Old Advice About How to Make Sunday School More Interesting for Teens

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Sunday, November 30, 1913: Went to Sunday School this afternoon.

DSC06534This isn’t the church Grandma attended–she went to the Baptist church which was torn down years ago–, but here is a recent photo of St. John’s United Church of Christ in McEwensville.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Grandma went Sunday School almost every Sunday, so she obviously got something important out of attending: however, a hundred years ago church leaders sometimes worried about teens who did not attend Sunday School.

I found an interesting book published in 1913 called The Sunday School and the Teens. It is a report of the Commission on Adolescence of the International Sunday School Association.

The Commission sent a questionnaire to girls between the ages of 13 and 20 in “widely scattered sections of the country.”

Girls who answered the survey question who no longer attended Sunday School gave many reasons including:

“We had no regular teacher.” “The Sunday School lessons weren’t interesting.” “I didn’t get anything out of it.” “There were so few girls my age in Sunday school I finally left.” “My family moved and I did not enter a new school.” “Sunday is my only day and I did not want to spend the afternoon in Sunday school.” “The other girls in the class weren’t sociable and I got sick of it and left..” “ I think Sunday school is well enough for children but I don’t see anything in it for a business girl” “ I’m too tired.” “I’d rather go to church.” “I simply did not like it.”

The Sunday School and the Teens (1913)

The report concluded that the girls wanted Sunday Schools with:

1.         Competent and interesting teachers.

2.         Some form of class organization.

3.         Some social life connected with the class.

4.         Something definite to do.

5.         Lessons that have to do with life.

25 thoughts on “Old Advice About How to Make Sunday School More Interesting for Teens

    1. One of the continuing mysteries of the diary is why they generally went to Sunday School in the afternoon (and why there are also occasional diary entries that mention going to Sunday School in the morning).

  1. Our church has youth group for teens and my daughter lost interest for many of the reasons the book in 1913 listed so now she attends services but not youth. Sometimes she goes to youth group at a different church with some friends.

  2. I love seeing your photos! Yes, it is amazing how teenagers are the same and yet not enough has changed in 100 years to accommodate them. I did notice at my church service last week that no young people were present. They all attend a separate service that is relative to them. Someone is making an effort to keep them engaged.

  3. Sunday School and church would’ve been one of the best places to socialize, once a person was out of school, right? Where else would Helena have regularly seen friends?

    1. Yes, I’m sure that you are right. Sunday school and church were (and are) important places for people to socialize in rural areas. Your comment reminded me that when I was in college I took my room-mate home to my family’s farm one week-end. She was from a suburban area. She commented that the farmers visiting after the church service reminded her of cocktail parties that her parents attended.

  4. It was a social thing to do, my husbands grandmother loved it. In her Diary almost every Sunday she went to Sunday School. Not every little church had a pastor…so they would have Sunday School instead…Grandma used to go with her sisters and their beaus until she was 18.:)

    1. I hadn’t thought about the possibility that the church might not have had a pastor–or that if it did, that it may have been part of a large parish, and the pastor may not have been able to get to the church in McEwensville very often.

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