A culture of blame – Sunday School teachers, youth workers and the decline of young people in churches

Stanton, Naomi. 2014. A culture of blame – Sunday School teachers, youth workers and the decline of young people in churches. Crucible, [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This article considers the criticism of Sunday School teachers during the twentieth century by both churches and Sunday School Unions. Sunday Schools had their peak in attendance in the early 1900s and the blame for the lack of young people in church was laid at the feet of the teachers who were successfully engaging them, usually on a Sunday afternoon. As the century progressed, Sunday Schools did decline and faced their most crucial downfall during the 1960s. The 1950s and 60s were also when, on a national scale, churches moved their Sunday Schools from the afternoon to the morning to fit with church service times; a move entirely premised on the needs of the church rather than of those they were serving. This internal factor is often ignored in talk of Sunday School decline in the 1960s as families, and even teachers, are viewed as having been drawn away from church by external distractions.

In the post Sunday School era, youth work is the most comparable form of church outreach to young people. There are echoes of the criticism thrown at Sunday School teachers levelled at these youth workers when young people are not in Sunday services. This article draws on my research into Sunday Schools in the 1900-10 and 1955-72 periods as well as my research into Christian youth work today. It considers how the criticism of Sunday School teachers and youth workers both distracts churches from considering the reasons why church is not welcoming or accessible to young people and serves to destroy the enthusiasm of those who are successfully engaging young people.

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Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Social, Therapeutic & Community Engagement (STaCS)


October 2014Published

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Date Deposited:

19 Sep 2017 10:32

Last Modified:

19 Sep 2017 15:36



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