The Countdown is Nearing: Time to Shine!

By Mary Ann Weber

What comes next in this sequence? Foundation Series, Jubilee, Gather ’Round, _____?

Some of you recognize these as titles of previous children’s Sunday school curriculum published by MennoMedia and Brethren Press. They have all served the church well by providing solid, Bible story-based materials in an Anabaptist perspective to guide our children in forming faith. Following in this rich tradition, a new children’s Sunday school curriculum begins this September, 2014. The answer to the sequence is the name of the new curriculum—Shine: Living in God’s Light.

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My own adventures with Sunday school began when I was both a student and a teacher with the long-running Foundation Series. Every now and then at my office I run across old dusty copies of a Foundation Series piece. It all looks familiar and I still remember some of the stories, even though it was used long ago!

Then Jubilee came along with its brightly colored wooden story figures essential to telling the Bible story. Children were captivated with them, and eager to retell the story so that they could use the story figures.

Gather ’Round built on the good faith traditions of the previous materials. The children I taught liked that the Sunday school time was also a worship experience. They watched reverently as I lit a candle to remind them of God’s presence, and sang along heartily along with the CD to praise God.

And now, very soon, Shine will begin. August 31, 2014 is the much anticipated day to start this new series and people are taking time to learn about it. Several trainings have been held to introduce and orient people to the new materials.

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Recent Shine training with Mary Ann Weber for Indiana Michigan Conference.

People are enthused about Shine On, the story Bible that accompanies the primary and middle classes. It contains all of the stories used in Shine throughout its three year cycle, and includes artwork from a variety of artists. In addition to using it for Sunday school, Shine On also makes a good church-home connection if one is purchased for each household. Families can read the story together, look at the illustrations, and talk about the exploring and connecting points found next to each story.

DocHdl2OnVERSA-PPM01tmpTargetPeople are also excited about the songbook and CD combination. While one of these is used in each primary, middler, and junior youth classroom, one pastor said that he would like children to have their own copies. This way they can follow along with the music as they sing, play the music themselves, and have their very own CD to play even when they are not in Sunday school.

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You can learn more at the Shine website, www.ShineCurriculum.com. If you have not attended a training, videos will soon be posted at the website that will orient new users to the material.

It’s time to Shine!

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What do you remember from your Sunday school days? What stories, songs or Bible verses have stuck with you?

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Do you feel it is important for your children, grandchildren, or church families to grow up with an Anabaptist children’s curriculum? Why or why not?

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The Shine On Bible is available here.

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Mary Ann Weber
Managing Editor for Curriculum

Poof: Great Sunday school materials DO NOT just suddenly appear

By Rachel Nussbaum Eby

I was hired this past July to become the managing editor for Shine: Living in God’s Light, the new curriculum available to all Anabaptist related churches (and beyond) that will follow the popular Gather ‘Round curriculum. Even though I have been a Sunday school teacher and superintendent at my church, working with Sunday school curriculum in this role has been an eye-opening experience.

ShineLogoHere are the top five things I’ve learned about producing a high quality curriculum:

#5 – The process to produce one quarter of a curriculum begins many months before Sunday school teachers begin to teach it. The Fall 2014 quarter began in in earnest in 2012, and planning and raising funds way before that. Staff and volunteers worked together on the curriculum to determine the elements of each session and decide on which Bible stories to use. Curriculum writers were hired. After an Editors Conference in February, writing for the Fall 2014 began. All of this happened before I was even hired so it was like jumping on a moving train. Fall 2014 was already in the editing stage, rough drafts of its illustrations were arriving in my inbox, and music for the Early Childhood CD and the Year 1 Shine Songbook and CD (for primary through junior youth) were ready to send to the two music coordinators who had been hired.

ShineWritersConferenceShine writers at the first writer’s conference

#4 – It takes a lot more than writers and editors to produce a great curriculum. This dedicated group also includes the project director, proofreaders, illustrators, designers, music coordinators, musicians, website designers, marketing departments, and assorted staff persons who do things like get the ISBN numbers and find the best printers. Even congregations and individuals have provided feedback, donated money, and provided teacher tips that we are using in the Shine teacher’s guides. (If you like to learn more about how you can also contribute a tip, please email me.) This curriculum is such a wonderful example of how well two separate companies—MennoMedia and Brethren Press—and three denominations—Mennonite Church USA, Mennonite Church Canada, and Church of the Brethren can work together when they have a shared vision.ShineAtConventionShine at the Phoenix Mennonite Church USA Convention summer of 2013.
Shine was also at the Charlotte Church of the Brethren Conference

#3 – Technology is vital to the process. Skype and videoconferencing are essential for planning meetings.  Special sites handle the movement of extra large files. The internet enables people to work from lots of locations. I am so thankful for technology. At the same time, I am also glad I have met some people in person. I visited the Church of the Brethren offices in Elgin, Illinois, and had the opportunity to get to know the Gather ‘Round staff. This week, I met my coworker, Chrissie Walls, in person for the first time. She traveled from her home in Rochester, New York, to Elkhart, Indiana, for Shine staff meetings.

3D-BookCovers_ShineOn_lowRGB (2)#2 – A curriculum goes through many, many steps before it is ready to be sent to printer. The best image to explain this process is a weaving loom. I hold the long strands (the warp). There’s a strand for each teacher’s guide, student piece, and resource/poster pack. There’s a strand for Shine On: A Story Bible, the songbook, and each CD. There are strands for each type of image. There are even strands for web pages on the public website, www.ShineCurriculum.com and on the website for writers, editors and staff. As I hold the warp, it is my job to coordinate the order of the transverse strands (the weft) to eventually make the final useful and attractive product. For example, the illustrator cannot draw illustrations until each editor has described them. It’s a complicated process and can threaten to become hopelessly tangled. But Rose Stutzman, the project director, is a terrific guide.

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#1 – Developing a new curriculum can be very exciting. I have enjoyed looking at the two-dimensional illustrations and designed pieces that came from one-dimensional descriptions. I was fascinated by how combining words with images in Shine On have made the stories come alive in new ways. Most of all, I anticipate that moment when the first quarter has been printed and I can see all together on my desk—the final useful and attractive product.

I would love to hear from you: comment on the blog or write me directly: RachelNE@MennoMedia.org

Rachel Nussbaum Eby
Managing editor of Shine

I Love My Job!

For the past 19 months, I have served as MennoMedia’s Director of Development. My responsibilities include church and donor relations with a current emphasis on raising the $400,000 needed in seed funds to develop the next generation of Anabaptist Sunday School curriculum—Shine. We are making progress on that goal, having raised the initial $110,000 in gifts and pledges, but much remains to be done. You can visit the Shine website here and check out the exciting new Shine Story Bible.

ShineLogoTo reach this goal, I worked together with MennoMedia’s CEO and Board to develop a strategy. We decided I should visit the 50 U.S. churches and 33 Canadian congregations that are the top users of the current Gather ‘Round Sunday school curriculum, and ask them to help supply the needed funds for the new curriculum. Following my recent trip to Oregon I have completed that task, to a reasonable extent, having visited 47 of the top 50 congregations in the U.S. and 21 of the top 33 in Canada. The other congregations either declined a visit or are too widely scattered to justify a trip. As you know, it is a long and difficult process to make it into a congregation’s budget but I am hopeful that my visits, and the strength of this appeal, will bear fruit as congregations process my request.

Many people are timid and therefore reluctant to ask for money. They imagine they would hate my line of work. I, on the other hand, love it. Being an extrovert, with a strong belief in MennoMedia’s mission “to engage and shape church and society with resources for living the Christian faith from an Anabaptist perspective,” I have found the job both challenging and rewarding. I have learned a lot about the Mennonite Church in both the U.S. and Canada. I have traveled to new places and met fascinating people. My wife, Chris, who is a nurse with a flexible schedule, has accompanied me on several trips. (Of course, we always pay for our personal expenses during such trips.)

Chris recently went to Oregon with me. I was able to do my work in five days and we spent a late September weekend at Crater Lake National Park. What a beautiful place. The park received eight inches of snow two days before we arrived. However, on the day we arrived, the weather was beautiful. The lake was a deep blue and I could see Mt. Shasta, a 14,151 foot summit 100 miles away in California. Wow! The next day was rainy and foggy and we couldn’t see the lake from the lodge just 900 feet away.

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon. Photo by Chris Carpenter

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon. Photo by Chris Carpenter

Immediately upon my return from Oregon, I headed off to Lancaster to attend Everence’s biennial development conference, Creating Lasting Legacies. There I met others engaged in fundraising, was inspired by those more experienced in the field, and learned much about estate planning. It reminded me of a quote I recently read in The Canadian Mennonite by Lori Guenther Reesor, a professional fundraiser and co-pastor of the Mississauga Mennonite Fellowship in Ontario. She said, “Fundraising is the joyful and holy task of telling people about the garden and inviting them to water it.”

sb10062327r-001I feel that way about my work. It is both joyful and holy. I incorporate prayer into most visits and feel like I both give and receive a blessing everywhere I go. I pray you too may experience the holy joy of giving as you practice faithful stewardship in response to the abundance God has given you.

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Steve Carpenter
Director of Development