Fading Faith: Decline Of Sunday Schools In Swiss Churches

(MENAFN- Swissinfo) "Save Sunday schools
", was a demand parishes were making decades ago. However, now, even churches no longer want Sunday schools

This content was published on April 23, 2024 - 11:00 3 minutes velm;glam;kobt, SRF
  • Deutsch de Die Sonntagsschulen sind weitgehend ausgestorben Original Read more: Die Sonntagsschulen sind weitgehend ausgestorben

“Sunday schools
are no longer that of grandparents time,” says a video
from the Reformed parish of Bözberg-Möhntal in canton Aargau.“It's fun!” They paint, do crafts and sing. Bible stories are told and presented in a way that is suitable for children. Still, such church organised programmes have become very rare.

In canton Aargau, traditional Sunday schools
are still offered in four churches, says religious education teacher Monika Thut from the Reformed Church of Aargau:“These Sunday schools
are located in small villages with a strong Protestant character, a little 'off the beaten track'. In other words, in places where the church is still the centre of a community.”

The concept of Sunday school dates back to the 18th century. Reformed Sunday schools
were introduced in canton Aargau in 1905. While the parents attended church services, the children would have Bible studies. However, as early as the 1980s, parishes called for the“rescue of Sunday schools
” as the number of children attending was shrinking dramatically.

For a long time, Sunday schools
also had a social purpose: in this photograph, children of migrants are being taught in a camp for agricultural workers in California. The photograph is dated around 1937. Imago / Heritage Images

The development is not surprising: the number of church members is also shrinking. Over 30,000 people turned their backs on the Reformed Church in 2022. The church in canton Aargau set a new record with just under 5,000 people leaving in 2023. Because of this, childcare during church services is not necessary anymore.

New activities outside the church

Other childcare services have emerged. A“children's church” in canton Aarau, the“Fiire mit de Chliine” (celebrate with the little ones) in Rheinfelden, the“Kindergottesdienst” (children's church service) in Baden. These services do not necessarily take place on Sundays. Thut says that all of these church-related programmes are in competition with non-church activities.

There are an increasing amount of activities with a spiritual approach, but without the church affiliation.“I think children's yoga is very good. If parents are more comfortable with yoga, then we don't stand a chance with our Christian traditional programmes anyway,” says Thut. She believes it is important to offer programmes that support children in their personal development.

“Even in youth organisations, it's not about performance. It's about cohesion, community and attitude; attitude towards their environment and the people around them,” says Thut. In her view, such programmes do not necessarily have to be Christian in orientation.

Children should not be forced

For church programmes which work with the youth, Thut believes that psychological aspects are particularly important.“It's about how we can strengthen children's resilience. So that they can survive in this world, where it's all about performance or beauty. We need to convey countervalues.”

The classic Sunday school will soon be a thing of the past. The days when parents“sent” their children to Bible study on Sunday are over, says Thut. She recalls her own past as a Sunday school pupil:“there was always someone who behaved badly. That child obviously didn't want to go to Bible study and the Sunday school teacher always had an issues dealing with that student”, she says. Today, those who want to attend, do.“That's a nice approach, even in a club or at other gatherings. You do something with those who want to be there.”

Adapted from German by DeepL/amva

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