Caleb looked at me with furrowed forehead and whined, “I’ve been at school all day, do we really have to ‘study’ anymore today?” The same Caleb who a month later would beg for time to ‘study’ during class. Because study isn’t about memorizing facts or lectures from the teacher. It is about diving into God’s Word and learning to listen for what God has to say to my heart, today, right here & now.
Shabbat seems like the perfect counterpart to Fasting. We are not a culture that says “no” often or intentionally self-sacrifices to make space for God in our lives. Fasting & Shabbat seem to directly challenge those principles more than any of the other disciplines. Shabbat is another discipline that is best practiced within the context of the home but must be modeled first by ministers & pastors.
Today I am grateful that Stacy Smith joins our conversation. Stacy is the Associate Director of Discipleship for Alamo Heights United Methodist Church Student Ministries. She and her husband (who is the Worship Pastor) not only model Shabbat as pastors but also practice Shabbat as a family. Regularly. May we all model Shabbat for those we serve and challenge all to honor one of the most beautiful disciplines given by God.
Two summers ago, my husband and I made our way to Israel for the first time in our lives. It was the trip of a lifetime, destined to forever alter the way I saw God, the way I saw myself, and the way my family engaged our faith. Over the two weeks we spent in Israel, we witnessed many traditions and observances that we ourselves found quite appealing—one of which was Shabbat, or Sabbath.
Growing up, I learned that praying was for dinnertime, bedtime and for boring, old, long-winded men in church. At dinnertime, my Daddy was the only one who prayed. At bedtime I prayed the same words every night: Dear God, thank you for Mommy, Daddy, Sissy & Jamie. In Jesus’ name, Amen. And in Church? Prayers must last at least 10 minutes and the man praying must use only big, flowery words too intimidating to teach & foster in me a desire to talk to a God whose demands for prayers seemed too lofty and dull.
Suzetta Nutt taught me how to Come to the Quiet with children. Here is a sample lesson plan to implement this with your children. This lesson will take you about 10-15 minutes max but don’t rush it. I have done this with children as young as 3 years old. And they can articulate what God told them after they took the time to listen.
I use the story of Elijah in the cave from 1 Kings 19. Depending on the audience, I tell the story or we read it together.
There [Elijah] went into a cave and spent the night.
And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
1 Kings 19:9-13
What would happen if we started asking better questions?
Questions that left room for messy. Questions that didn’t wrap everything up into a black and white bow at the end of class. Questions that left room for wonder & curiosity & what if. Questions that dealt with real life.
Generally speaking, I think a lot of us are really bad questioners when we teach. Rarely do follow up questions go beyond “Remember” or “Understand.”
Our Educator friends are very familiar with Bloom’s Taxonomy, and it is a great resource we need to be using regularly when we are writing or tweaking curriculum or lesson planning. Better questions often appear in curriculum for preteens, but we need better questions for children of all ages. Children are capable of wrestling with challenging questions, even in preschool.
It is my honor to introduce you to Shannon Rains. Shannon is the Children’s and Family Minister at Kingwood Church of Christ. She has been journeying in ministry for over fifteen years. Shannon is currently a D.Min. student at Abilene Christian University and will join the faculty of Lubbock Christian University this fall as the Assistant Professor of Children’s Ministry. Shannon is married to David and has two children. Please help me welcome Shannon to the conversation.
I will never forget my first experience with implementing a change in curriculum. I evaluated our current ministry and made a list of goals for the future. I formed a team of stakeholders: parents, volunteers, and leaders in our congregation. We reviewed curriculum and compared them to our goals. Through prayer and discernment, we made a final selection. The team was excited about the new possibilities. We scheduled a meeting with the teachers and rolled out the new resources.
During the meeting, the teachers seemed excited about the new curriculum. Or, maybe they were a little nervous. In hindsight, they were probably more nervous than excited. I was excited. I misread their feelings through my own lens of excitement.
A few weeks later, reality set in. Continue reading
I’m calling a spade a spade today and confessing that searching for the “right” curriculum is hard and overwhelming and sucks. There are so many options out there and when you start digging in to the finer points of each it’s hard to keep it all straight in your mind. You have to look at price, format, actual content of the lesson and user friendliness. It doesn’t take long before you want to throw the piles of samples in the trash, yell at curriculum writers and play a game of inny-minny-miney-moe to just get the process over with already!
Who’s with me?
But here’s the deal:
A of all: Curriculum writers have the. hardest. job. ever. How are they supposed to write for all unknown churches, denominations, classroom dynamics, AND content levels for all children? Serious respect to all of you out there.
And 2. Continue reading
Like a dog that gnaws on a bone only to bury it for a time then sniffs it out again to gnaw on it once more, the idea of starting a blog has weighed on me off & on for at least a year. When it did I created a convincing column of Cons and pushed it to the back burners of my mind, pretending like I had convinced God that He was crazy.
Until He made Himself abundantly clear, “No, really. I’m not the crazy one.”
My response was very respectful: “Fine! If this is really something you want me to do, You’re going to have to give me a name for this stupid blog…and a purpose…AND ideas.”