Sunday, September 24, 2006

"The PreSchooler and The Holy Bible: The Stuff of Nightmares" or " The Bible: Not just another Spongebob-Squarepants type story"

Back in February, I took over the teaching of the Pre-school Sunday School, to give the teacher a break for a month....and I've been the teacher ever since. So beware of volunteering, folks. Just kidding. ANYWAY...

Heretofore, my only teaching experience at this sort of level was a month or two of substituting for Toria when she went to Thailand. ( Different church...) It was a roomful of Reeds ( plus a Post once in a great while - and most of them were older than preschool ); I never failed to have fun with them. I always left laughing, with a great story to tell about some funny thing they had said or done.

Pre-school Sunday School is not really that bad because they don't have much of an attention span so you don't have to plan anything really intense or challenging or deep. Plus, this may be the first time some of them have heard some of these stories. Pretty cool. They're not all like,"Yeah, yeah, been there. Done that last year."

Recently, I've had three or four students in class on most Sundays and I'm learning more every time about what works and what doesn't. Here are some things I've learned:

When there is silence, pounce on it with all your might and talk really fast because you might be interrupted at any second and then the flow is lost. Come to think of it, forget about flow. Flow in preschool Sunday School is like a tea party in a state penitentiary. It doesn't happen. But still: pounce on the silence because it's good to be the only one talking... for three point five seconds.

When you bring in your guitar, they are all going cluster around you and want to play it with you at the same time. You should tell them to pretend it's a kitty-cat and just stroke the strings very gently...otherwise you'll probably have to buy new strings shortly.

C is for continuity. Talk about what you learned last week and connect it to today's lesson. Sounds like a no brainer, but I'm just figuring this out. ( It's been a while since I've taken a class on the methods of teaching... three years, in fact. And the last class I had on teaching Sunday School was like, um, maybe ten years ago. ) We've been talking about Moses and Aaron and Pharaoh lately and I cannot tell you how happy it made me that they remembered their names this week! Wahoooo! I point to a picture and ask, " Who's this?" and they say, "Pharaoh!" And it's high fives all around. ( Same for Mmmmmm....0ses! and his brother....Aaaaaaaa...ron!)

So today we were talking about Passover. I know, I know. It's Rosh Hashanah right now but I'm not correctly oriented to the Jewish calendar at this point. ANYWAY... I realized as I was talking about the angel of death, that this is a pretty scary story. I mean, here are a couple of four year olds and a three year old...and most of the angels they've heard about are friendly guys ( or girls?) who have wings and trumpets and sing Christmas songs. So...we're talking about an angel who goes around killing people...Ah. Bad people. ( But I'm thinking, were they really bad? Or were they just unfortunate b/c they were living under a bad ruler who kept hardening his heart...) And on top of that, two of the students are first born sons...and I'm talking about an angel that...GULP...kills firstborns! I tried to sanitize it a little bit...but how do you sanitize a PLAGUE of DEATH? I tried not to laugh when Joshua was saying with four year old fierceness that he would hit the angel of death with his sword. ( Imaginary sword.) I hastily tried to explain to him that he wouldn't have to- because the angel wouldn't come in his house because of the blood on the door. Blood on the door? Oh Maaaan! This is too hard! Let's skip this part of the book! I shudder to think of the rendition that he is going to give his parents of today's lesson. It'll probably sound like a horror movie.

I'm thinking that aside from stories like Noah's Ark, and Jesus blessing the children, the Bible is NOT a great preschool kids' book. Jonah gets eaten by a whale! How terrifying is THAT? Okay, he gets thrown up, but...STILL! Daniel gets thrown in a lion's den?! Okay- so he gets out without a scrape, but STILL! Pretty traumatic experience through the eyes of a four year old. Abraham comes within inches of killing his son? Moses' mom left him in a basket in the river? Samson had a building crush him to death. Bottom line. No cheerful ending THERE. A lion eats up a foolish prophet? Talk about your nightmares! The three worthies get pushed into an incinerator? Lot's wife gets crystalized? Herod kills all the babies? Saul throws a spear at David to try and kill him...because...um, why? Oh yeah, he's kinda insane sometimes. John the Baptists' head gets cut off? David kills a giant? "YAY! Phew! Something good!" you say. " David kills Goliath!!!" Um...yeah. He kills a giant with a rock and then cuts off his head with a sword...When you have little boys in your class, you better hope they don't get any ideas about re-enacting their Sunday School lesson in the parking lot afterwards.

Not to mention a bunch of mean guys killing the Son of God. Okay- YES- there's a happy ending, but man! It's a tough thing to tell a four year old about the crucifixion. You avoid the graphic details, but still...Jesus was killed.

The Bible is a tough book. It's got some things that are pretty hard to explain to kids. Pretty hard to explain to ANYONE, for that matter. But, I guess the flip side is that it's EXCITING! And REAL! I mean, truth is stranger than fiction! The Red Sea PARTS? People get raised from the DEAD? The sun goes BACK in the sky? God's people RETURN HOME after captivity in exile for decades? How could anybody just make this stuff up? And so maybe the Bible is a GOOD book for kids. Welcome to the world, little people: it's dangerous, it's scary, it's violent, it's sad, it's gory, it doesn't seem to make sense sometimes, BUT! Guess what? There IS a God. And He's a good guy. So- this life isn't necessarily an ALL FUN- ALL THE TIME kinda place? You should see what He's got planned for us next....

8 comments:

Claire said...

And I CAN'T believe I forgot Jael killing Sisera with the tent peg!

the Joneses said...

I was concerned about Stuart's violent play, until I recalled that most of the stories he's been told are straight from the Bible. So, um, go ahead, honey, chop off Goliath's head. It's the Biblical way to do things. (There was real relish in Stuart's voice when I asked what cleanses us from sin, and he answered, "BLOOD!")

One story that always has to be sanitized, however, is the Red Sea drowning the Egyptians. Never, ever let the little girls realize that the horses drowned, too. It upsets them.

-- SJ

Loreo said...

Claire, I REALLY APPRECIATED this post, cuz I do the 2-4-year-olds at church twice a month, and I really relate to very short attention spans and the "harshness" of real Bible stories. Maybe going over God's love and protection and Heaven and being kind to each other and obedient to Mom and Dad are safe subjects till at least age 5?

sojourning said...

I hate to tell ya, Claire, but Noah's ark is just as bad as the rest! Think about it--it rained and poured for 40 days and WIPED OUT the ENTIRE population of the planet (minus 8) AND all the animals (yes, even cute little kittens). That sounds pretty bad to me.

And if you were going for a list, let's not forget, the first set of brothers, one kills the other. Let's not mention what one brother does to his sister. And the atrocities that the Babylonians brought on the Israelites. And prophets being sawed in two...

Um, yeah. It's a harsh book.

KJ said...

That was eloquent Claire! Thanks for the fresh viewpoint on the Bible; it's good to remember the Truth... especially the last part you mentioned about God being the Good Guy and looking forward to what He's got planned for us next....

maldrich said...

I can totally relate to you on this one. I have taken over said class of "Toria's" and we are up to around 10 kids!!! This past Sunday we did Cain and Abel and when the story turned to " let his blood be on your hands" I was at a loss for words. The week before we had talked about Adam and Eve sinning and little Timothy went home saying, "Adam and Eve didn't obey God, so they died." Ok, well they did have to die, but they weren't just STRUCK DOWN right then! And then the whole Cain and Abel...I kept trying to step lightly around the whole killing part, but what else is there to that story? Anyway, pretty big stuff for the little guys if you ask me. And our children DO reenact them at home. "James, you be David and throw a rock at my head." AHHHHHHH!

Amy said...

"Flow in preschool Sunday School is like a tea party in a state penitentiary. It doesn't happen." I had to laugh at that one (and then read it to Russell). :)

And then the note about the horses getting killed in the Red Sea...I *do* remember feeling very upset that the horses had to die along with the bad men, even though they hadn't done anything wrong.

When learning about all those things at that age, I don't remember being traumatized by anything (except by the dying horses, of course). Like in the case of Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego, no one told me that it probably didn't feel very good, that anyone else in there would have felt very bad indeed...I just knew that those 3 were okay because they had faith. The faith was emphasized a whole lot more than the roasting and toasting. :)

Claire said...

Thanks for all your insights, folks! You had some good points.

Soj- I realized afterwards that the story of the flood was potentially pretty scary too. But I never remember being really scared by it as a child. I don't think anything in the Bible scared me as a child- except for Revelation.

And Amy- good point about the fact that they were OKAY because they had faith and you're right- that's emphasized more than the roastin' and toastin'!

Perhaps these things are really more scary to adults than to children. We can imagine how scary it must have felt to be "out of control" - like in the flood or in the fiery furnace. But we weren't there, so we don't get the grace that the people in those stories DID get. Bad sentence structure. If we WERE there, we would have the grace to deal with it. Little kids are so resilient and fairly accepting of awful things sometimes...maybe because they don't have a strong grasp of reality - of the fact that this really happened, as opposed to other stories they may hear- like fairytales. Perhaps it takes an adult to get freaked about the gore and violence...