Response 1: Mark Swinney
I love this question! I’d say right from the start that, just as each person is quite individual, the specific time to enter Sunday School is individual, too. Often a parent brings a child to church and the very first stopping point is a Sunday School class, but just as often, the child already has already spent some time around church, being cared for tenderly in the children’s room. What happens next is that he or she then has the opportunity to make a transition from the children’s room into a Sunday School class.
I’ve seen that, while kids in the children’s room can be quite young, the adult attendants can do a lot to help the transition along by reading children’s books about Bible stories aloud or occasionally talking about other things relating to God. These explanations aren’t used to control or to make children behave—they’re just introductions to things that will be explored in class later. The transition, rather than being a push, is best gently directed by divine Love. That way, what is natural and appropriate for each student becomes clear.
A good time to initiate the introduction to Sunday School is when a child is beginning to talk and interact with others. The introduction can include coming into Sunday School from the children’s room just to sing a hymn or even sitting in on a class for a few minutes. A child may then spend longer and longer increments in class. If the child begs to return to the children’s room after a while that is fine, but there will come an appropriate day to tell him that he’s now ready for Sunday School. Teachers can make sure that the child entering Sunday School class feels welcomed, included, and loved.
I’ve always appreciated this comment Mary Baker Eddy makes in Science and Health: “Jesus loved little children because of their freedom from wrong and their receptiveness of right. While age is halting between two opinions or battling with false beliefs, youth makes easy and rapid strides towards Truth” (p. 236). Sunday School teachers are witnesses to these spiritual truths and, as they watch students progress along during the Sunday School years, they can’t help but overflow with heartfelt gratitude for the privilege of conducting a class. And one added bonus is that the teachers end up making “easy and rapid strides towards Truth,” too!
Response 2: Dawn-Marie Cornett
I love this question as, to me, it has implications fundamental to Christian Science. You are so right that Mrs. Eddy does not limit the lower age for Sunday School. In her writings, it is evident that she does not limit, because of age or any other mortal constraint, the intelligence or ability of anyone. She teaches that God is infinite Mind, and that we are the intelligent outcome of that Mind.
So, to me, there is no age when an individual is too young for Sunday School. If a child is welcomed into our church anywhere from birth to 20 years old, they deserve that most blessed education. A tiny infant is God’s, Mind's, expression. To believe that the child will not understand words of love and grace limits our concept of God's reflection. Wouldn't we teach a 5 year old that they are the outcome of Mind, that they are intelligent and infinitely capable because of this fact? Was there a moment when this fact was not truth? Of course not.
Sunday School is the congregation and worship space for children and young adults up to the age of 20. From their very first moment in church, they are valuable additions whom we can and should teach, and from whom we can and should learn. Though we will always tailor a class relative to the individuals in that class, I don't believe there is a moment when a child would not be benefited by and interested in being told about God, their beautiful, ever-present, divine Father/Mother.