In leading and training Sunday School teachers in the past I have often found one the greatest challenges was helping the teachers stay away from soft polite moralism and instead teach kids the Bible and how Jesus and the Gospel explain all of it. Now, there are many reasons for this. Not the least of which is decades of Sunday School curriculum that is nothing more than a list of religious morals dressed up in Joseph’s splendid coat. As a result, we have generations of Sunday School teachers telling kids nothing more than God wants you to be good boys and girls, so sit quietly and colour in your picture of Joseph’s coat. Like moths to a flame, both the teacher and the kids are more fascinated by a colourful cloak than how and why God included the Joseph story in the Bible in the first place.
The idea of sitting quietly, not rocking on your chair, or otherwise not misbehaving lead thousands of kids each year to declare, (accurately IMHO!) that Sunday School is BORRRRING! Another problem, connected to this, is trying to encourage men to teach in Sunday School. Even those who aspire to leadership as Elders refuse to get involved (even though as Elders they are supposed to be able to teach!), and though they won’t admit it, for the same reason: Gluing coloured strips of paper to a paddle pop stick and calling it Joseph just doesn’t appeal to them.
Now, there’s much that could be said on this, and much that Pastors can do to make sure their people are better equipped with the gospel than just knowing how to use a glue stick. Here is a little prod from Peter Leithart to give a positive example of how you could ramp up your Sunday School class a little and actually teach the Bible instead of something that could easily be mistaken for Confucianism or a re-run of the Brady Bunch. Read the whole article and try it in your Sunday School or Kids Talk. He suggests using chants and clapping and yelling as a way to help the kids learn the information. Chants might seem a little weird, but did you think so the last time you were at a sports game and were cheering for your team? They’re not as weird as you think. Plus the active learning will help the kids retain the information in a way that isn’t BORRRRING!
I’m trying to embed certain basic biblical-theological structures and concepts by using chants, clapping and drumming along, acting out various stories and rituals, etc.
… I’ve decided to use the four faces of the cherubim as an overall template for summarizing the Bible. The four faces are ox, lion, eagle, and man. They correspond to the four major covenants of the Bible – Mosaic, Davidic, exilic/postexilic, and new covenant. They also correspond to the offices of Christ: Oxen are sacrificial animals and thus represent priests; the lion is a royal animal; prophets soar and see like eagles; finally, Jesus comes to bring all those offices to their fullest expression. The Mosaic covenant focuses on the work of the priests; the Davidic on the work of kings; in the exilic/postexilic era the prophets come into their own; the new covenant is the fully human covenant, the exaltation of humanity in the Man Jesus. Here are the chants I’ve used, all of which need to be said rhythmically to have their fully hypnotic, mesmerizing effect:
Ox, Lion, Eagle, Man
Priest, King, Prophet, Man
Moses is an ox; David is a lion; prophets are eagles; Jesus is da man (for little kids, this is best done with hand motions – horns for ox, claws and a growl for lion, wings for eagle, erect posture for man)
He has several more ideas. If you follow a pattern like this you’ll be laying a solid foundation of Biblical Theology for yourself and your kids. Plus you won’t have to worry about finding enough glue sticks ;)
What other ways can you think of to actively engage kids in learning the Bible?