Christian Faith, the Bible, and Public Schools

My mother began her teaching career in the public schools in the early 1970s. Over the years, she has recounted the times when she was expected to read the Bible to students. She remembers lovingly sharing Bible stories and even praying with her elementary-aged students. However, as the years passed, those expectations changed, and by the time she retired a few years ago, she no longer read—and wonders if she would have been allowed to read—Bible stories to students.

There is no question that the role of the Bible and Christian faith in the public schools has changed dramatically over the last half century. Some of these changes have been for the better; others have been less positive. Still, it has left some wondering, “Is there a place for the Bible and Christian faith in American public schools today? And, if so, what is it?”

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Christmas Participation Story

I wrote the Christmas Participation Story over 20 years ago. When I was a student at The Presbyterian School of Christian Education, one of my textbooks was A Guide to Recreation, by Glenn Bannerman and Robert Fakkema. One of the activities in that book was a participation story with a “cowboy setting.” It was a popular activity but written in a period where inclusive language and political correctness had yet to develop. I really enjoyed the format, however and began to write similar stories based on biblical texts. I paraphrased the text into a storytelling format in which I repeated words and phrases throughout and assigned groups to respond with certain words, actions, inflections, volume etc. Continue reading

World Food Day

You may not be aware of it, but Thursday, October 16 is World Food Day in Canada and the United States. This day was first established in 1979 in a collective effort to make the needs of hungry people known to the world at large.

Each year the World Food Programme(WFP)  of the United Nations publishes sobering facts about the number of hungry people in the world. Did you know, for instance, that there are at least 795 million people in the world who will go to bed hungry tonight? That is about one in every nine people. Asia is the continent that has the most hungry people, although the largest percentages of the total population can be found in sub-Saharan Africa. WFP also provides downloadable hunger maps that make the scope of this problem even more visible.

There are many resources available to churches who wish to educate about and simulate the issue of hunger. Continue reading

Camp and Conference Remix-Part 2

As we discussed yesterday, some significant Christian Education happened at our camps and conference centers this summer. Children and youth from your congregation may have had a “mountain top experience,” a significant faith experience that brought them closer to God. Not only do we need to acknowledge a possible milestone on their faith journey, it is also important for us to share their experience with the rest of the congregation. Connecting with them as the church helps sustain this significant faith experience.

Yesterday we talked about conferences, so today we will discuss how we might connect with your children and youth after their summer camp experience. Here are some suggestions: Continue reading

Camp and Conference Remix- Part 1

The summer is drawing to a close. Vacation Bible School and mission trips are in the rear view mirror as the focus is moving towards Rally Day and fall programs. During this transition, let’s not forget that some significant Christian Education happened this summer…at our camps and conference centers. The children and youth of your congregation participated in a variety of programs over the summer. These individuals may have had a “mountain top experience,” a significant faith experience that brought them closer to God. Not only do we need to acknowledge a possible milestone on their faith journey, it is also important for us to share their experience with the rest of the congregation. Connecting with them as the church helps sustain this significant faith experience.

Connecting with your youth on conference experiences is a little easier. Adult advisors on those trips can help with the post-conference follow-up. Here are some suggestions: Continue reading

Back to Campus

This is the time of year for college students to return to campus or to attend for the first time. It seems to be a good time to talk about this transition from a faith perspective.  According to James Fowler’s stages of faith development, this is likely the age when young adults begin looking critically at the beliefs they have taken for granted in their younger years. They begin to take authority for their own beliefs. For this reason Sharon Daloz Parks in her book Big Questions, Worthy Dreams advocates for faith mentors to walk alongside emerging adults as they make this journey of reflecting on and wrestling with their faith.

For churches this is a time of sending their youth off around the country, sometimes with commissioning, sometimes with care packages, but neither they nor the family is there to walk alongside students as they grapple with all the new ideas and people that higher education may bring. Enter campus ministries–those hardworking folks who do this important work of partnering with young people on their faith journey. Continue reading