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Church plans to revamp Sunday school program

February 24, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

Organizers of a new Sunday school format at Zion Reformed Church are hoping not only to attract neighborhood youth to Christianity but to re-energize those who are already attending.

Based on a Vacation Bible School curriculum called SCUBA, the approach is kid-friendly yet well-rooted in the Bible and the lessons it teaches, said the Rev. Dan Sather, interim pastor of the United Church of Christ congregation at 201 N. Potomac St.

"I have used this before and it was the only curriculum where I ever had kids inviting other kids to come with them," Sather said.

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SCUBA stands for Super Cool Undersea Bible Adventure. The specific format adapted for Zion begins March 2 and is titled "Walk This Way."

A contest was held to pick a name and was won by ninth-grader Amber Hendershot, said Kim Ridenour, another organizer.

Ridenour, who teaches the high school class, and Sather teamed up with Mike Heyser, middle school teacher, to prepare for the new learning experience.

When the program begins each Sunday at 9:30 a.m., all ages of Sunday school attendees, including adults, will gather in the chapel for the open Bible story.

"It will all be on the same theme but with different approaches," Heyser said

Then, Sather said, the groups will break up and go to their "diving" groups. Those groups will include arts and crafts, drama and games, and audiovisual and computers.

"The first session theme is 'Believe in God' as taught by Ace the Fish," Ridenour said. Those gimmicks, combined with changing rooms and activities within the Sunday school hour, hopefully will keep the kids interested and focused, she said.

Sandy Price, a Zion member and student at Gettysburg (Pa.) Lutheran Seminary, had experience with the SCUBA curriculum and has watched it in action at a number of other churches.

"This is where she is using her gifts, helping us with this effort," Sather said.

The point of this major shift in curriculum is obvious.

"We have between 40 to 45 kids in Sunday school now and we are interested in keeping them interested and reaching out to others," Sather said. "We're hoping to double our numbers."

The new program is geared for children in grades kindergarten through eight. High school students will continue to meet at 9 a.m. and will serve as trail guides for the younger kids.

Heyser said the program's flexibility also is allowing church members to volunteer as teachers, knowing that instead of the usual lifetime commitment, they can offer their services for as little as three weeks.

When the first session opens March 2, kids and adults will meet Chatter the Chipmunk for the first time. The furry puppet is another tool to help convey the message of the new curriculum.

"Put simply, we are trying to help bridge the gap between the human world and the divine," Sather said. "Chatter is a faith builder."

For more information on the program, call 301-739-7244.

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