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

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curriculum

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

Thank a Sunday School Teacher

By Mary Ann Weber

When teaching middler Sunday school a few years ago, I decided to have the class do a few activities to give them an idea of how Abraham and Sarah lived. First, we made fry bread. We mixed flour and water and a few other ingredients and made dough that we flattened and fried. It was a hit because the children were learning to cook simple meals at home, plus they wanted to eat the fry bread.

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Second, we used blankets and chairs and made a tent. It was a sorry-looking tent and I’m sure it was nothing like the tent in which Abraham and Sarah lived. But when we got inside the tent it gave the children a good idea that Abraham and Sarah did not live in houses made of wood and stone.

Third, we built an altar. I gathered field stones that surround the flower gardens at my house, placed them into buckets, and hauled them to church. It was heavy work but I knew the children would enjoy building with the stones. I was right. They crafted a lovely and sturdy altar next to the tent.

I left the altar and began walking to the next activity but soon noticed that I was alone. I looked behind me and, to my surprise, the children were kneeling around the altar! Their eyes were closed, their lips were moving, and their hands were folded in prayer.

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(From www.publicdomainpictures.net)

My preparation for that Sunday school session included retelling a story about familiar Old Testament characters and preparing activities to go along with the story. I informed the children, but I forgot about faith forming in their lives. Fortunately, the Sunday school class hadn’t forgotten—they knew what an altar was and they wanted their moment with God.

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Teaching Sunday school takes dedication. Finding resources that take information to the next level and allow formation are key. So are finding resources that fit the theological framework of the congregation and denomination. Other considerations include the right mix of learning and fun, the learning styles of the class members, how easy the materials are to use, among other things.

Two evaluation tools, MennoLens http://www.faithandliferesources.org/Curriculum/MennoLens1.pdf  and MennoLens2 http://www.faithandliferesources.org/Curriculum/MennoLens2.pdf,  help congregations choose materials based on Anabaptist Mennonite perspectives.

Teaching Sunday school is no small task. Find a Sunday school teacher this week and give the teacher a big thank-you. Hats off to Sunday school teachers everywhere!

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The main Sunday school materials we have for children are published with Church of the Brethren and are called Gather ‘Round. A new curriculum to follow Gather ‘Round is Shine, well into planning and writing,  to launch fall of 2014.

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Mary Ann Weber
Curriculum editor