Biblical Literacy and Children
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Biblical Literacy and Children

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What does it mean for children to be biblically literate? Join the conversation as we explore this question, and examine some basic principles for effectively engaging children with the Bible in ...

What does it mean for children to be biblically literate? Join the conversation as we explore this question, and examine some basic principles for effectively engaging children with the Bible in age-appropriate ways. Let's explore biblical literacy together and look at ten practical ways to encourage biblical literacy!

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  • Welcome, introduction, open in prayer.
  • Three goals for today’s session on Biblical Literacy and Children: First: Define what we mean when we talk about “biblical literacy” and how parents in our congregations would define that term Then we’ll think about developing biblical literacy in age-appropriate ways for kids from birth through Sunday school age (and even beyond!) Look at the “top 10 ways to build biblical literacy”
  • Let’s look at what we mean by literacy. Let’s say someone wants to share one of their favorite poems with you. They show you this and give you to take a moment to read it. (give them a few seconds to “read” the poem.) Then they say, “This poem always makes me laugh, I think it is one of the funniest pieces of poetry out there. What do you think about it?” What’s your response? (can’t read it, don’t understand it, the alphabet is unfamiliar, etc.) Can you really respond? No Do you even recognize the letters used? No The reason most of us can’t respond is that we don’t have the level of literacy required to understand this.   Being literate requires being able to interpret what we are looking at. It requires linguistic skills but it also requires a few other things.
  • So your friend (the one who showed you this crazy Russian poem) says to you, “Ok then, well, here is the English translation. Isn’t that a great poem?” (give them 10 seconds to read it.) How do you respond? Do you understand it any better? (somewhat - I can read the words and the phrases, I know the alphabet that is used, etc.) Do you fully understand what this poem is about? No – it makes no sense, I don’t get what cows and milk have to do with being a scientist, no context.
  • Break into groups of 3-4 and answer these two questions: What does it mean to be literate? What does it mean to be biblically literate? (give them 3-4 minutes to discuss, then have 3-4 people shout out their answers to each.) Excellent. Some things to consider when thinking about what literacy is: Being able to read and write in a language Being able to associate meaning to the written words or symbols used Being able to make connections between the various words within a sentence to make a coherent thought Attaining a certain level of reading and writing comprehension Understanding that the meaning of a message might change because of the context
  • “ Biblical literacy” for the purpose of today’s discussion is all of those same things within the context of God’s Word: Someone who is biblically literate can speak, understand, and discuss using the language and message of the Bible. If you were to ask parents in your congregation what “biblical literacy” means to them, how would they respond? Would they define themselves as biblically literate? How biblically literate would they say their children are? With children, literacy is always best understood within the framework of their mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual development. What do we mean by that? Imagine that you are a 1 st Grader. You are asked to read this passage: (show following slide)
  • (Pause to let them read) If you are a 1 st grader and are asked to read this passage aloud or to yourself with no additional help,: What challenges would you have? challenging words like pastures, righteousness; all of the “eths” (leadeth, maketh, restoreth); Would you be able to associate these written words to the intended meaning? The imagery of sheep and shepherd is probably not familiar to a typical 1 st grader; “Righteousness” is an abstract concept that this age level probably doesn’t already understand; Would you be able to comprehend the “big picture” of the passage? Is this passage really about us being sheep and waters? Can you understand the context of the passage? What part of the Bible is this from? Where does it fit in context of the Bible stories that I already know? Who is doing the talking?   Be aware – while a first grader will be able to understand parts of this, a lot of it will not mean anything to them. If would be difficult to describe them as biblically literate. Let’s look at a different way of communicating this passage of scripture… (click to next screen)
  • These pages are from the Spark Story Bible, which is geared for kids ages 2 through grade 2. Let’s read it together. (Read the story from pages 160-163 of the Spark Story Bible. Text is on screen) Continues to next screen.
  • (Finish reading the story) How was your second encounter with this same passage different than the first as an adult? How might kids feel about it? (context was established, language was contemporary and words were easier to understand, pictures reinforced the message, reflection question)
  • To be most effective in building biblical literacy with children, we need to help children encounter scripture in age-appropriate ways. We need to understand how children’s minds develop and help them encounter scripture WHERE THEY ARE. Educators, especially those who teach elementary students, already understand this concept.
  • To identify what “attaining a certain level of reading and writing comprehension” looks like as one of the defining factors of literacy, here are the age-specific biblical literacy goals we used when developing the Spark Sunday School Curriculum: Age 2-3: Present age-appropriate, interactive ways for kids to become familiar with Bible story and understand basic meaning. (They can hear the stories and respond to basic questions about the stories) PreK-K: Present age-appropriate, interactive ways for kids to relate with Bible characters and put themselves in the Bible story. Example - What do you think it would be like to be inside a giant fish? What do you think it was like in the manger? Grades 1-2: Present age-appropriate, interactive ways for kids to comprehend stories, identify with characters, and be able to apply an action they can take in their own lives. How would you feel if you were Samuel? What does the story of the prodigal son teach us? Grades 3-4: Present age-appropriate, interactive ways for kids to understand the structure of the Bible, and be able to navigate within the Bible to find stories they know or want to explore. What is the lesson of the parable of the Good Shepherd? Where in the Bible do we find the stories about Jesus’ birth? Grades 5-6: Present age-appropriate, interactive ways for kids to know the Bible well enough to dig further into the stories, to interpret and determine ways to apply and compare Bible text to their own lives. When have you had a storm in your life? Do you remember a time when you were forgiven by someone else? We need to keep age appropriateness in mind as we think about building biblical literacy – getting kids to engage the Bible where they are at – because that means they are engaging in scripture !
  • If we really want to build biblical literacy in in our congregations, especially with children, it is essential that we define what they are. You’ve heard the Spark Sunday school goals. What do yours look like? We often hear that today’s parents aren’t as literate as older generations, and certainly not as confident. What happened that we’ve become less literate? If your church has current biblical literacy goals, what obstacles may be preventing your congregation from reaching those goals? Let’s look at 10 Key Ways to help you overcome obstacles and achieve your goals!
  • The Gift of God’s Word: Give age–appropriate Bibles and Bible storybooks to children. It’s amazing how many kids don’t have their own, age-appropriate Bible, and for youth and adults, Bibles that they feel confident using, too. Many different styles of Bibles are available, including ones designed for newly-baptized infants, three-year-olds beginning Sunday school, and third graders receiving their first Bibles. If finances are challenging or you want to get the WHOLE church involved, consider having adults in the congregation “sponsor a Kid’s Bible” so that every child has their own Bible.
  • Equip Parents: Parents are your key partners in faith formation of children. If the parents of young children feel inadequate in their own knowledge of scripture, they may hesitate to read Bible stories to their kids. Model Bible Storytelling during children’s messages/sermons, fellowship time, seasonal programs. Invite parents to practice at church and they’ll feel more confident doing it at home. Give tips in the bulletin, newsletters, and Web site. Give them opportunities to order children’s story Bibles or kid’s Bibles they trust you to select as being the “right kind”
  • Read the Bible in Public: During worship, talk about reading the Bible, and then read the Bible. Yes, this sounds obvious, but how many times do kids see the lector carry a piece of paper up to the lectern rather than opening up a Bible to read the lessons? We’ve recently heard of several churches that have adopted the Spark Story Bible as their pew edition so that the WHOLE congregation can see and read the gospel together.
  • Tell Bible Stories: Retell a Bible story during the children’s message/sermon. You can use your own words or read from a storybook. Reading an age-appropriate version of one of the texts they’ll hear during worship is a great way to give kids (and everyone else who’s listening) a fresh take on the story.
  • Check out your book selection in the church library . There are a range of Bible storybooks available that would be great additions in your library. If your church has worship bags, include board books with Bible stories and other faith-based stories.
  • Bibles in the Pew: Kids may see Bibles in the pew, but do they see anyone reading them? Invite everyone in the congregation to find Bible passages during the lessons, the sermon, and other times when the Bible is read.
  • Equip the Nursery: Some parents of young children spend lots of time in the church nursery. Provide Bible storybooks and story-based toys (Noah’s ark, lambs, nativity sets) to create a faith-filled environment for children.
  • Use Songs to teach stories – and NOT just at Christmas time : Many kids’ songs teach stories, from “Rise and Shine” to “Zacchaeus Was a Wee Little Man.” Explore what kinds of song resources are out there to teach!
  • Find the Stories in your Sanctuary: Do you have colorful stained glass windows, paintings, sculptures, banners, or other art in your sanctuary or throughout your church that tell the old, old story? Point them out to kids during children’s messages, sermons, and other times so they can make a visual connection to the stories they hear.
  • Take time to look at what you are using for faith formation curriculum. If you have kids in Sunday school, that is one time a week you have to help them become biblically literate. Are the resources you’re using getting them into the Bible? Are they learning Bible stories? If you consider one year of faith formation – can you recognize and celebrate significant growth in kids’ understanding of scripture? Can the kids? Can their parents? If you can’t say “yes” to all of the above, think about how that one time per week could be better used to impact their biblical literacy.
  • Does anyone else have ideas they currently use or have used to increase biblical literacy in children? (allow a few of them to share.)
  • Let’s take a moment to process this – write down two things you can do within the next six months to impact the biblical literacy of the children you minister to? (Give them about 45 seconds to write)
  • Thank you for participating in today’s session, I hope you’ve gained some ideas worth exploring. Please share any feedback you may have on this presentation, including success stories you may experience in your next six months!

Biblical Literacy and Children Biblical Literacy and Children Presentation Transcript

  • Biblical Literacy and Children Deb Hetherington Resource Developer Augsburg Fortress © Augsburg Fortress, 2010
  • Session Goals
    • Define biblical literacy
    • Examine age-appropriateness
    • Top 10 ways to build literacy
  •  
  •   “ A cow milk gives” It should have been the other way around: “ Gives a cow milk!”   And I am sitting, starring at my notebook, Drawing letter by letter: “ Gives a cow milk.”   Oh well, it’s not easy to become a scientist.
  • Biblical Literacy
    • What does it mean to be literate?
    • What does it mean to be biblically literate?
  • Biblical Literacy
    • Being able to speak, understand, and/or discuss the message of the Bible
    • Psalm 23
    •   1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    •   2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
    •   3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
  •  
  •  
  • Age Appropriate
    • To be most effective in building biblical literacy with children, we need to help children encounter scripture in age-appropriate ways.
    • Age 2-3: Present age-appropriate, interactive ways for kids to become familiar with Bible story and understand basic meaning.
    • PreK-K: Present age-appropriate, interactive ways for kids to relate with Bible characters and put themselves in the Bible story.
    • Grades 1-2: Present age-appropriate, interactive ways for kids to comprehend stories, identify with characters, and be able to apply an action they can take in their own lives.
    • Grades 3-4: Present age-appropriate, interactive ways for kids to understand the structure of the Bible , and be able to navigate within the Bible to find stories they know or want to explore.
    • Grades 5-6: Present age-appropriate, interactive ways for kids to know the Bible well enough to dig further into the stories, to interpret and determine ways to apply and compare Bible text to their own lives .
  • Biblical Literacy Goals
    • What do biblical literacy goals look like for your congregation?
    • How have the goals changed over the last decade?
    • What obstacles prevent you from reaching those goals?
  • 10 Ways to Build Biblical Literacy with Children
    • 1. Give the gift of God’s Word
  • 10 Ways to Build Biblical Literacy with Children
    • 2. Equip parents
  • 10 Ways to Build Biblical Literacy with Children
    • 3. Read the Bible in Public
  • 10 Ways to Build Biblical Literacy with Children
    • 4. Tell Bible Stories
  • 10 Ways to Build Biblical Literacy with Children
    • 5. Equip the Church Library
  • 10 Ways to Build Biblical Literacy with Children
    • 6. Bibles in the sanctuary
  • 10 Ways to Build Biblical Literacy with Children
    • 7. Equip the Nursery
  • 10 Ways to Build Biblical Literacy with Children
    • 8. Use Songs to Teach Stories
  • 10 Ways to Build Biblical Literacy with Children
    • 9. Find the Stories in your Sanctuary
  • 10 Ways to Build Biblical Literacy with Children
    • 10. Evaluate your faith formation curriculum
  • Other ideas to share?
  • Personal Goals
    • What are two things you can do within the next six months to impact the biblical literacy of the children you minister to?
  • Thank you!