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Archive for the ‘spiritual development’ Category

Have you ever wondered what Sin looked like in the Bible story about the first murder, when God warned Cain that Sin was crouching at his door?

Well, perhaps not.

But in any case, here’s what Sin looked like last Wednesday in our homeschool Bible study. There he is crouching…

Crouching...

waiting…

Meanwhile, inside the summerhouse....

Meanwhile, inside the summerhouse….

… there’s a discussion going on about What Makes Me Jealous and My Choices When I am Jealous.

Oops! Somebody made a bad choice.

And that choice opened the door to Sin.

He pounces!

He pounces!

For the last six weeks I’ve been meeting with seven kids, a couple of my young mom friends, and a retired nurse for Bible study. The children range in age from 4 months to 12 years old. This is not your typical women’s Bible study, although we do try to spend an hour in an adult study. Nor is it a children’s neighborhood Bible Club, although we also spend an hour singing and teaching Bible to the kids. It’s a multi-generational inductive Bible study, where we study a passage together as adults, then turn around and draw the children into an inductive Bible study of the same scripture in the way that kids do inductive Bible study.

Which is – through the arts.

Taylor’s Comic Strip -1-
The Fall (Genesis 3)

During my four years as an undergrad at the University of Iowa, the most practical training I received came to me not from my professors, but from InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s staff, who introduced me to inductive Bible study in small groups and then gave me hands-on training in this commonsense 3-step process of:
1. Observing (noting facts)
2. Interpreting (analyzing)
3. Applying (determining the significance of)
the text of the Bible for yourself first — instead of going to commentaries and other books to read what others have to say about the passage.

The method uses good questions to engage your mind in discovering for yourself what the Bible says, what it means, and how it applies to your life.

I enjoyed this so much that when I went home for Christmas vacation, I gushed enthusiasm about studying the Bible to all the kids in my former youth group who had gone off to college, too. Unlike me, they were enrolled in Christian colleges.
And they were put out with me.

Why?

Because they were taking Bible classes in approved Christian schools and they didn’t see what there was to get so excited about.

Their bewilderment made me even more aware of the power and joy of discovering new things for oneself. It helped me understand why research shows people remembering more of what they say themselves than what they hear from others, and more of anything they figure out for themselves than what others tell them.

Good questions help discovery in any subject area. They have the power, though, to do even more in Bible study. For although the Bible is not the only place where we can meet God, it is our primary place, the place where we are most likely to encounter Him when we are looking. We get distracted, though. We find it hard to concentrate on our reading. But good inductive questions help us focus. They make us dig into the text. They prod us into engaging with the words, and the next thing we know, we are engaged with the Word Himself.

Today there is a flood of helpful inductive Bible study guides and other materials on the market, including whole Bibles published with inductive Bible study inserts. But when I was a college student, there was little material available. So my staff worker encouraged me to write the inductive questions for our student conferences.

Then I graduated, married, and had children. I began to wonder if it would be possible to teach the inductive Bible study method to kids. Could children observe, interpret and apply the Bible?

After I experimented a bit by creating an intergenerational Bible study class, Joann Collins, the wife of our church’s education pastor, asked me to help her develop Sunday School curriculum using learning centers. Her request for learning centers pushed me into realizing how to teach kids to observe, interpret, and apply the Bible for themselves.

First, I saw that the Bible takes hold on our imagination and starts renewing our minds when we are somehow motivated to process the material. Adults take hold in this way when good questions prod them to write down or to discuss the observations, interpretations, applications, prayers, etc. that flow from their reading. In other words, adults tend to process material by writing about it or talking about it.

But second, I realized that children don’t do that. They process Bible material better through the arts – storytelling, music, the visual arts, drama, and dance/creative movement. Here, for example, is 4-year-old Ada processing an application question (draw a picture of a time when you were jealous):

Ada Drawing: Jealousy             Ada Being Jealous

(Note: When Ada drew this picture, I told the moms that it would be OK if she just got so carried away with the Joy of Markers that she didn’t stick to the point and draw a jealousy experience. Pre-schoolers get very immersed in the media itself. They may not be ready to follow additional directions as well, like answering a question using the media. But Ada was working alongside older children (ages 8, 10, and 12) who were drawing pictures and talking about them, which probably helped her get the idea. She stayed on task and dictated an explanation of her drawing to her mom. We could have asked the older kids just to talk about their jealousy experience before playing the Sin Crouching game, in which case, the lesson would have taken less time. But since Ada was there too, we asked all the kids to draw a picture first. Ada was young enough to need the extra step of drawing her idea before discussing it, and the other kids enjoyed talking about their pictures, too.)

Back to the subject of my experience with inductive Bible study for kids: For the next two years that Joann’s husband was on staff at the Albuquerque Christian Center, she and I developed adult inductive Bible study material for parents and Sunday School teachers and worked with a team to develop inductive curriculum for children on the same scripture passages as the adults, but using a variety of hands on projects: visual art (drawing, painting, printing, sculpting, bookmaking, crayon techniques, and on and on), drama (charades, pantomime, puppet theater, shadow theater, masked drama productions), game inventing, creative writing (song writing, play writing), creative movement, you name it. In retrospect, we could have done kids’ inductive Bible study more simply, but so many young artists became involved in helping us that we were able try more elaborate projects along with the simple ones. We all had a lot of fun, and many worked together to build a Sunday School that engaged the children’s bodies, minds and hearts.

Along the way, we evaluated the curriculum according to the three steps of inductive study and to what children could do at the end of the lesson that they couldn’t do at the beginning. If the object of the lesson was observation, could they retell the story accurately in some form? If the object was interpretation or application, could they express or demonstrate the meaning or a life application?

I moved with my family to another state after that, and there we began the adventure of homeschooling. Once again the inductive approach helped me. I developed our family’s curriculum for studying not only the Bible, but all subjects on all grade levels using an art-based, hands-on approach. The inductive method applies across the curriculum.

A few weeks ago, Joann phoned and asked me to help her develop inductive Bible study curriculum again, this time for a parochial school. So, in order to help her and the teachers at the school, I have decided to start blogging about Inductive Bible Study for Kids. I hope that what I’ve learned over the years will be useful not only for the teachers at Calvary Chapel Academy, but for parents, homeschoolers, intergenerational classes, home and cell churches, pastors who want to coordinate children’s ministry with their sermon texts, and many other ministries that work with children and want to encourage them to engage with the Word.

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I’ve started writing a biweekly column for The Messenger, a free guide to church-related programs and events in El Paso . My column is called Hope of the Borderland, and I’m publishing faith-based stories from people who live in the El Paso/Juarez borderland region. Here is a story from my friend Espie:

Espie’s Story – By Esperanza Valadez as told to Becky Cerling Powers

 When I first started reading verses from the Bible, my family had 11 people living in El Paso in a two-bedroom, one-bathroom house. There were my five cousins (my father took them in after his brother in Juarez died), my two brothers, me, my father and mother and my aunt. Later my parents had three more children in the same house.

My father was an electrician, and my mother worked at Ft. Bliss in the laundry. They left around 6 a.m. and didn’t get home until about 6 p.m. My aunt took care of all the kids. She was rough. She swore at us a lot. My mother was very quiet, easy going – she didn’t like to argue or discipline the kids. My aunt used to complain about her a lot to my father. She meant well, but it felt like she caused a lot of division between my parents.

During summer vacation my aunt cleaned house every Friday. She brought down all the knick knacks, waxed the wood floor, and thoroughly cleaned everything. So on a typical Friday, she got us up in the morning, swearing at us, “Get up! Hurry up, so you can get the h— out of here.” We’d get up, wash up, eat, and she’d send us out. We’d hear her lock the door. If we tried to come back for lunch, she wouldn’t let us in.

I was about ten. It was hot in El Paso in the summer. (more…)

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 In September 1991, our 17-year-old daughter was living at the dorm and attending classes at New Mexico State University. I sent Jessica a letter to help her recognize manipulative messages and to show her the practical implications of the Christian faith in which we had raised her. Later, with her permission, I gave parts of that letter to several other young women who needed the same guidance. These are excerpts:         

 There’s a little song your grandparents and great-grandparents used to sing called “Gimme a Little Kiss.” It’s a funny ditty about a boy trying to convince a girl to kiss him. I always thought it was cute. A couple of years ago it struck me, though, that this song is a primer on classic manipulative approaches. Both women and men use these tactics to get their way. Sometimes people are unaware, or only dimly aware, of what they are doing – except that, if they’re honest, they’ll admit they’re trying to overcome the other person’s resistance in order to get their own way. People also use these tactics to weasel out of their legitimate responsibilities.

Here’s the song, with the lines numbered for my comments later:

(1)  Gimme a little kiss, will ya huh?

(2) What are you going to miss, will ya huh?

(3)  Gosh oh gee, why do you refuse?

(4)  I can’t see what you’re gonna lose, oh

(5)  Gimme a little squeeze, will ya huh?

(6)  Why do you wanna make me blue?

(7)  I wouldn’t say a word if I was askin’ for the world,

(8) But what’s a little kiss between a fella and his girl? O

(9) Gimme a little kiss, will ya huh?

(10) And I’ll give it right back to you!

(more…)

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For eight years I wrote a short parenting tips column for The El Paso Scene. The column featured one tip for each day of the week, and I tried to give parents a balance of tips that would address their own priorities & attitudes as well as their children’s physical, social, intellectual and spiritual development. The column was formatted so that parents could easily cut out the column and keep it as a handy reminder through the month. Here is a sampler for the month of October

How to Be a Better Parent in October

On Sundays… Remember to take regular walks for health, perspective and renewal.

On Mondays…Try to avoid the mistake of assuming that anything that belongs to your child is really yours, so you can borrow it without permission or do whatever you please with it. Respect is a two way street. If you want children to learn to respect your property, you must respect theirs and insist that siblings respect it, too.

On Tuesdays… Remember that children need to practice reading aloud every day. So encourage older children to read to younger siblings, and let beginning readers read to anyone in the family with the patience to encourage them.

On Wednesdays… Remember the power of action. Although it’s a temptation to sit and yell “Don’t- don’t-don’t” at children, it only makes you frustrated and hoarse. Children consistently test their parents’ words. So discipline yourself to get up (now! after the first request) and match your words with action. When you are consistently firm without losing your temper, children learn to pay attention.

On Thursdays… Make a list of recipes your family likes, take a few minutes to refer to it each week, and plan a week’s meals before you go to the grocery store. Keep alert for recipes that can easily be made in the crock pot. These few minutes of planning will help keep everyone in the family healthy.

On Fridays…Remember that puppets invite creativity. They stimulate preschoolers’ natural acting ability and encourage older children to devise plots, produce sound effects, design scenery, and create special effects. A lot of household junk can be recycled into puppets.

On Saturdays… Cultivate contentment. It will move your family into a deeper level of gratitude than mere etiquette. Contentment involves recognizing what can and cannot be changed for the better. It means accepting what cannot be changed, changing what can be improved, and concentrating on whatever is positive in a situation.

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Recently several people have asked me how I think Christians should respond to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) people coming to services in the church. My pastor asked. One of the moms in my Bible study struggles for wisdom to know how to respond to her son, who has come out as gay. Another Christian mom recently  asked me about her son, who was the one who got her going to church and now tells her that he has same sex desires. I think we will face this issue more and more because in the local high schools, being gay is the new cool. Since it has become popular, more kids will experiment and some will choose gayness simply because that’s the cool thing to be.

Behind the question, when Christians ask, is the idea that we should somehow straighten out gay people who attend services, that we should somehow try to make them change into heterosexuals. But that idea misses the point. (more…)

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