Jesus calls each of us to spread the Good News. One way we can do this as Catholic Christians is to show God’s love to those we encounter no matter if they are friend, family, or stranger. This concept can be tough for many adults to live out. How do we teach the children in our faith formation classes to show God’s love to all those we encounter?
I recently wrestled with this concept in my third-grade class. I decided to have the kids brainstorm ways they can share God’s love. To help organize this brainstorming session, I listed the alphabet on the board. I told them that we had to come up with a word or phrase for each letter in the alphabet that tells us how we could show God’s love to others.
I had planned to go around the room and ask each child to fill in a letter of the alphabet, but some of my kids are shy and don’t like to be put on the spot. Others just have a really difficult time waiting patiently for their turn. I handed out a sheet of paper to each of the children, and I told them to write down their words or phrases. I also told them that they could form a small group and write down the group’s ideas. This strategy helped a bit with the kids who were restless and impatient, and I could walk around and read the ideas of those kids who wished to remain silent.
When the class was ready to start, I asked a student to read The Great Commandment to the class. (Matthew 22:34–40) Jesus’ greatest commandment is all about love—love for God, ourselves, and one another. We wrote down “Love” for the letter L, filling in our first of the 26 letters.
Some of the words and letters came easily to this group of eight- and nine-year olds. They came up with “pray” for the letter P; “kindness” for the letter K. They filled in H with the phrase “help others” and the letter S was filled in with the word “smile.” Of course, I had some answers one would expect from a group of third graders: “bake a cake” for B; “text a friend” for T; “obey your parents and teachers” for the letter O. They also filled in the letters with phrases that proved they had been paying attention in recent classes: for D, they had “don’t kill” (from our Ten Commandments lesson); they filled in F with “forgive” (from our lesson on the parable of the prodigal son); they had “care for creation” for the letter C (from our lesson on the themes of Catholic social teaching); and they filled in the letter R with “read the Bible” (from a lesson on Scripture).
While we didn’t manage to get through all 26 letters, we did a really good job brainstorming. The responses reflected their experiences. They were thoughtful and creative, and they enjoyed sharing their ideas. What I liked most about our list was that each item showed a practical way to share God’s love with others. These were ideas we could each implement in our lives with little effort. I only wish that I had written down our entire list off the board to share it with the parents via e-mail.
How do you teach the kids in your class to share God’s love with others?