Rotation Sunday School

The Christian Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) is New Hope’s Rotation Sunday School Program for children who are in elementary school. Children in the C.I.A. Rotation Program are “Special Agents”, not secret agents, because children are special to Jesus and to our church and we don’t want anyone to keep the love of Jesus a secret!  To be a Special Agent  in the C.I.A. children must be in the first through the sixth grade.

Every Special Agent gets a cool C.I.A. t-shirt!

 

C.I.A. Mission Verse: Psalm 119:73

73 “Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commands.”

The New Hope C.I.A (Christian Intelligence Agency) invites all
children in grades 1 – 6 to sign up this year.
Come join the fun  as we use computers, movies, cooking, arts and crafts and science to learn about God, His church, and the seasons of the Christian year.
The C.I.A. meets every Sunday morning at 9:00.  Breakfast is available every Sunday morning  to children who arrive at 8:30.

 

 

Original article continues below:

New Hope is implementing the Rotation Model for Sunday School this Fall starting in September, 2010.  Our Rotation Sunday School will be called “The Christian Intelligence Agency.”

A Brief Introduction & History

by Neil MacQueen
This revised article is based on an original article which appeared in several denominational publications in the mid-1990s, including Presbyterian Outlook.

The Workshop Rotation Model for Sunday School began in 1990 when a Presbyterian church in Chicago decided it was time to reinvent Sunday School or close it down. By 1995 enough churches in the Chicago area had successfully adopted the Model to call it a movement.

www.rotation.org was created in 1997 to provide resources, lesson plans, and community for the grassroots movement. Many of the original Chicago Rotation educators began organizing conferences. Several started publishing ministries. As of 2005, it is estimated that over 8000 churches in the U.S. and Canada have now adopted or adapted the Model. And after a decade of showing little interest, several major denominational and independent publishers are now publishing Rotation-style curriculum.

“We weren’t trying to invent a new model, -we were just trying to solve our problems,”said Melissa Hansche, D.C.E. at the Presbyterian Church of Barrington, -the church in Chicago Presbytery where the model got its start.

What problems is she referring to?

  • Bored kids and teachers

  • Declining attendance

  • Lack of Bible literacy

  • Drab and uninviting classrooms

  • Sedentary teaching

  • Expensive curriculum (that’s half used)

  • Poor teacher preparation

  • Trouble recruiting teachers

  • (your problem here)

The decline in Sunday School is one of the worst kept secrets in the Church. Some say “it’s a sign of the times.” Others of us wonder out loud whether the traditional model EVER worked. (Where are all those kids we had in our Sunday Schools back in the so-called “good old days” of the 50’s and 60’s? They’re at home reading the Sunday paper.) “Like a lot of other churches in our Presbytery, we knew we had to do something and soon.” said Hansche. “And we knew that looking for yet another ‘new and improved’ curriculum wasn’t the answer either. Been there, done that.”

Here’s the Workshop Rotation Model in a nutshell: Teach major Bible stories and concepts through kid-friendly multimedia workshops: an Art workshop, Drama, Music, Games, A-V, Puppets, Storytelling, Computers, and any other educational media you can get your hands on. Teach the same Bible story in all of the workshops for four or five weeks rotating the kids to a different workshop each week. And here comes the extremely teacher friendly part: Keep the same teacher in each workshop for all five weeks -teaching the same lesson week after week (with some age appropriate adjustments) to each new class coming in. The results, says Linda Beckham, D.C.E. at Tampa’s Palma Ceia Church are astounding. “The kids love it, the teachers love it, and we can’t ever imagine going back to the old way.”

Here’s why it works: The Workshop Rotation Model concentrates on the major stories of the Bible over and over again. It eschews the popular but educationally unsound lectionary idea of changing the story each week. The model’s philosophy recognizes that kids not only love repetition, but they need it to develop a lasting memory and understanding of content. The multi-intelligences (creative methods) approach in the model isn’t a fad or merely kid-friendly, it is calculated to take advantage of our student’s God-given thirst for multi-modal learning. Traditional designs have long attempted to teach through multimedia, but their frenetic lessons with six or more different steps, a game, a craft, Bible study and music all in 45 minutes left our teachers breathless. And few had the gifts to teach in each mode properly.

The model allows teachers to get better at teaching their lesson.Repeating nearly the same lesson each week means that by the second week of the rotation, the teacher has already begun improving the original lesson plan. No more “if I only would have….” in the parking lot after class. Next week you can!  No more Saturday night planning of a brand new lesson each week (hoping you get it right and it works). No more recruitment hassles, –because they get to improve their lesson each week, instead of prepare a brand new one, teachers are happy to sign up for five week rotations. And because the teacher is assigned to teach in the creative mode they are comfortable with, the teaching and learning experience are enriched. No more lectures and music cassettes still in their cellophane wrappers, no more overused worksheets, or fumbling popsicle stick Jesus’ crafts.

Model “workshops” transform beige and boring classroom spaces into a blizzard of creative, kid-friendly design. The Art Workshop looks like a real art room. The Theater Workshop is more than just a box of old bathrobes and cloth in the corner. Rotation workshops say “we’re teaching kids, not cons, and we want them to come back.” Because each room is organized around a specific teaching medium, dramatic makeovers don’t get torn down a week or a month later like they do in traditional classrooms or VBS. Theater workshops can sprout theater seats and a popcorn machine. Drama workshops get a stage and accumulate props and lighting. Computer workshops get dedicated secure space for their equipment. Art Workshops become messy exciting places to learn.

 

There is no need to buy expensive curriculum, which prompted one denominational publisher to describe Rotation as “the third rail for curriculum publishers.” Instead, in a fit of connectionalism, Rotation educators began calling each other and saying “I’ll trade you my Moses rotation for your Ruth, and do you have any good art projects for the Prodigal Son?” Churches are gleaning from each other. They’re digging into their stockpiles of creative materials and hitting their resource centers. In-house “design teams” composed of a minister, elders and C.E. leaders provide the educational and theological backbone. Together they help shape the simple but creative lesson plans and then count on the teacher to improve on them each week. Unlike earlier models which fell by the weight of their planning, and dissatisfaction with curriculum they had spent plenty on, this model is proving easier to implement and maintain. Because each workshop uses essentially the same lesson plan for about five weeks in a row, every week isn’t a gauntlet of planning. And even if you do want to buy Rotation curriculum (and there’s some good stuff to be had) because we take a slower pace through the Bible, and re-use lessons each week, Rotation is easier on your budget.

Building on the “we can do it” spirit, a website for the Rotation Model, www.rotation.org, sprang upin the late 90’s to host free Rotation lessons, provide articles (like this one) and give Rotation educators a way to support one another across denominational and geographic boundaries.  Rotation.org features the model manual, thousands complete rotation lesson plans, a resource directory and a creative ideas area for each workshop, all of which can be printed out. All along one of the strengths of this model has been the willingness of churches to share with each other. We believe that the grassroots sharing of resources and lesson materials is a vivid manifestation of the connectional nature we have professed for so long.

The growing success of the model underscores several important issues in Christian education.

First, the model demonstrates that the spirit of innovation is alive and well in the grassroots. Rotation has flourished outside of the traditional curriculum establishment. The gifts to reinvent ourselves and be successful in our ministry are out here.

Second, the model seriously addresses the underlying problems of Sunday School and offers practical solutions. Because Rotation is a response to realities, it’s “DNA” understands that it must adapt to changing situations. In fact, Rotation educators are often the first to admit what else doesn’t work anymore, and examine the model, instead of assuming the solution is “new and improved” curriculum.

Third, the model’s early and continuing co-operative impulse-enhanced by the use of the internet, demonstrates the ability of individuals to resource each other outside the publishing establishment and beyond traditional denominational boundaries. www.rotation.org is a proto-type. It is a new resource paradigm made possible by new technology that challenges the foundation of traditional curriculum publishing.


A Personal History of The WoRM

by Neil MacQueen

The name “Workshop Rotation Model” was coined by Melissa Hansche and myself (Neil MacQueen) in 1990 at the Presbyterian Church in Barrington Illinois. We named it that to describe the Sunday School model we had drawn up on a flip chart one day in June of 1990 to solve our problems. Initially we weren’t fond of the name, but it stuck, and seemed to be the most descriptive when talking with other educators. Our congregation called it “that great Sunday School.” Like all good cooks, we “created” “our” model from a lot of things we had learned over the years. We added a few “new” things, -the computer lab, for example. And did some things that you now see in a lot of Rotation churches, such as theater seats and murals. At first, we were surprised it all worked so well, and worked well for other churches who adopted it.

In the early 90’s,Melissa and I published several magazine articles and held a series of small seminars in the Chicago area about our creative Sunday School. We began to find other churches who had been experimenting along similar lines, most notably, The Village Presbyterian Church in Northbrook Illinois and Southminster Presbyterian in Arlington Hts., Illinois. The Workshop Rotation “Movement” began as other churches adopted our basic design and found it worked for them too –or borrowed elements from our basic design to improve their own creative design. We’ve since found churches who were doing something similar to the model “way back when,” usually with a few differences and always calling it something else. Old Solomon was right when he said, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” If we Chicagoans created anything, it was “a wave of militant hope and emerging rebel network” for Sunday Schools looking to break free of the traditional model. (Yep, that’s what it felt like back in those days. Even some CE leaders in our own denomination wouldn’t talk to us. For much of the 90’s, Rotation was considered a fad, -or worse, a threat to traditional writers and their publishing.)

By 1995, several Chicago area churches using the model began networking among themselves. We shared ideas and lesson plans. Melissa and I produced a xeroxed Workshop Rotation manual which sold for the cost of copying and postage.

The Winter of 1996 was when the Rotation Model exploded onto the CE scene. That Winter the Association of Presbyterian and Reformed Educators annual conference was in Chicago, and they sent a busload of participants up our church to spend the day with us. Another 50 were scheduled to attend our repeat workshop the following day down at the conference hotel. But when Melissa and I entered the room, it was standing room only. Word had spread. Many creative educators that day found the final piece of the puzzle they had been looking for to revamp their Sunday School.  From those two seminars WoRM churches sprang up all over the country. And many of that first wave of Rotation churches began training churches in their area.

In the Fall of 1996, a more formal Chicago network was established with the name “The Opening the Doors Network.” At that time the Network also began sponsoring annual conferences on the model. Some members of that group went on to publish their Rotation curriculum and some created an organization called Children’s Ministry of America which sponsors Rotation training seminars and a national conference.

By early 1997, the Model was spreading faster than anyone could imagine. Local networks began popping up around the country. Articles started appearing in denominational magazines and even local newspapers. Resource centers started talking about it and sponsoring seminars. In 2002 was estimated by a publisher that over 5000 churches were actively using the Rotation Model in the U.S. and Canada. And many more are using ideas and materials generated by the Model and website.

My personal involvement with the Model changed quite a bit in 1996when I left Chicago and the Barrington church and moved back to Ohio to start a new full-time ministry/company called Sunday Software. From ’96 to ’99, I traveled extensively talking about computers in Christian education and “The WoRM” as the Workshop Rotation Model came to be known.

In 1997, I launched this website -www.rotation.org- as a way to give away Barrington’s original Rotation manual and lessons, and collect free materials given to me by other Rotation pioneers. The manual was later revised and published by the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, though extensive excerpts remain at the site. Since its beginning, Rotation.org has greatly expanded. It now contains thousands of free Rotation lessons, articles, and has a very active message board. The message board averages over a quarter million page views each month.

Rotation.org is my “volunteer effort” and is not officially connected with my software company (though some folks are occasionally confused about that). The site is now run by a Board of Directors. A lot of the original Rotation web articles were penned by me in response to frequently asked questions.  In 2002 we received a grant to fund our part-time resource coordinators, Ken & Phyllis Wezeman. They shape materials and respond to the hundreds of requests which come into the site each month. Money to support their part-time salary and host the website comes from donations. I continue to volunteer ideas, articles and web development time.

In the early 2000’sseveral denominational and independent publishers finally embraced the Rotation Model and began publishing Rotation curriculum. They include: United Methodist Publishing,  PCUSA’s curriculum division, David C Cook, Group Publishing, Leader Resource (Episc), and the ELCA’s Augsburg Fortress. They often refer to the Rotation concept as “rotational” learning.

But the WoRM continues to have an independent and maverick streak.  There are manyindependent Rotation leaders in the forefront of the movement, leading because they are passionate about the WoRM, and not just because it’s their job. They include pastors, educators, denominational staff, and Sunday School volunteers coast to coast from all the major denominations. There are also a number of Rotation churches overseas.

While the concept of sharing materials still lies at the heart of the model Melissa and I emphasize, there are now companies and denominational publishers which sell Rotation curriculum and provide training. Many of us at Rotation.org –the  lesson sharing crowd– view these publishing efforts as complementary and helpful to churches who don’t have all the tools to pull it all together on their own.

As the Rotation Model moves into the future, we hope that whoever or whatever is involved with it will remember the original motivation and core of the design:

  • Being willing to risk change for the sake of our children, and belief in the message.

  • Being adamant about creating a program that is attractive, practical and gets results!

  • Exploring new ways of resourcing each other that facilitate the sharing of grassroots gifts and ideas.