Tell Me a Story

The Promised Land is so close that the Israelites can almost taste it. They can smell it in the air. After being enslaved for 430 years in Egypt and wandering in the desert for 40 more, the big moment has arrived.

They’re standing on the edge of the flooded Jordan River, one of the boundaries of “the land of milk and honey.” The priests carrying the ark of the covenant step into the river—and a miracle happens, just like God said it would.

God knows that nothing captures humans’ imaginations like a compelling story told well.

Instead of flowing downstream, as water is supposed to do, the water “piled up in a heap”so the priests and all the 12 tribes of Israel could cross the riverbed on dry ground.

But God doesn’t let them step one toe farther into Canaan until they do something of utmost importance.

God tells the Israelites to take 12 stones from the middle of the Jordan and pile them up in their camp. Why? So that when coming generations of children see the stone monument, they’ll ask for the story behind it. 

Human beings love stories—that’s part of how God made us. Our need to hear and tell stories shows at our family gatherings, in the movies we watch, in our Facebook posts, in sermons, and in bedtime books. Every culture has its own stories and storytellers who remind people of where they’ve been and help guide them into their future.

So it’s no wonder that when God’s Word came to us, God’s Word came in the form of a true story—an unfolding drama in which we all have a part. God knows that nothing captures humans’ imaginations like a compelling story told well.

That’s why the importance of story is the driving force behind two major new curricula just released by Faith Alive: DWELL, a Sunday school curriculum for grades K-8; and WE, a series of whole-church events designed to build faith intergenerationally.

DWELL: Giving Kids Space

Today’s kids (and parents) are busy. Even when they’re playing, the pace is fast—images zip around a computer screen, soccer balls fly everywhere, thumbs text away like mad.

But God knows that we need to rest from all our busyness in order to hear his voice: “Be still and know that I am God.”

DWELL makes space for kids in grades K-8 to pause—to imagine, wonder, and marvel at God’s big story of redemption and renewal—and to find their place in that story.

As Karen DeBoer, one of DWELL’s editors, says, “DWELL encourages kids to step into God’s story by imagining and interacting—to better understand this epic of God’s love, renewal, and redemption. As they do, their eyes are opened to the fact that God is still at work in the world—and in their lives—and that they have the opportunity to be a part of God’s ongoing story.”

How does DWELL do this? Step by step. Each DWELL lesson has four parts:

Step 1: Gathering—This step uses various activities to help kids make connections between their everyday lives and God’s story.

Step 2: Entering the Story—Kidshear part of God’s story or read it together. Then they wonder together about the people in the story and how God cared for them. This helps them put themselves into the story and discover what it means to them. “Story symbols” also create a visual timeline of God’s story.

Step 3: Living into the Story--Kids and their leader retell the story together. Brain research emphasizes the importance of repetition for learning, and this step helps the story “stick.”

Step 4: Living out of the Story—Kids respond to the story and join God’s mission in a range of ways: song, craft, service project, prayer time.

Each step of a DWELL lesson brings that day’s story alive for kids. But the way the whole curriculum is structured helps them see the entire sweep of God’s big story.

The “scope and sequence” of DWELL is meticulously crafted to help kids see the Bible as one unfolding epic of which they’re a part, rather than as just a string of stories about people who lived long ago.

 DeBoer says, “Kids who experience DWELL from kindergarten through grade 5 will go through the narrative of Scripture—God’s stories of creation, fall, and redemption—twice. Then, at the middle school level, young teens dive into God’s story at various points to discover how the doctrine of the church—summarized in Q&A’s from the Reformed tradition—is grounded in the story of God’s love and faithfulness found in Scripture.”

To see how DWELL can help God’s big story come alive for the kids in your church, call Faith Alive at 1-800-333-8300 or visit www.DwellCurriculum.org for more information including online samples, scope and sequence, and a video tour. DWELL is also a great fit for churches that have used Faith Alive’s LiFE curriculum, which will be discontinued this summer.

WE: All Ages Hearing God’s Story Together

Picture these people from your church: a 6-year-old child, a young teen, a college student, a middle-aged dad, a refugee, and an 80-year-old grandmother. Now picture them sitting around a table together after sharing some good food. They watch as other members of your church present a drama about how God called Abraham to be a blessing to the nations.

How might their insights into the story of Abraham differ? What could they teach each other? 

Now picture them rolling clay into long ropes to make a “blessing bowl,” filling the bowl with blessings they write together as they talk about what it means to be blessed and to be a blessing.

Intergenerational learning like this is the foundation of a new curriculum from Faith Alive called WE—an innovative program unlike anything churches have used before.

WE is a series of monthly two-hour intergenerational events in which the whole congregation gathers for a meal and to hear God’s story together.

Each WE event covers a major segment of the biblical narrative (such as the story of Abraham or David), taking participants through the whole sweep of Scripture in a year.

WE can be used in addition to the DWELL curriculum or any other curriculum the church uses. Like DWELL, WE includes several steps:

Step 1: Gathering—Participants sit around tables to share a meal in intergenerational groups of six to eight. Informal conversation starters help them get comfortable with each other.

Step 2: Participants enter God’s story as it’s told through drama, readers’ theater, audience participation, or other means. Then they live into God’s story together by doing a simple but meaningful activity with the people at their table. It might be an art project, an experience like a simplified version of the Stations of the Cross, or a service project.

Step 3: Reflect and Praise: The whole group reflects on what they learned together and praises God with songs, a litany, or other activity. Take-home devotionals appropriate for kids and adults invite participants to continue their reflection at home. A “Take It Further” section of the devotional suggests practical ways to incorporate the learning into everyday life.

Ruth Vander Hart, Faith Alive’s curriculum editor, says the development of WE was inspired in part by the work of John Roberto, an expert in intergenerational learning.

“Roberto's excitement is contagious,” she said. “He told us that, over and over again, he has seen the Spirit work through intergenerational programs to transform congregations into strong communities who grow in faith together. WE events can spark that same kind of transformation and closer community in our churches.”

WE works with any other curriculum or education program, it’s easy to use, and with materials priced at under $20 per event, it’s cost-effective. For more information about WE, including downloadable samples, visit www.WEcurriculum.org or call Faith Alive at 1-800-333-8300.

 

We are story-formed people. Our lives are first shaped by narrative, not by information. We don’t learn how to live the Christian life by memorizing facts, rules, precepts, morals. . . . Instead, from our earliest moments we experience the stories of those who have gone before us; stories from the Old and New Testaments; stories from the history of the Church throughout the centuries; stories of our own families and local congregations; stories that are enacted each week in the drama we call worship and in the everyday conversations and practices of the home.

—Sarah Arthur in Shaped by God: Twelve Essentials for Nurturing Faith in Children, Youth, and Adults (Faith Alive, pp. 38-39)

Connect with Faith Alive

Faith Alive, formerly CRC Publications, is the publishing ministry of the Christian Reformed Church. We produce Sunday school curricula, Bible studies, books, worship resources, and more to help kids, teens, and adults grow in their faith at church and at home.

Visit our websites:

www.FaithAliveResources.org (for more information and to order products)

www.TheBanner.org (for more content than just the print magazine!)

www.ReformedWorship.org (25 years of worship resources at your fingertips)

www.nurturekidsfaith.org (a blog that helps families grow in faith together)

www.LibrosDesafio.org (for resources in Spanish)

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

You can also walk in to our bookstores in Grand Rapids, Mich., and Burlington, Ontario. We’d love to meet you in person!

About the Author

Sandy Swartzentruber serves as the resource coordinator for Faith Formation Ministries and is a member of Sherman Street CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich.

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