Valerie Reimer’s Sunday School Kindergarten and Grade 1 say grace before having their snack.

At St. Cuthbert's in Delta, children are engaged and the Sunday School is growing, says Superintendent Valerie Reimer. Some 33 children came to the first day of the new church school year, another 10 are registered, and Reimer, who has been superintendent for the past three and a half years, thinks the number will increase to 50. "It does appear we are growing," she said.

What's happening at St. Cuthbert's is being mirrored at several parishes in the diocese. While overall numbers of children in Sunday School - or Church School, or the Children's program, or whatever it's variously called - are nowhere near those 30 or so years ago, many parents do want their children to receive some formal instruction about the Bible, prayer, and Christianity.

But organizing a Sunday School and getting youngsters to come with some semblance of regularity is a challenge, especially with competition from a host of other activities for youngsters.

Christi Peterson helps her daughter Kya in St. Cuthbert’s Sunday School

"There's a shortage of playing field time in our area, so the community teams often have games on Sunday morning," said Reimer. "It gets harder to keep the older children involved."

The superintendent, who has been attending St. Cuthbert's for 27 years (husband Len is Rector's Warden), feels there are two keys to a successful program. The first is finding enthusiastic teachers - and enough of them. The second is a lively curriculum that will keep the children's interest and is easy for teachers to follow.

Recently, she has found the "Bible Zone Live" program published by Cokesbury, a division of the United Methodist Church in the US, suits her needs. It is very "readable" and involves a good blend of story, fun activities and follow-up crafts to bring home the message. Sunday School begins each week with some high energy music using DVDs whenever possible ("Shout Praises! Kids" from Integrity Music and Hillsong's "Live Worship for Kids")

Reimer, who taught elementary school for seven and a half years before opting to be a stay-at-home mother, has four teachers involved in teaching the Grade 2 to 6 group - Kimberly Go, Rassamee Ling, Jegatha Rajkumar, and Valerie Stringer. Each teacher prepares one lesson a month, and shares it with the others just before the class begins.

This way they don't have to spend a lot of time in preparation every week. Two teachers work with teens (Sarah Knopf and John Sundara), one with preschool youngsters (Shannon Payne) and Reimer teaches Kindergarten and Grade One. In addition other adults help with distributing snacks, decorating bulletin boards, substituting when needed and various other jobs.

Jegatha Rajkumar and her students at St. Cuthbert’s Sunday School

"Although I carry the role of superintendent, I see us as a team," said Reimer. "A group of consistent teachers who are there each week by choice - who haven't been 'talked into' the job - means we have the dedication that's necessary to provide an atmosphere of love, acceptance, and caring that the children deserve."

Parents report that the Sunday School has a very positive effect. "They do come home and ask questions, and tell us what their teacher has said in Sunday School," said Nicole Scott, mother of Carter and Morgan.

Reimer adds that the St. Cuthbert's congregation is very supportive also. The children sing in church on special occasions and distribute hand-made gifts. This helps promote a feeling of family, all united as a Christian family.

St. Cuthbert organized an Open House and Family Day early in September, inviting not only the parish but neighbours from the surrounding community and offered games, prizes, dance, music, story-telling, and a chili cook-off. Included was an opportunity to register youngsters for Sunday School.

Sunday School is one important part of St. Cuthbert's stated mission, "to know God and to make Him known," said Reimer. "I continue to learn from the children I teach, and I feel very blessed to be a part of their Christian education."