Beyond Academics: Helping our Youth Connect the Dots
A new school year usually stirs up thoughts of school supplies, spiral notebooks, and tests. On Sunday, however, youth should never feel as though they are in school because those lessons are far beyond mere academics.
Then He said, "Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord." And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. 1 Kings 19:11-12
We had a great discussion this past weekend about how God is always communicating and how prayer is our way to get in the habit of learning to recognize His voice - learning how to recognize Him in our daily lives. Just as we would recognize a parent's voice from the next room even if we could not see him or her, prayer is the way we learn who God is.
As a Sunday school teacher and as a parent, it is very rewarding to see that moment where something finally "clicks" in our youths' mind. Where something becomes real and personal to them. That is exactly the hope I had in creating "Bridges to Orthodoxy" - that this ancient faith became relevant and personal to each youth's life.
It is important to emphasize, however, that curriculum for Sunday school is not mere academics - there are no tests, no passing grades, no moment where you "graduate" one class and move on to the next. Our approach to curriculum at BtO is to make Biblical and Orthodox faith themes real and relevant to our youth- so that their faith becomes personal by the time they reach adulthood.
There is no "right" speed in which youth ought to have learned the Creed, the Sacraments, the lives of certain saints. Of more crucial importance, the youth should learn why the Creed matters, how the Sacraments are a blessing of the Holy Spirit, and what we can gain to learn from those Orthodox Saints.
While mapping out your curriculum for the year - articulate what the ultimate goal of your Sunday school program is and ensure that all decisions, all lessons, all approaches are done with that ultimate goal in mind. We want our youth to connect the dots - to make their faith real and personal to them... so that they can see Him in everything and recognize that still, small voice.
Question for you: What is working and what is not working for you this school year? Don't worry - it's still early - BtO can help!