Sunday School is Marching On: An Exploration of Children's Perceptions of Church, Sunday School, and a Bible-Based Sunday School Lesson
Wade, Jumesha Shirvon
University of Kansas
Psychology & Research in Education
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Faith development is a highly significant social and educational experience in many children’s lives. According to research, children may thrive in settings that provide opportunities for collaboration, working in small groups, discussing social justice issues and having more intergenerational experiences. Some educators believe children have an untapped resource that is missed in their education. This untapped resource is spiritual practices, which may include faith and religion (Crompton, 2001; Fisher, 1999; Miller, 2000; Bridges & Moore, 2002; Williams & Dixie, 2003). The purpose of this study is to better understand children’s (ages 4–8) perceptions of a Bible lesson in a Christian church, using James Fowler’s Faith Development Theory as an interpretive framework. Chapter 1 introduces the project and lays out the relevant background and context for studying children’s development of faith in a Christian church. Chapter 2 reviews theory and literature on children’s faith development and Fowler’s (1981) Faith Development Theory. Chapter 2 also includes a description of participatory research practices with children, specifically highlighting arts-based research. Chapter 3 presents the research design, including participant sample and procedures for data collection and analysis. Chapter 4 presents the findings from the study, and Chapter 5 discusses the findings, implications, and suggestions for future research. Children participated in a regularly scheduled Sunday school lesson in a Christian church. After participation in the lesson, within seven days, I interviewed fifteen children about their experiences and perceptions of church, Sunday school, and Bible-based Sunday school lesson. I found that children’s perceptions of Sunday school and church included themes around snacks, classroom interaction, peer relationships, church culture, and worship. Children retold the Bible lesson including comments about characters, events, the moral of the story, and tricks. Fowler’s aspects of faith development; form of logic, social perspective taking, form of moral judgment, bounds of social awareness, locus of authority, form of world coherence, and symbolic function were represented in children’s interpretations of the Sunday school Bible lesson.
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