I like surveys. Maybe it’s the insurance underwriter in me, but I like to hear what people like and don’t like. At my previous church, Grace, the Sunday School team did an impromptu survey of the kids and what they liked best about Grace. You will see the picture of the survey here. The stars indicate multiple responses. Here are the results.
What Grace Kids Love About Grace
Ringing the bell after the service **
Special Events (pumpkin carving)*
Sunday School (friends)*
Daddy Donut Day *****
Spending time with the Lord ***
At the bottom of the list, or, as I called it, “The things kids liked least about Grace,” with only two votes each, are acolyting, special events like pumpkin carving, and Sunday School friends. Fellowship snack time is on a par with spending time with the Lord, tied for second and third place. And, as you can see, the number one thing kids liked about Grace was Daddy Donut Day. The sample was small but the results were startling.
The Sunday School team recruited two dads, Steve and Ben, to lead Sunday school on the 3rd Sunday of each month. They didn’t know what to do, so they did what any good dad does, they brought in donuts, and showed a Veggie Tales video. It was a big hit. After six months, Sunday School attendance was consistently the highest on the 3rd Sunday. This survey, however, still surprised me. We knew the kids liked it, but we didn’t know Daddy Donut Day eclipsed every other children’s activity at the church.
So what’s in donuts? Basically, they’re made of sugar, flour and oil. It’s a great treat but doesn’t provide much in the way of sustenance. Ethan attended Grace’s Sunday school for 3 years. When I ask him about Grace now, a year and a half removed, donuts are not the first thing he mentions (and it should be pointed out that Ethan really likes donuts). He remembers his friends, the feeling of being in church, the special events, and what he learned about God in Sunday school. The donuts drew him in, but they didn’t feed him.
The Gospel lesson for this Sunday is about throngs of people who flocked out to the muddy banks of the Jordan River to see John baptize. It was an event that caused quite a stir. But the result was twofold: thousands of people were baptized in the River for the forgiveness of their sins; and, John prepared the way for Jesus. Later on, Jesus asked them what they went out to the river to see. What drew them to the river bank was one thing – the popularity and newsworthy aspects of the baptismal event – but what they saw was one who was (and is) “greater than the prophets.” (Mt 11:11)
I wonder what draws you to Saint John’s. And, I wonder what nourishes you when you are here. I also wonder what draws folks away from our church and the Church in general. Maybe we should do a survey to find out. Are some being led away by the lure of donuts? Or sports? Sunday morning political talk shows? Surfing? Yard work? Disneyland? And are those who do not return being fed?
Perhaps as we head into the great season of Christmas, filled with sugary treats, twinkling lights and a hunger for consumerism, you will invite someone who is spiritually hungry to come with you to church. We may have more to offer than our worldly competition.