She Gets It!

By Craig Anderson, MennoMedia, Kitchener, Ontario

I recently had the privilege of witnessing four Sunday School teacher training events for Shine sponsored by Mennonite Church Eastern Canada. It is inspiring to see the dedication, creativity and love demonstrated by our Sunday School teachers.

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One of the trainers’ emphases–and one of the keys to the pedagogical approach behind our new curriculum, Shine, and Gather ’Round, its predecessor–is to get the children to ponder “wondering questions” about the story. I wonder how Rachel felt about that? I wonder why Peter did that? What does that say about God?

With such an approach, tough questions aren’t seen as a challenge to the authority of the teacher. On the contrary, they are signs that the children are listening deeply; they’re getting it. At a point in one training workshop, the trainer had just finished demonstrating a labyrinth laid out with rick-rack on a bed sheet. She took a stone, representing a burden, and slowly and prayerfully walked a spiral into the centre, where she set down her stone and picked up a feather, a symbol of God lightening her burden, before slowly spiraling back out. Children as young as two can participate in and benefit from this spiritual practice.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock, Peng-guang Chen

When it was time for comments and questions, one participant, whom I had taken to be a Sunday School teacher (albeit a young-looking one) piped up and said that she resisted the idea of there being a long circumscribed path to God at the centre. Rather, through her relationship with Jesus she celebrates her straight and immediate access to God.

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Photo credit: ThinkStock, craetive.

Wow, I thought, she gets it! She may not fully get the idea of the labyrinth as a valuable spiritual practice we can use in Sunday School to teach children to pray, but she gets Shine; she gets the idea of not artificially stifling her questions or her passion but bringing them both into the Light.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock, Eliza Snow

It was only in the car on the way home that I learned she was not a Sunday School teacher at all but a very precocious 13-year-old student, who came to the training because she did not want to miss an opportunity to learn more about Christian education in her congregation. In a room otherwise full of adults, she challenged one aspect of the labyrinth prayer. Though I like the labyrinth, and have frequently seen it used to great effect, her comment affected me in a different and more important way. I was reminded that it is not just our teachers and superintendents who can inspire us but the students themselves.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock, Ingrid Prats

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Have you ever been inspired or instructed by a student’s question or comment?

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If your church or conference using Shine? We’d love to hear more stories such as this one! Comment here or send to melodied@mennomedia.org 

To find out more about Shine check out www.shinecurriculum.com/

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Craig Anderson
Marketing and Sales Manager, Canada

Gather ‘Round Bids Farewell

After 8 years, 32 quarters, and 416 weeks, this is the last week of the current children’s Sunday school curriculum, Gather ’Round: Hearing and Sharing God’s Good News. Next week will be the first week of the new curriculum, Shine: Living in God’s Light.

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In the course of this thoughtful curriculum I have done countless puzzles, tried my hand at various crafts, and edited numerous Bible stories as I read through session after session.

But my own work comes nowhere close to that of Project Director Anna Speicher. By my estimation, she has read a total of some 2600 sessions. (Curriculum was produced weekly for seven age groups for the first two years of Gather’ Round, and after that it was for six age groups each week.)

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This is what eight years of curriculum looks like when all stacked up.

 

I was hired by Anna in February 2005 to serve as managing editor for Gather ’Round, a full year and a half before the first curriculum was used by congregations. MennoMedia and Brethren Press are the co-publishers of Gather ’Round (just as they are for Shine), and in those early days we made decisions about student book names, we established the parameters for what each product would look like, and most of all we hoped and prayed that this curriculum would aid congregations and families in forming faith.

Being part of the Gather ’Round team has been a privilege in my life, and I’d like to share a few highlights.

  • Sharing: In my former congregation, I was part of planning a summer worship series using Gather ’Round themes. It was a delight to bridge my own faith and my work in this way, and to share this brand new curriculum with my church.
  • Teaching: I have loved teaching Gather ’Round. For two years I taught the Middler curriculum to one child. It was certainly a small class, but this one-on-one teaching was such a good way for me to really understand each session. Since then I’ve mostly taught the Preschool curriculum to a group of about five children. There’s no time to go deep with active three and four year olds, but I have appreciated the great variety of activities suggested in each session as we quickly moved between them. It was a delight to see how some children got engaged in memory work, others in art, some in games, and still in others in retelling the story. It reinforced for me the importance of teaching to the multiple ways that children learn.
  • Learning: Participating first as the managing editor and later as a member of the oversight group for Gather ’Round has meant that I’ve learned about all angles of producing a curriculum. I’ve put my seminary Greek language skills to good use and also sharpened my pencil as I looked over sales figures and budgets.

Thank you for the privilege of serving you and the children, youth, and families in your congregation with Gather ’Round! And we look forward to sharing with you through Shine: Living in God’s Light.

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To close, here’s a glimpse of Gather ‘Round by the numbers:

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vision

 2

publishing partners

 7

age groups

 18

denominations represented among Gather ‘Round users

25

Bible scholars

31

Talkabouts

49

curriculum writers

124

student books

184

teacher’s guides

342

Bible stories

416

Bible insight essays

2613

responding activities

Thousands and thousands

 of children and youth taught

1

curriculum

Amy Gingerich, Editorial Director, MennoMedia.Picture of me 1