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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Mary Ann Weber