WACO (January 15, 2011)--It wouldn't be Sunday without Sunday school for a small group of children at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Waco.
Eight students make up the first and second grade Sunday school class, learning about baptism and spending time in spiritual reflection.
But dedicated students are fewer and harder to find in 2012.
According to a statistical survey by Lifeway Christian Resources, the Southern Baptist Convention has seen steady declines in Sunday school enrollment each year since 2004.
8.2 million students registered to attend in 2004, compared to 7.6 million in 2010.
Other protestant denominations reported similar declines.
Now religious scholars are wondering if the decades old tradition is in need of saving.
"there are lots of things that are calling to families these days," said Lisa St. Romain, director of Childrens Ministries at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Waco. "sports events, gymnastic tournaments. Now those things are actually on Sundays."
Religious experts say a more secular society and increasingly demanding childrens activities force families to make tough decisions and put the church in a tough position.
"it's a difficult choice," said St. Romain. "and a choice that most families have to make."
So local churches like St. Paul's are working to make Christian formation more accessible to busy families.
"I can offer different alternative ways for children to be formed," said St. Romain. "not just on Sundays."
But for parents like Elisa Rainey, Sunday school is a staple of her children's upbringing.
"we try and keep Sunday mornings focused on church," said Rainey. "for the family."