When God began revealing to me that He wanted me to write, He began showing me challenges with curriculum materials that were available for Bible teachers to use in their classes. He showed me how hard it is to find ideas, appropriate lesson plans and activities for presenting dynamic Bible lessons that hold the attention of the students and create excitement about learning God’s word.
As I worked in Children’s Ministry, I encountered challenges with Bible teaching resources. Perhaps sharing these can help curriculum writers and those who teach children from Bible curriculum.
Hopefully as you read through these short testimonials, you will glean something to help with your class! So read on and enjoy!
To Date Or Not To Date?
Some curriculum packages come predated from the manufacturer. In my opinion, this isn’t the best approach. Predating curriculum prevents the materials from being used repeatedly and/or on a different day than planned. If for some reason class is cancelled, the teacher has to waste curriculum or use materials with the incorrect date on them. In addition, if the teacher chooses to skip the lesson because of an incorrect date, the students miss out on something valuable.
Believe it or not even first and second graders notice–and quickly point out–that they have the wrong day’s materials. Dating curriculum impairs a teacher’s flexibility, and if the teacher desires to plan something special for her class, she is discouraged for doing it because she will fall behind on the curriculum agenda. This can create stress for the teacher.
Predated curriculum may or may not be what the Holy Spirit wants taught that day. I know He uses predated curriculums, but at times He puts something special that He wants taught on the teacher’s heart.
Also, dated curriculum must be continually replaced with new materials. As a result, curriculum-producing companies collect more money from churches that can’t necessarily afford it. They keep their customers continually purchasing materials that will be used briefly and thrown away. Why don’t these companies make products that can be used repeatedly?
In conclusion, churches would be wise to purchase materials that can be used repeatedly, even if they skip a year or two in between. This will save them money and allow them to purchase more materials with the money they saved. Also, they are not bound by the predated curriculum’s schedule or theme.
Bible-learning activities are wonderful teaching tools. However, there are a few challenges to be aware of when you use them in class. One curriculum package required the teacher to locate a multitude of various items to bring to class for one 15-minutes segment of time. These items included a selection of clothing and robes for children to dress-up in class. This is fine if you have the items readily available and you don’t mind carrying a large load of items with you to class. However, this can be very cumbersome and dressing up may take a large part of your class time that could be spent in better ways.
Another activity required the teacher to bring in various children’s toys including place setting of dishes, food items, a toy shopping cart and several other items. Again, if the teacher has these toys on hand, this might be workable. However, if the teacher has to chase down the list of items or purchase them for class use, this could become too much! Tracking down this multitude of items would take a lot of time that most teachers usually do not have. Also, purchasing this multitude of items for one short class segment may not be being a wise steward. This money would be better spent on items that can be used repeatedly. Also, I’m not sure how a shopping cart with food in it can relate to Bible lessons. Perhaps someone could give me ideas about this?
Another challenge I had with curriculum was that the work and/or activities were just too difficult. A teacher can usually tell rather quickly when an activity or lesson worksheet falls into this category.
In a primary-age Sunday School class, my students were asked to write a sentence about how they could worship God. Unfortunately, my students were mostly first graders who were just learning the names of the letters of the alphabet and how to bring them together to create words. They barely knew how to recognize and write each letter, and most of them didn’t even know what a sentence was. In this situation, how can students write a sentence if they don’t even know what it is?
I probably could have taught them a bit about sentences, and we may have been able to come up with an idea. However, with my class of twelve to fifteen students, it would have taken longer than the 45 minute class period. Also, in my class our focus was to be learning God’s word not English. Therefore, we decided to move on to the next part of the lesson.
In a different lesson, the same primary-age students were asked to decode a message. The code used combinations of small dashes and dots to represent letters of the alphabet. For some reason, the children had an extremely hard time distinguishing between the dot and dash combinations to decipher the code and figure out what the message was.
Another decoding lesson turned out to be a great success. Instead of using dots and dashes to represent the letters, this assignment had little pictures of food. For example, a hamburger might represent the letter ‘H’ and an ice cream cone the letter ‘I.’ The children picked up on this decoding assignment quickly and deciphered the message.
I believe the little pictures of ‘food items’ were easier for the students to comprehend and visually distinguish between them. Also, the children could relate to the food pictures more easily and they were delighted with them. Toward the end of class, the students were even beginning to complain that they were hungry. Could this be the influence of food pictures on their minds?
These experiences taught me how important clarity and simplicity of expression are when you put together teaching materials, especially when they are going to be presented to a class of children. Also, pictures that are fun and simple can create excitement in class whereas pictures that are complex and ordinary can make it more difficult for students to get involved with the lesson.
Blank Paper Scare!
Another session with this primary-age class called for the children to draw a picture of ways they could worship God. The curriculum provided a big blank page of paper, with only a small border around the edge, for the students to draw on.
The children came up with many ways they could worship God. However, as several of them stared blankly at that piece of paper. Some of them set out to draw pictures but quickly stopped. It seemed as though they were artists, with empty canvases, who were afraid to put the first dab of paint or pencil mark on the page. It sounds silly, I know, but they just stared at the page with puzzled looks on their faces.
When I asked the students how they could worship God, they answered the question and then said, “… but how can I draw that?” Many of their ideas about worshiping God included drawing people or objects that were simply two difficult for them.
I encouraged the children to at least try to draw something and some of them did. Yet as I thought about the assignment, it would have been hard for most adults!
Truth or Fiction:
As I look at the great amount of Christian fiction books on the market today, it grieves me, especially when fiction is used in teaching Bible classes. This is my opinion only and I cannot necessarily back it up with scripture. It seems that many people think fiction stories can teach Bible lessons as well as God’s word. I do not agree with this. Whenever I see fiction used in Bible curriculum, it saddens me deeply because we’re using human wisdom and imagination instead of God’s divine word. We’re choosing second best and choosing it over the word of God.
I have a hard time believing that fiction stories have the same power as the living and active word of God. After all, they are man’s creation and not God’s. Are these words living and active? Do they convict and penetrate hearts? I seriously question it.
Second Corinthians 2:12-13 states, “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom, but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.” In this chapter Paul speaks about human wisdom and God’s wisdom that comes from the Holy Spirit. He says they teach the Word of God with revelation from the Holy Spirit, not with human wisdom. I believe Paul had a reason for this, and it’s because the two types of wisdom are very different. God’s wisdom is inerrant and abundantly more powerful than ours.
Ephesians chapter 6 tells us the Word of God is our Spiritual sword and as such, it has Spiritual power. Ephesians chapters 6 and 10 speak of Spiritual weapons God has given us to fight spiritual warfare. The word of God is one of these weapons. Second Corinthians 10:3-5 tells us these weapons have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and take captive ever thought to make it obedient to Christ.
I doubt that fictional stories, unless they contain scripture, have divine power to demolish strongholds. So why do we teach with human imagination and wisdom instead of using the powerful ‘Word of God’ and the spiritual gifts he has given us? Why do we settle for second best?
In my opinion, we should never allow human imagination and wisdom to become equal to or more important than God’s Word; nor should we give them more time, authority or attention than we do God’s Word. In conclusion, I believe that fictional stories–though they can entertain and teach–should not be used to teach God’s word.