.

With the relative success of the Vacation Bible School, I was encouraged to take the next step — to explore software options. My survey unearthed a few good programs for older computers, but I was growing more and more impressed with the learning/teaching potential of the software created for computers equipped with CD ROMs. Meanwhile, attempts to upgrade the old DOS computers using old parts was proving unfeasible due to incompatibility.

In October 1998, we moved the computers into a larger room, setting them up as individual "work stations." It proved so popular with the students, we had to limit numbers and rotate by ages to allow for equal access.

At this point, we decided to tell our story to the congregation. The response was amazing. People offered speakers, printers, and CD ROMs, and one person donated a Pentium level computer in exchange for an offering receipt of the value. The Youth Group began fund-raising, and the Trustees agreed to match their efforts. We also received a grant and a matching fundraising grant from the United Church Youth Vision Fund. This money allowed us to purchase two new computers with 17 inch screens (affording greater visibility for two to three young people working together).

Now, we have four new computers, creating a very popular learning centre for our Sunday school. The Youth Sunday School meets there on alternate Sundays and uses The Life of Christ as their curriculum. The Computer Centre is also available for the Youth Group during their Open Sessions when they come to the church to play games, listen to music, or just hang out. These sessions provide an opportunity for longer computer time to play some of the Bible games like Captain Bible or Exodus. As well, the computers are available for word processing if a youth needs to type up an assignment for school.

Meanwhile, an adult computer group began using the centre, also using Life of Christ. In one year, we went from a fledgling children’s centre at Vacation Bible School to a well equipped and functioning computer lab used by all ages. Even though Trinity is not a large church, we had discovered that people care very deeply about supporting the future of the church and enhancing our ministry with children and youth.

Reprinted with permission from Seeds and Sowers, United Church of Canada.

Congregational Life Vol. 7.1 February 2001

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