From Religion in the News, an interesting study on what “spiritual but not religious” parents (the “nones”) are looking for:
Many of [the nones] are nonetheless reluctant to impose their skepticism on their children, and will often outsource religious education by sending their children to a Protestant Sunday school or Catholic CCD or Jewish Hebrew School. But while, like other Americans, Nones “agree that everybody should be able to choose,” Manning said, “Nones won’t allow children to choose just anything.”
What I find interesting is parents’ willingness to outsource religious education to local institutions that have stronger beliefs that they themselves do — as long as the school program is relatively non-judgemental.
This actually rings true for me personally. Although I’m Quaker and my wife Catholic, the most regular outside-the-home religious ed my kids get is from the Presbyterian Sunday School in our town. We’ve picked it because it’s hyper-local, the teachers are nice and down to earth, and — well, they only focus on cross-denominational Bible stories and crafts.
In the Philadelphia area, Quaker schools are known as the go-to place for parents that want (and can afford) a progressive, ethical education that has a spiritual component but isn’t religious. If “nones” are looking for safe religious education on Sunday morning, it seems like it would be theoretically possible to extend that known “Quaker school” brand and reputation over to our First-day schools. It would be a tremenous outreach tool.
Alas, this is just idle speculation. I don’t see many local meetings that are able (willing?) to take on a big project like this. Some meetings would get consumed over internal disagreements on what to even teach. And then, well, I wonder if we have a deep enough bench of experience. A few years ago Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s sessions overlapped with the week-long vacation bible school program at my local Presbyterian church. This is a small church in a small town (one of a dozen nearby churches that host a VBS program every summer) and yet attendance was roughly equivalent to the elementary/middle-school youth program at Philadelphia Yearly Meeting sessions. It was sobering to realize just how small we Friends sometimes are.