There is a difference between knowing about a person and knowing that person. I can think that I know all about a celebrity’s life from the media, but to really know that celebrity, not only do I need to meet him or her, we must also spend time with each other. Our relationship with God is the same. In our classes we can teach our students to know all about God, but we also need to help them come to know God by spending time with him.
Sacred Scripture is a powerful way through which we can encounter God, because it is the Word of God himself, given to us so that we can know God. Here are three tips for using Scripture in your classroom.
1. Treat Scripture with reverence.
Many of our catechetical books call out Scripture verses and stories as they relate to the topic of the chapter. Rather than treating these sacred words as just another line in the book, treat them with reverence. Mark the passage in a Bible ahead of time so that when you come to it in the textbook you can proclaim it from the actual source. End each proclamation with “The Word of the Lord” or “The Gospel of the Lord,” and elicit the appropriate response from the children. This helps the children distinguish the Word of God from the words of the publisher. Lighting a candle every time you read from the Bible adds to the experience as well. (Battery-operated LED candles work great.)
2. Help children understand the context and timelines.
Recently I was teaching a lesson about the Ten Commandments which referenced Moses on Mt. Sinai. I asked the class who Moses was, and I got fragments of his story mixed with other biblical stories. The children were familiar with his story, but they could not recall it in a linear fashion. I took this as a teachable moment to connect the Scripture stories for them so that they could better understand why the Israelites were wandering through the desert and why they received the Law on Mt. Sinai. They were captivated, and the following week’s class—which continued the lesson on the Ten Commandments—was much more productive.
When sharing a Scripture story in class, give the students some background to help them understand that the Bible tells of our Salvation History and traces the actions of God back to creation itself. It is not a collection of random stories that do not relate to one another.
3. Pray with Scripture.
Use the Scripture passages in your lesson as an opening or closing prayer. Emphasize that God speaks to us through his Word. Lectio divina is a wonderfully simple way to guide children in an encounter with God through Scripture. It only takes a few minutes to slowly and prayerfully read the passage and lead the children to reflect on what God might be telling them about their own lives through that story. It is a beautiful prayer experience that can be adapted to meet the needs of your class by using a guided reflection for younger children or including more open-ended silence or allowing time to write in a journal for older children.
How do you teach with Scripture in your classroom?
Darcy, your point about helping the youth to know and encounter God through His Word is so important! We recognized the need for youth to have a foundation in the Salvation Story in the Bible “end-to-end” (we cover Creation to Pentecost), so we have our 6th grade CCD curriculum entirely devoted to that.
In addition to the excellent suggestions you make, here are some things that we have found help in teaching Sacred Scripture: 1) we have the students become “Scripture Sleuths” and use highlighters to mark clues (key phrases) about what God is teaching us in short Scripture passages; 2) include “story flashback” questions in the lesson; e.g., when we read the passage about Jesus’ agony in the garden, we asked, “what Bible story took place in a garden, with a man saying “no” to God’s will?” – they all knew it linked back to Adam in the garden of Eden; 3) use of activities that highlight “your story is in this story” to help the students see how God’s Word is telling them something about their lives (e.g., they designed a “Prophet’s Web Page” when we studied the Prophets during the divided kingdom and exile.)
Thank you for sharing your insights!