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

Which prayers are in Shine?

By Rose Stutzman, director of Shine

Which of the following will be included in the new Shine Sunday school curriculum for children?
A. The prayer of Janis
B. The prayer of Jabez
C. The prayer of Agur
D. The Lord’s prayer

The prayer of Janis refers to Janis Joplin’s song “Oh Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?” As you may have guessed, it is not in the Shine curriculum, designed for age three through junior youth. The song also asks the Lord for “a color TV” and “a night on the town,” and continues “prove that you love me and buy the next round.” I assume that Janis was being sarcastic in this song recorded three days before her death. Singing the song is a critique of a world rife with consumerism.

The prayer of Jabez is found in 1 Chronicles 4:10:

Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from hurt and harm!” And God granted what he asked.

The Prayer of Jabez, by Bruce Wilkinson, is a book based on this short verse about one of the descendants of Judah. The book encourages Christians to expect God to answer our prayers for blessing. While not nearly as blatant as Joplin’s song, the book promises success, and at least in part those successes can be measured by what you can acquire. A 2005 reprint claims that the book has sold more than 10 million copies. Certainly the book’s sales “enlarged the borders” of Multnomah Publishers. Considering the struggle of Christian publishers to stay afloat, the success of this book is no small thing. (In 2006 Multnomah Publishers was acquired by the Christian division of Random House and became WaterBrook Multnomah.)

Shine curriculum does not include the prayer of Jabez but does include another lesser-known prayer from the Old Testament: the prayer of Agur from Proverbs 30.  Agur asks God for two things: he asks for integrity (“remove far from me falsehood and lying”) and Agur asks for enough (“give me neither poverty nor riches—feed me with the food that I need”). In many ways the prayer of Agur reminds us of a line from the prayer Jesus taught the disciples, “Give us this day our daily bread.” (And yes, the Lord’s prayer is also included in the Shine curriculum. So the correct answer to the beginning question is C and D.)

OT_PrayerOfAgur (2)The story “Prayer of Agur” in Shine On: A Story Bible

I often wonder about the times Jesus went off to pray by himself. Did Jesus pray for enough compassion to love his enemies? Enough strength for another day of crowds seeking healing? Enough courage to face suffering and death?

I can imagine that Jesus prayed for the rich man who went away sad, and surely he prayed for his followers to love each other. The story of Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness shows us that Jesus chose against worldly power and glory. Jesus’ goal was God’s kingdom of reconciliation and wholeness, not a kingdom of triumphing over others.

Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one. —Matthew 6:10–13.

How we pray shapes our lives. Both the prayer of Agur and Jesus’ prayer “for daily bread” remind us of God’s generous provision. We can share with others so that they too have enough.

  • I wonder how prayer shapes my life.
  • I wonder what prayer you and I could pray today.
  • I wonder when there will be enough for all?

3D-BookCovers_ShineOn_lowRGB (2)A Story Bible with the caption “Shine On: A Story Bible has gone to press. Congregations should plan to purchase Shine On: A Story Bible for each Primary, Middler, and Multiage group. This story Bible is an integral part of the curriculum and an important home connection. Plan now to buy Shine On as a presentation gift for the families in your congregation. Our dream is for each household to have a copy of Shine On to further strengthen faith formation opportunities at home. Watch for special quantity offers on ShineCurriculum.com.

ShineLogoShine: Living in God’s Light is coming soon. Sample sessions will be available for preview online by end of January. The first quarter is planned for use in Fall 2014 but will be off the press and available by end of March for Christian education committees to purchase and preview.

What do you expect to find in an Anabaptist children’s curriculum?

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Rose Stutzman, with her granddaughter
Shine project director

 

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