We learn through taste, touch, smell, sound, sight, repetition, memorization, and body movement. We learn individually and as a group. Use the same structure every week—welcome (song), hear the Word, respond to the Word, share a feast, close in prayer, finish with fellowship or play if you have time remaining—but different techniques and approaches. Also, do not feel obligated to send an art project home with the children every week. Sometimes a group art project may be just the thing! This resource includes ideas for hearing or responding to stories together. Use one or a few options to help plan each of your class sessions. You can also find several useful resources in our Christian Education Library (a post on those resources may be found here) and lots of ideas for activities and practices on our Pinterest page.
We are all on a journey together, growing as a community in faithfulness to God. We are learning together how to worship, desire, and enjoy God. This is our life’s work! When we spend time sharing the stories of the faith with the children under our care, we practice welcome and cultivate a sense of belonging to the community and identity as a person who is a member of God’s own people.
HEAR THE STORY TOGETHER
Read the story from Scripture. For younger classes (1st grade and under) we have children’s books and Bibles that paraphrase Bible stories, these can be helpful tools when used alongside (but not as a replacement for) Scripture. Older classes (2nd grade and older) can hear or read the stories from one of our illustrated NRSV’s. These can be found in 2nd-5th grade classrooms. Remember to show the children in your class how to find books of the Bible using the table of contents, a song, or by teaching them about the Bible’s divisions (Old Testament and New Testament, and especially how to find the Gospels and Psalms).
Tell the story from Scripture. Before teaching your class, spend time with the Biblical text. Even if you know a story well, read closely noticing what comes before and after, taking note of interesting details you may not have noticed before. Read through the story several different times. Memorize it if that is helpful to you. Sit with it long enough that you know the story in your bones. When you retell the story, you may like to share the exact words of Scripture in a storytelling style. If you need or want help with this, the Christian Education Director has resources available for you.
Act it out. Work with your fellow teachers to act out a presentation of the story. It can be very simple: one person narrates the others movements, both read dialogue from different characters in the story, or one person plays all of the different characters at once. Get creative! Perhaps you and the others in your room like writing or finding plays and may enjoy sharing the story this way.
Use Storytelling Materials. Use Godly Play materials, sacred symbols, or building materials to recreate and retell stories from the Bible.
Let the Children Share the Story. Especially when you come across a story that is well known by the children in your class, invite them to share what they know from the story. Here are a few suggestions: Provide simple materials and let them take turns using the materials to present the story to the class. Break the children into partners, allow them to share the story with one another and then come up with a creative way to present the story (through movement, dance, a picture series, etc.). Sit in a circle and start the story: “once upon a time, there was a man named Jesus”; each person shares the next part of the story in a sentence or two. Older children may enjoy writing a class play about the story.
Invite another member of the Parish to share a story. Sometimes it can be refreshing to hear the way another adult might share the story and perhaps you know of someone in the Parish who tells lovely stories. If you would like to have someone come tell a story, speak with the Christian Education Director for ideas. This is a great way for children to interact with adults in our parish.
RESPOND TO THE STORY
Wonder together about the story. Wondering gives your students an opportunity to make connections between the story of scripture and the experiences of their lives. It values each child’s particular life and response to the story. Remember, just because a particular thought or reflection doesn’t seem to be about their lives, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t meaningful. Wondering helps facilitate moments in which students see or experience the presence of God in their lives and helps them name where they see God at work in the Church and the World.
Write poems and stories.
Observe Art. Look at paintings, etchings, and/or sculptures that depict your story. Together, notice the details of the art and invite everyone to share what they see and notice. What does this art tell us about our story? How is it similar to or different from our story? Look at one image, or compare and contrast multiple pieces with one another. What is represented in the different interpretations? Which of these interpretations do you like best? Which tells the story most closely? Which takes liberty with the story (too much or too little)?
Make Art. Use crayons, colored pencils, paint (watercolor, acrylic, etc.), clay, wood or other art materials to create etchings or rubbings, models, or collages. Students may like to make artistic interpretations of what they notice in the story. They may also like to illustrate their favorite part or what the story means to them.
Get Moving. Make music (you can start by making the instruments), learn ASL signs, make or create gestures or body movements that follow music. Respond to the story by celebrating God or making music/movement for God.
Sometimes it is helpful to do some good old-fashioned memorization drills and games. You could do the books of the Bible, the Lord’s Prayer, the Nicene or Apostles Creeds, or a passage of Scripture. Use movement or get outside when possible, encourage writing/reading memorization for older children, and send the piece home with parents so children can practice at home as well. Whatever you do, make it fun!
Play games. Begin with Games that are well-known–Simon Says, Red Light Green Light, hide and seek, relay races, matching, or sequencing and modify them in order to explore, respond, or communicate something from the story. If your class is older and you would like some more cerebral games, try making a puzzle appropriate to the week’s theme. You can try making your own at the Puzzlemaker.
FURTHER RESOURCES FOR RESPONDING TO STORIES
The Book of Common Prayer. The Book of Common Prayer is a wonderful resource for sharing our faith and traditions. Since many of our prayers are heavy on Scriptural illusion and imagery, reflect on connections the story might have with the prayer book. If your lesson is about prayer (The Lord’s Prayer, for example), or if your class is of writing age, they may enjoy copying prayers or writing their own in journals or handmade books.
Do you ever find yourself singing the alleluias on your drive to work or singing a spiritual in response to hearing sad news? The songs we sing together become a resource in times of joy, praise, sorrow, and hardship in the Christian life. Aside from all of this, hymns (chants and carols) are wonderful for helping us learn stories or memorize prayers and passages of Scripture.
Prayer Practices. Use various prayer practices to respond to a story. Students may enjoy journaling, praying in color, learning how to pray with Icons of your story, centering prayer, lectio devina, etc. Remember to share your own devotional practices with the children in your class. Sometimes our own stories can remind others of God’s beauty or show the importance of devotion and worship.
Sacred Space. Our worships space is rich with images and sacred symbols that connect with Biblical stories—have you ever thought about how the Nave is shaped like a cross, how the high beams and vaulted ceiling look like an ark, how the altar is front and center, the rails in the chancel are sometimes removed, or the baptismal font is shaped like a cross?
Clergy. Interview them, ask them to tell your class stories, or go on a tour of a sacred space with them. Please contact the Christian Education Director if you are interested in something like this as it will need to be arranged well in advance.
Work of the Church Members of the outreach commission may be helpful in telling your kids about ways they respond to the gifts of God through participating in the life and mission of the Church. They make be the best group to talk to your class about something that is happening in our church. You can also gather food or money for a period of time to give to a ministry in the church. Your children may also like to respond to stories by making cards or images for the church’s shut-in members.
CLOSE IN PRAYER
Closing with Prayer. Make it a point to close each week in prayer. Spend time on practices, giving your class time to learn the practices and develop the ability to sit still for short periods of time. Work your way up to memorized prayers or longer periods of time sitting. Your class may like to pray the Psalms, the Lord’s Prayer, the Doxology, or practice centering prayer. If you would like resources for praying with the young people in your class, please see the Christian Education Director.