IT'S TWO O'CLOCK on a Sunday afternoon. A teenager in western Massachusetts hashes out the weekly Bible Lesson with her Sunday School teacher in Zimbabwe. A few hours earlier, a Christian Science practitioner in Boston preps for her class on the Beatitudes, which consist of middle school-age kids in India and Japan. And at yet another hour of the day, a teacher kicks up an in-depth discussion on how to pray about world issues in The Christian Science Monitor—with his students in Qatar, the US (Wisconsin and Connecticut), and Indonesia.
Time travel? Not exactly. Its the recent launch of The Mother Church Sunday School—online. And the reach is global. Its purpose isn't to compete with branch churches, but to meet the needs of those children and teens who are separated by too many miles to attend Sunday School—students whose closest church might be six hours away— or several countries away. And occasionally there are other factors considered for online eligibility, for instance a teen who has drifted from his or her church setting, and that empty chair in Sunday School is now happily filled—in cyberspace.
In the late spring of 2008, The Mother Church began the project with a few dedicated teachers willing to connect with a handful of teenagers on several continents. We stepped out into the Internet—with an online program using instant messaging (IM), otherwise known as "online chatting." And it all started to click.