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Not Sunday, Not School! (PDF Download)

Through-the-year children's programmes for small churches

Eleanor Zuercher

Currently out of print £9.99


Many churches, particularly those with small congregations and even smaller numbers of children attending on a Sunday morning, struggle with the traditional model of Sunday school and long to find a way to work with children more effectively. This book sets out to show that, with a bit of lateral and creative thinking, perceived weaknesses can become strengths, with the end result that children's work, even in a small church, can become vibrant and successful.

Not Sunday, Not School! is packed with ideas and activites for an alternative model to the traditional Sudnay school. The material comprises tried and tested two-hour thematic programmes that will take you right the way through the Christian year, plus an alternative programme for Hallowe'en and a series for a five-day holiday club programme, or stand-alone workshops for the summer months.

Each session includes:

  • Suggestions for Bible stories based on the theme
  • Suggestions for creating a display for the church
  • Craft activities
  • Games
  • Suggestions for prayer

The book also gives ideas for worship with parents and carers after the session. In addition, you can download additional resources below - a choice of two Lent courses, age-related workshop plans and ideas for integrating the children's work into the main life of the church. Additional material includes full download permission.

Download the additional material linked to Not Sunday Not School!


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Author info

Eleanor Zuercher has recently given up her job to train as a teacher. She lives and works in the West Buckingham Benefice (a group of six rural parishes) where, for the past four years, she has been running workshops for children aged 3-11. Alongside this she oversees all the children's work for her parish, planning and taking services, assemblies, occasional RE lessons, acting as a liaison between the church and the local infants school and developing other links with the community. In 2004, the rural affairs magazine Country Way published a feature on her work.


From: The NEWSpaper (Diocese of Hereford) - Summer 2007

This is a book packed full of ideas for use with children aged 3 - 11. The ideas, which include crafts, games, suggestions for displays for church and ideas for prayer, are arranged thematically according to the seasons of the church. Many of the craft ideas look as though they would take a bit of preparation but each idea is tried and tested and particularly suited for small groups so ideal if your church has only a few children.

Subtitled 'Through-the-year children's programmes for small churches' and supplemented by a website with further ideas, there is probably enough material in this book to keep your children's group occupied for a couple of years at least. A useful introduction gives pointers for those just beginning a children's group in their church such as publicity, child protection and health and safety issues. The information also serves as a useful reminder to those who have been 'at it' for a bit longer. Advice in storytelling, prayer and worship are all included.

The only thing missing is a bit more theology on children's work but there are plenty of other publications that cover that topic.

Reviewed by Colin Resch

From: The Church Times - 1 December 2006

It is remarkable how often creativity springs out of the most difficult situations. Many of us working in junior church would recognise this unpromising scenario: limited resources; parents unwilling to sit through a church service; leaders struggling to find time and energy for a weekly Sunday school; and not enough children to sustain it.

The author of this book, herself a junior-church leader in a rural benefice of six parishes, has created a style of church for children and their parents which is transferable to any setting, rural or urban, and which has been tried and tested over some time in her own parish. Eleanor Zuercher was developing a model of 'mission-shaped church' before that report hit the press.

Zuercher first looked for other times and places at which parents and children could meet as church in her community. Her workshop model requires more personnel and planning than junior church, but as the experience is more intensive than children, parent, and leaders can expect on Sunday mornings, monthly delivery is enough. And the workshops can be longer - perhaps up to two hours. They should include worship, teaching and activities for children and possibly for their carers.

Early chapters in the book cover some of the practical issues that need to be addressed when moving from a 20-minute slot during Sunday worship to a two-hour workshop on a weeknight and perhaps in another location. Issues covered include resources and funding, child protection, health and safety, and some very practical considerations. For instance, if you want children to take craft activities home, allow time for glue and paint to dry, or risk the anger of parents with paint drips in their car.

The final chapters of the book include recipes, templates, and craft tips. A website supported by the publishers - - is wonderfully practical and generous and should be bookmarked by everyone in ministry with children.

The bulk of the book is set out in sample workshops, based around 11 seasonal workshops, plus a summer holiday workshop. A remarkable number of diverse and interesting activities are included: a creatively told Bible story to start the workshop and set the scene; a range of activities with some rather random timings; then ideas for prayers and worship. The ideas for prayers are rather lightweight, and music rarely features, but any junior-church leaders worth their salt should be able to take what is here and add to it.

The book presupposes a certain degree of experience and responsibility, but no more than is usually found in junior-church leadership.

This book shows how, in extremis, the church can re-evaluate its ministry with children, and flourish. It suggests a model of church which is transferable, tied to neither church building nor church times, provided the church or team is willing radically and realistically to appraise a traditional view of a worshipping community.

Lack of junior church on Sundays could leave parents who want to attend Sunday worship looking after bored or frustrated small children; but, on the other hand, this model will reach parents and children who don't normally come to church. Imagination and creativity in each community are the key to engaging with people beyond our church walls.

Reviewed by Dana Delap, a member of the Liturgical Commission

From: The Diocese of Birmingham magazine - October 2006

Many churches are realising that struggling with the traditional model is not only, or even the best way, to engage with children effectively. The book provides the tools for looking beyond Sunday to After School, Saturday morning or holiday times. The material comprises with a set of two-hour thematic programmes that go right through the Christian year, plus a five-day holiday club programme and stand alone workshops for summer months.

It also gives ideas for worship with parents and carers after the session. It has a full introduction of sensible information and advice on using basic skills. The programmes give background information and clear instruction on timing equipment and graphics to help with the craft activities. It starts with the assumption that the children know a little about the Christian faith, but the sessions give time for comment and reflection, so it would reach any who barely darken the doors of church.

Any church, whatever the size, that wants to develop its children's work beyond Sunday, would find this an invaluable and accessible handbook.

From: Country Way magazine - Autumn 2006

A handful of 3-11 year olds? Stuck for ideas? Then this could be for you. The thematic programmes contain suggestions for basing a children's session around a Bible story by using craft, games and perhaps displays along with suggestions for prayer and worship. The range of ideas is wide, the appeal obvious. This book has been written from the perspective of someone living in a village and working in a rural multi-parish benefice and many of the sessions and activities relate directly to the church and agricultural year. The ideas and activities will enliven a good many meetings. The book can, but does not have to, be used with a website.

There is a valuable introduction suggesting that children's activities do not have to be held on a Sunday along with sensible ideas and principles around working with children. The success of the enterprise that this book represents is based on monthly children's work held on a Saturday afternoon. New groups of people and families have been drawn into church activities as a result.

Some may find the suggestions too rigid. That is to misuse this book. It is a quarry with many original ideas and things to set you off on your own inspirations. This book is a very good investment for those with the task of enthusing children with the wonder of God's love and salvation.

Reviewed by Peter Lawrence

From: STAR News, Diocese of London - August 2006

This book of 10 themed workshops, covering the highlights of the church year, is ideal for using with a small mixed age-range of children. Each workshop has stories, crafts, games and prayers, as well as suggestions for making links into the Sunday life of the church. Make Resurrection Eggs, create a papier mache Christingle, design Trinity Trptychs!

Although originally devised for churches in a rural context, there are lots of good ideas which could be used in a variety of churches with small numbers. Well worth getting hold of.

From: The Methodist Recorder - 24 August 2006

Although primarily intended for use in small rural churches, Not Sunday, Not School! is a useful handy-sized book for workers in small churches in any setting.

Containing 'Through-the-year children's programmes' and described as 'ideal for church-based children's leaders working with 3-11s', the two-hour programmes designed for the Christian year, whether conducted on Sunday or not, are joined by material for a five-day holiday club, stand-alone summer workshops and an alternative Hallowe'en programme.

There is all the practical resource material and advice on the mechanics of running a group that one expects from a brf publication and the book may be used in conjunction with the website:

Book details

  • ISBN: 9781841018812Z
  • Published: 13 October 2010
  • Status:
  • Format: PDF Download
  • Pages: 192
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