I love that one of our first lessons of the new faith formation year is the story of creation. We began with a prayer and then we read the creation story out of a children’s Bible storybook. There were two things in particular I loved about teaching this lesson.
The first thing I loved was that I had the opportunity to teach that God’s love is unconditional. I explained how God created every person in his own image. We are all created to be unique and different from one another, but we are all equally special as children of God. Worshipping in a parish as diverse as ours, it is not difficult for the children to look around the room and see our physical differences. Hair, height, eye color, and race—everyone in our classroom looks very different from one another. But we all share one big thing in common: we were all created by God and are loved by God.
In a church classroom, it’s pretty easy for the kids to agree that they are all loved by God, but I challenged them to think about those not in our room. Is everyone loved by God? What about someone who doesn’t believe in God? What about a person who has made bad choices in life? These questions created a bit of a stir.
Most of the kids said no, a bad person couldn’t be special to God. They just couldn’t be. I argued that if they are human, then they are created by God in his own image. Wouldn’t that make them special to God? After all, God didn’t make them bad, God made them a person who could make their own choices in life. Just because a person makes bad choices doesn’t change the fact that he or she is loved by God.
I pointed out that if God loves a bad person or someone who doesn’t believe in him, then that means he will always love them too, no matter what.
The second thing I loved about this lesson is that I was able to teach the children how we are to care for creation. In society and the schools, children are taught to care for the environment, conserve energy, and recycle. These are all good and important parts of caring for creation. But our faith teaches us that caring for creation goes much deeper: as human beings, we are the most precious things God created. We not only have to care for earth and nature, but we must care for each other. We brainstormed ways we could do that.
The first things that came to mind for the kids were to donate food to the food bank, give money to those who are poor, or share their toys with people in need. We discussed other ways to care for people such as doing a good deed, using kind words, and being a good friend.
When we turned the page in our textbook there was a brief section about how God continues to care for his creation. The book has a spot where the kids can write down three things they would like to entrust to God’s loving care. At first, I thought the kids could jot down their ideas while the next activity was passed out, but one of the girls asked if we could share their ideas. I hesitated—we still had a lot of material to cover before class ended. Another girl then asked if they could share their ideas in prayer. I couldn’t say no to that!
We went around the room, each child stating their intention in prayer. Some prayers were broad—for example, some prayed for world peace or for those who were poor—while others were very specific—for example, some prayed for a family member in crisis or a sick pet. Including their ideas as prayer intentions gave each of us a chance to share something of ourselves and connect as a class.
After our prayer time, we continued our activities and discussions on creation, how God made us, and our responsibility to be good stewards of all things created by God. I smile thinking about how one of my favorite lessons was made even better by putting caring for creation into practice with a simple prayer request.
What is your favorite lesson to teach? What makes it special for you? How has the Holy Spirit inspired you to share this lesson?