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Slipping from the Radar

Lower priority and fewer classes for Sunday school.

Nearly nine in ten pastors say Sunday school is an important part of their church's ministry, but apparently not as important as it once was. In a 2002 survey, researcher George Barna found 22% of pastors called Sunday school their church's top priority. In a survey this year, that number dropped to 15%. The pollster offers several evidences for this decline in attention to Christian education:

• Fewer churches offer classes for young children. For infants under age two, the number of participating churches fell from 79% to 73% since 1997. For kids ages two to five, the number declined from 94% to 88% in that period.

• Fewer classes for adolescents. Churches with Sunday school programs for junior high students declined (93% to 88%), as did high school classes (86% to 80%).

This represents about 20,000 fewer churches providing Sunday school for each age group. The numbers held steady over the past eight years for elementary age students with 92% of churches offering classes, and ...

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