Friday, February 10, 2012

In Defense of Coloring

An older member of our congregation revealed to me recently that a younger relative of hers (a young parent) had left our congregation long ago because of one thing:  Coloring.

Our Sunday School wasn't serious enough.  "All they did was color," she said, conjuring up for me visions of past Sunday Schools with lots of Bible verse memorization and gold stars for attendance. 

Now, I knew that this wasn't exactly true.  I knew that we had Lectionary based Bible lessons, which also included crafts, not just coloring.  (In fact, I had one mother tell me, long ago, that her young daughter wanted to become Lutheran "because of the crafts.")  But I was cut by the word of judgment, even though it was relayed to me at least ten years after the fact.

No one likes to think that they are falling down on the job of transmitting their faith to their children.  No one likes to think that they are coloring instead of helping children learn Bible stories, pray, and know, in an age- appropriate way, what they believe.  And our congregation does plenty of things besides Sunday School, including special Faith Milestones where chldren learn with their parents about Prayer, The Ten Commandments, Reading the Bible, and the Apostles Creed.

But it's challenging to find ways to share faith with the children.  Especially in this day and age when even on Sunday mornings it's hard to find time to gather regularly.  For one thing, there's hockey (yes, I live in the upper midwest).  Families are mobile and have obligations that interfere with regular Sunday School attendance.

And -- dare I say it? -- even if every child was at every Sunday School session every year, one hour a week is not enough time to share faith, especially if we consider friends, TV, school, and the myriad other things that children are experiencing.  Even if all we do is sit in chairs and memorize Bible verses and recite them for the whole hour, it's only an hour.

It seems to me that if we want to share our faith with the children, it's best if we are doing it all the time, not just for an hour on Sunday, but at mealtimes and in the car and whenever we have the chance.  It also seems to me that coloring is not the problem.  It's not so much how we teach the children, but how and what we teach adults that matters.

So, I think:  go ahead and color with the children.  Color with the children, but teach adults:  teach them to pray and to talk about their own faith, teach them to listen and pay attention to children's questions, teach them the vocabulary of faith:  grace and sacrifice, repentance and love, Jesus.  All the Time.

And then, let them color with the children.


Tracy said...

I have happy memories of Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, Children's Choirs, Christmas pagaents, and yes, even the dreaded Confirmation classes (well, o.k., maybe not all that memory work!) For the most part, none of this included intensive study (plenty of crafts and coloring!) and my family didn't practice intensive Bible Study at home, either. I remember church from my childhood as something consistent and warm and nurturing. Steady. Reliable. Safe. Loving. Just like my faith. Just like home. I hope my kids feel the same way when they look back at their childhoods. And, I hope they continue this with their families. I think Jesus would be o.k. with that.

PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

I relate to your post completely, because I was Sunday School Superintendent for 6 years. During the many years that my kids were in SS, they would come home with some coloring stuff or crafts that were NOT impressive. Often I knew that there was more to the story. But with a certain teacher, there wasn't. Some teachers follow the lessons, some just do the play time things. It is very easy to ask the child questions to find out if there is "more to the story" or what the coloring represented.

I will say that during all the years my kids were is SS, I wasn't exactly overwhelmed by the official SS material from the church. The pictures were cartoonish, but not memorable. I remember, in contrast, the strong "art" of the SS lessons of my childhood and how these pictures often cemented the stories in my mind.

I think it is important that the SS program have some kind of take home material/lesson for the child so that the interested parent can ask good questions and engage the child in a review of the day's Bible Story. The family can review the Bible Verse during the week several times. This can be casual, not the inquisition.

There can be the most terrific presentation of the Bible Story for the week, but if there is poor take home material, or none, then there is no way for the parent and family to also become part of both the teaching and the receiving (learning.)

Just my $20 worth. I am very opinionated on this issue. And I'm primarily a visual learner, so I like quality pictures in the material.

Lindy said...

That family was going to leave anyway. If it wasn't coloring, it would have been something else. Just my opinion.

Also, I like coloring. It helps me think.