12:00 P.M. EST June 4, 2010
From left, Faith Falter, Alicia Long, Amanda Justus, Sarah Falter, Colin
Stuecken, Isaac Falter, Rachel Johnson and Katelyn Johnson of Rader
United Methodist Church decorate cupcakes at Saturday School. UMNS
photos by Jamie Falter.
View in Photo Gallery
Sarah Falter knew she had to make a change when her pastor mentioned Moses, and her young son had no idea who he was.
“I was feeling really disappointed in myself because my children
didn’t know all the Bible stories I was brought up with and I knew at
their age,” she said.
What her children needed, Falter decided, was Sunday school.
However, her tiny country church in central Missouri did not have space
for a children’s class on Sunday mornings.
Her pastor, the Rev. Karen Alden, offered a solution: Move it up a day.
Now, under Falter’s leadership, Rader United Methodist Church holds
“Saturday School” from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. once a month, usually in the
sanctuary. The school attracts eight or nine youngsters, ranging in age
from 4 to the young teens.
Saturday School is the kind of innovation more United Methodist
congregations should consider, said retired Bishop Richard B. Wilke,
the creator of the Disciple Bible Study program.
“The way you reach people today — children, youth and adults — is in
intimate relationships studying the Scriptures,” Wilke said. “Sunday
is no longer a holy day. Study life has to take place where people
And that can be any place on any day of the week.
Declining biblical literacy
One thing is certain: Biblical instruction needs to be more widespread, Wilke said.
“We study the whole Bible to find the Savior.”
--Bishop Richard Wilke
In recent years, talk show host Jay Leno has made sport
of Americans who can name the four Beatles but not the four Gospels,
and comic Stephen Colbert has teased members of Congress who want
publicly to display the Ten Commandments but cannot name them.
Wilke started the Disciple Bible Study more than 20 years ago
because he saw a thirst for more Christian education, especially among
adults. The program now has more than 2 million graduates in 10,000
congregations in 30 denominations.
He said most successful groups usually consist of eight to 10
people, and like the early Christians, the groups often meet in people’s
“People thought it would be a fad,” said Wilke, now the
bishop-in-residence at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kan. “What
people are finding is that the Bible doesn’t have a fade-out time and
the small-group format doesn’t have a fade-out time.”
Alden, pastor of Rader United Methodist Church, said Saturday School has been a hit with all ages in her congregation.
The church, with a weekly attendance of about 35, has started
attracting young families in recent years. One reason Alden wanted to
move religious instruction to Saturday was so she would not disturb the
fellowship of older members who gather in the church an hour before
worship at 9 a.m. each Sunday morning.
“I think it’s a really important part of their week to have that social time because many live alone,” Alden said.
Now many of those older members volunteer each month to provide
lunch after the Bible lessons. The church does not have a kitchen so
members bring meals in slow cookers from home.
Ordith Skouby, a retired teacher and one of the volunteers, said she was eager to help.
“The kids seem to enjoy it, and they’re the lifeblood of the church — the church’s future,” she said.
The church held its first Saturday class in December with lessons
and activities based around Jesus’ nativity. In March, Falter taught
the youngsters how to tell the story of Easter with “resurrection eggs” —
plastic eggs containing symbols of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection
such as toothpicks for the crown of thorns and a pebble for the rock
that was rolled away from the tomb.
Since April, Falter has decided to cover the Bible from the
beginning, starting with the story of creation, and moving on to Adam
and Eve and Cain and Abel.
Falter said her 6-year-old son, Isaac, and her 8-year-old daughter,
Faith, now tell their grandmas about the Bible lessons they have
learned. Faith also has been inviting her friends to join the class.
“They haven’t been able to make it yet, but she’s gung ho that her
cousin needs to come and her friend down the street needs to come
because it’s a lot of fun,” Falter said. “She’s pretty pumped.”
And so is the church.
The most important part about studying Scripture is that it leads people to Christ, Wilke said.
“We study the whole Bible to find the Savior,” he said.
*Hahn is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service.