Before our first child was born, I spent hours perusing wallpaper border samples to find just the right collection of bears to attach to the walls of her nursery. When my brother had his first child last year he and his wife decorated the walls with funky little owls. My friend Jolanda welcomed her new baby to a fabulous spaceship themed room. As parents we put careful thought into the images on the walls of the rooms our children will inhabit. People put the same care into what’s displayed on the walls in the other rooms of their home. Our walls can talk — they tell what’s important to the people to whom they belong.
That’s one of the reasons I love the Dwell Story Symbols so much. Hanging symbols of stories from Scripture on the walls of our church hallways and in our classrooms tell children — and everyone else! — that we value God’s story. Dwell, a CRCNA developed children’s curriculum published by Faith Alive Resources, uses brightly colored, story symbol for every Old Testament and New Testament story included in the curriculum. (The sturdy symbol sets can be purchased here from Faith Alive or downloaded for free from the downloads page at dwellcurriculum.org.) Before each Bible story is told, small group leaders are invited to hold up the symbol for that story as they invite learners to wonder aloud about the image and the story it might represent. After the story, the symbol is added to the growing collection of symbols on the wall, forming a memorable visual timeline of God’s big story.
We’ve been using the story symbols with the children in my congregation for the past few years. Since we meet at a rented facility where what goes up must come down each week, we hang the symbols clothesline style from a long length of yarn in one room and use masking tape to hang laminated copies of the symbols on the wall in another room. With a new image each week, the symbols have become a wonderful tool for reviewing where we’ve been in God’s story. The best part — the children are the ones who walk their peers through the story review each week!
But the symbols aren’t only for kids, classrooms, or congregations that use Dwell. In 2013 Community CRC in Kitchener, Ontario embarked on a sermon series that took the congregation through an Old Testament through New Testament sweep of God’s story. Each week during worship folks received an order of worship featuring a cover with the colored story symbol that connected to the story told during the sermon. In addition, their pastor Darren Roorda arranged the Dwell story symbols on a wall outside the sanctuary to provide a visual timeline of “God’s Grand Story” for all to see.
Seeing the creative use of the symbols at Community CRC made me think of other ideas for ways congregations might use them: How about projecting the images by powerpoint? And wouldn’t it be fun to enlarge each symbol on to a poster-sized page and to have a different child come forward each week to place the image for that Sunday on an easel at the front of the sanctuary? What about laminating each symbol and hanging them (at a child’s eye level) along the hallways of the church? Or arranging them like a giant quilt on a sanctuary wall? Like God’s story, when it comes to decorating our walls with purpose, the possibilities are endless!
How about you? What do the walls in your congregational halls tell your children (and others!) about what you value? If you use the Dwell Story Symbols, how do you use them?