Middle School Sunday School
- Have a basic familiarity with the Bible as a document
- Recognize the elements of a Biblical citation, and be able to find a Bible verse by book, chapter and verse
- Understand the historical reliability of the biblical text
- Understand that there are different translations, and recognize the value of using different translations in different contexts.
- Learn what a concordance is, and how to use one, in print and on-line.
- Understand the main thrust of the Bible narrative
- The fall, God’s successive plans of redemption
- The significance of Israel, the Law and the Prophets
- The messianic prophecies and Jesus’s fulfillment of them
- The difference between justice and mercy
- The significance of the crucifixion – substitutionary atonement in the stories of Adam and Eve, Abraham and Isaac, the Passover and the crucifixion
- Having a Christian worldview and being able to apply it to popular culture
- What are “Christian values?”
- How do we recognize and respond to Christian themes in popular music, movies and tv shows
- How do we recognize and respond to things that promote non-Christian values
- Understanding and being able to articulate the basis for their faith in a way that is not preachy or judgmental
- Being able to evaluate and respond to “end times” discussions
- Understanding the difference between Christianity and other world religions
- The nature of reality
- Grace vs. rule-following
- Christianity in history
Middle School Sunday School
Materials and Resources
- “Extreme Faith Bible” – This is our in class Bible for everyday use. It’s a Contemporary English Version, published by ABS. The Society describes it as follows: “The CEV is a meaning-based (or functional equivalent) translation done in a contemporary style using common language. It was designed to be understood when read and heard out loud, not just when it is read silently. It is one of the best Bibles for children and youth, as well as for new Bible readers who are not familiar with traditional Bible and church words.”
- The New International Version. We’ll read from this sometimes when we want a combination of the most recent translation that retains the feel of more traditionally Biblical language. The ABS says: “The NIV was a completely new translation, but it was strongly influenced by the King James tradition. The full Bible was published in 1978 and revised in 1984. A blend of form-based and meaning-based translation types, the NIV is one of the most popular English Bibles in use today. It is equally useful for individual study and public worship, especially among more traditional and conservative denominations.”
- King James Version – Occasionally we’ll use this, especially when we’re trying to find the source of Bible quotes in other sources which still use the tried and true. As the ABS says: “So many people have used the KJV over the centuries that it has become the single most important book in shaping the modern English language.” We’ll look at some of its strengths and weaknesses from time to time.
- The Message – For comprehension and freshness we’ll sometimes look at The Message, a translation by Eugene Peterson. As Wikipedia says, “[The Message] is a paraphrase of the original languages of the Bible, and is crafted to present its tone, rhythm, events, and ideas in everyday language.
We’ll use the big Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance on the dictionary stand in the hall, and my Cruden’s Shorter Concordance in print. For on-line, we’ll use a version of Strong’s that’s available at www.Crosswalk.com. As Crosswalk describes it: “The Strong's Exhaustive Concordance is the most complete, easy-to-use, and understandable concordance for studying the original languages of the Bible. Combining the text of the King James Bible with the power of the Greek and Hebrew Lexicons, any student or pastor can gain a clear understanding of the Word to enrich their study.”
- Other resources:
- Looking for God in Harry Potter, by John Granger. We’ll be reading from, looking at the movies of, and talking about the various Harry Potter novels, and this book is a good overview of the Christian motifs and themes in the series.
- The Gospel According to the Simpsons, by Mark I. Pinsky. The Simpsons can be kind of crude, but they are very popular with the jr. high set. This book helps me bring out the significance of the spiritual elements of the show, which is surprisingly huge. I do try to avoid the more overtly raunchy elements of the show. I will show Simpsons’ episodes when the class is kind of burned out and not up for anything too churchy.
- The Gospel in Disney: Christian Values in the Early Animated Classics, by Philip Longfellow Anderson. You can probably see where I’m going with this by now.
- Movies and TV. I try to incorporate a lot of movies, and look for a Christian theme or message (or one that’s just the opposite) to illustrate a point. Movies we’ve looked at in the past include The Prince of Egypt; Gladiator; Signs; Elf; The X-Men movies; Batman Begins; Chronicles of Narnia; Lord of the Rings and, of course various Harry Potter movies. Again, I try to avoid the more violent or otherwise inappropriate elements of these films. For the most part, if it’s rated PG-13 or R, I’ll only show snippets to illustrate a point, and will definitely avoid anything suggestive, profane or overly violent. I know it’s a judgment call, but I do have four kids and am respectful of other parents’ standards as well. This year I’m thinking of showing parts of Constantine, to talk about Bible translations and the Devil, and maybe some episodes of My Super Sweet Sixteen to talk about materialism and idolatry.
- Other activities. These are some of the tried and true activities I’ve used in the past and will continue to rely on going forward.
- Calligraphy. We create illuminated manuscripts of Bible passages. This is usually pretty popular.
- Shrinky-Dinks. We rubber stamp and emboss these with angel and celestial themed stamps to make key rings. Everybody looooves Shrinky-Dinks.
- Candle-making. A huge mess, and so, of course, hugely popular.
- Scrapbooks. I tried this last year, and most kids didn’t have much patience for it. I’ve tried to focus on pages relating to baptism, Christmas and other significant Christian events. Still trying to make this work.
- Talking and hanging out. We do a lot of this, and I try to work in the learning objectives. My class is pretty laid back, disorganized and comfy. We usually have some music going while we’re doing whatever else we’re doing. I have a lot of Christian rock cd’s or we listen to Christian radio. The kids aren’t crazy about this – they like the music, just not the Christian rock part. I’ve just got to find the right mix or group …
- Playing music. Sometimes I bring my guitar and we sing … well, I sing. A little of this seems to go a long way, but I’m trying to get the kids who play instruments more into it. If interest develops we may do a song or two in church.
- Jigsaw Puzzles. I like to get these out, especially around Christmas. Kids don’t like to talk when we’re just sitting there expecting them to talk, but lots of interesting subjects come up and discussions take place while the focus is on the puzzle. I have some overtly Christian themed Christmas puzzles, as well as secular ones (SNOOPY!, yeah!) and of course Harry Potter puzzles.
- Video games. Everybody likes to do this, but I have a hard time tying it to my learning objectives. Definitely a very once in a while thing, just for a break.
Most weeks we’ll have Goldfish, some kind of cookies and soda. I’ll try to have bottled water this year, but Goldfish is about as healthy as we get, snack-wise.