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In our church, sometimes the 9th and 10th grade  students are not always ready to engage with the Heidelberg Catechism. The answers to discussions questions are one or two words. This makes the Sunday School hour crawl by for everyone and the teacher feels like she hasn’t connected at all. It’s not much fun. Have you been there?

In the book Shaped By God, Marian Plant says that we teach content in isolation. She encourages us to ”teach beliefs and confessional statements in the presence of conversation and actions that demonstrate the power of those beliefs in people’s everyday lives.” To help us do that she writes:

I tell my Christian education and Pre-seminary students that a kit with some markers, masking tape, blank paper, pens or pencils and Legos equips them for education in just about any place, time, or subject.

She illustrates her point by telling about using Legos to start a discussion on the vision for a church education board and an 8th grade confirmation class. She asked the education board to use Legos to build something that symbolized their vision for educational ministries of their church. With 8th graders she asked them to create a symbol of their faith using Legos. With this as a discussion starter there is a lot less chance of getting one or two word answers. Not only do the Legos “break the ice” but being forced to think in ways other than words allows them to access ways of describing their thoughts that they might not have otherwise been ready to say.

I like this idea, and, while I initially see it used with older kids and adults I wonder what would happen if we gave it to 2nd and 3rd graders. Maybe we need to include Legos in our supply closets.

What resources have you used to help spark discussion?


Thank you Laura for the spark of creativity!

While I have used readings, and flipcharts, and videos to prompt discussion in the Profession of Faith Class, I am now inspired to use crayons and cover the table with doodling paper. Rather than just me drawing on the flipchart, I'll get these 'once children of our church' - now adults - to render their own drawing of the Church as we talk about the history of the church, and their depiction of who God is when we talk about the God who reveals himself, etc, etc.

Thanks for the spark!

Thanks for your post.  I have a great admiration of anyone who's dedicated to thinking creatively about teaching doctrine to our children.  After teaching now for nearly 20 years I may be a bit biased, but I'd submit that passing down these Biblical truths as summarized in our confessions to new generations is the most important job in the church - and one of the toughest.

These 'thinking out of the box' ideas can have great impact (though I have no idea how I'd express the church's educational goals using blocks), but these sort of pedagogical methods should be used very sparingly lest we forget about what is in the box itself.  I say this because I grew up in the CRC in the 80's when catechism and doctrine were totally shoved out the door to make room for one 'outside the box' lesson after another designed to let us express ourselves, develop strong self esteems, stay away from sex and drugs, and learn about Jesus solely in the context of the 'relationship' he had with us.  The result with many of my classmates was to express themselves through sex and drugs which led to occasionally using Jesus simply as a therapy for the resulting poor self esteems.  I thank God that I discovered our confessions once when paging through the back of the Psalter Hymnal one morning while bored in church and was astounded at what I read.

Over the years I've had classes where I was literally floored by the discussion I had with junior high kids- far deeper and more honest that what I've ever had with adults.  I've also had years like what I'm having right now: a group of extremely quiet kids who sit on their hands and stare at the table.  I did need to change my tactics this year- more lecture rather than guided discussions, but even though I'm not getting magificant jaw dropping repsonses from this group it doesn't mean they're not learning.

Our confessions help answer the four primary questions of life - Who is God, who am I, how am I saved, and how should I live in response?  These are questions that teens are begging to have answered.  Sometimes they just don't know it because everything in our culture is designed to distract us from thinking deeply.  We - especially our kids - are bombarded by media, busyness and communications that don't exceed 150 characters and always end in haha lol. 

I did go through a phase where I made lots of posters and other visual aids, but I soon realized that I can't compete with the world.  My efforts were simply lost in the noise and in some cases adding to the distraction.  I learned not to be afraid of the quiet.  Let them squirm in awkward silence from time to time.  I've seen blessing in making a classroom void of worldly distraction- where all is shut off except for God's Word.  It's tough for the first month or two of each year because it's so different, but one by one they do come to appreciate it and even look forward to it.

We are in the world view building business when teaching Sunday School.  What we teach them now will directly affect them for the rest of their life.  Legos, crayons, skits, videos, stories, and other such methods might occasionally help accentuate a point, but they are all double edged swords.  We - I - need to learn to just get out of the way of the Gospel. give us some concrete examples (about a dozen or so) of how that would look like. Faith, Prayer, Educational, Worship, Educational Frameworks (especially interested in that one) LMK....sparked my creative interest....

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