Sally Lloyd-Jones and Sam Shammas, The Jesus Storybook Bible Curriculum Kit (Grand Rapids: Zondervan; 2012) – a review
A guest post by Judy Goroncy (the great)
Over the past two terms, our church’s Sunday School has been using The Jesus Storybook Bible Curriculum, the focus of which is to teach ‘the Story beneath all the stories in the bible’. As the product description has it:
There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories together tell one Big Story: The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them. It takes the whole Bible to tell this Story. And at the centre of the Story, there is a baby.
The Jesus Storybook Bible (JSBB) includes 21 stories from the Old Testament, and 23 from the New Testament. Each week’s accompanying lesson is based on one of the stories and follows a similar structure – a time to recap previous stories, a relevant activity, the story time (which can be presented by either the teacher, or with the use of the accompanying DVD/CD), unpacking the story (technically called exegesis), reflection on Jesus’s location in the story, prayer, learning the memory verse, and completion of a hand-out. One of the real strengths and blessings of the programme is that it is concerned at every point to teach the great Story of the Bible rather than focus attention on presenting a series of seemingly unrelated ancient religious stories that remain largely unconnected to their principle purpose. Every part of the JSBB, in other words, is concerned to bear witness to the One who is God’s principal revelation; namely, Jesus. ‘Every story in the Bible whispers his name’.
We have found the programme to be geared more towards children aged 4–7. However, those aged 2–10 seemed to all benefit from and enjoy it too. Accounting for holidays and other ‘interruptions’, the curriculum takes about a year-and-a-half to work through. The lessons are easy to prepare, are clearly set out, and come with various helpful media aids. Because the lessons are presented chronologically, connections can be made between the stories and so enable children – and their teachers too – to build on what they have learnt in previous weeks. Hand-outs provide not only an opportunity for children to revisit the teaching and memory verses, but also assist and encourage parents/caregivers to be aware of what the kids are learning at Sunday School, and so encourage further discussions about the Story beyond the Sunday morning.
Despite there being so much focus on the Bible, learning memory verses, learning books of the Bible, etc., we have felt it imperative that the children look up the verses in their own Bible (a real one and not the JSBB). While this component is not specified in the curriculum, we believe that it is vital that the children have an understanding that all the stories come from the ‘actual’ Bible and that they become familiar with and are able to look up books, chapters and verses in their own Bible.
As we draw near to the end of the Old Testament section, the children are enjoying opportunities to present what they have learnt to the rest of the congregation, typically through the Sunday morning service. They present an overview of the key events and people in the Old Testament in the form of drama, bible readings, memory verses and song, using all to bear witness to God’s Great Rescue Plan in Jesus.
I cannot recommend this curriculum highly enough. Too often, our children’s programmes are so geared at entertainment, or are so diluted of content, that the true message of what Christ has done is lost. This programme takes seriously God’s love, our sin, and that we need Jesus, our Saviour, to redeem us and our lost world.
Thanks for that Jason….was thinking about that for our Sunday School and you have given me more food for thought and action :)
I’m wondering if you’ve ever taken a look at “Young Children and Worship”, which focuses on a defined set of Bible stories, but places them in a worship service for age 3-7, on the idea that living faith is more often caught in worship than in a classroom. The stories are told in a very simple evocative way using little wooden and felt figures. Then the kids move to a time of responding to the Word, which is undirected, most of them retelling the stories with the figures or using art materials (but not colouring book sheets; just their own prayerful drawing or painting or whatever). Pretty amazing responses from the kids in my church.
@Gary: Many thanks for the heads up on that curriculum, which I assume is the fruit of, or practical compliment to, Stewart’s and Berryman’s book with the same title. I will let the boss know about it. She will be delighted to know of this resource.
Jason, it is not a curriculum in the same sense as the one described for the Jesus Storybook Bible. The Stewart and Berryman book is the basic resource, and those who lead it will adamantly say “It isn’t a curriculum; rather a liturgy and a lectionary.” One hard thing we find is helping others in the church, leaders included, think and talk about it not as Christian education (with the obvious implications of classroom and curriculum) but rather as worship — worship with full integrity at a child’s level.
As a program it has been endorsed and supported by the Reformed Church in America, the Christian Reformed Church in North America, and the Presbyterian Church in Canada. They have in the past had a network of trainers who do two day events to help a church be up to speed and confident about starting in. These can be quite extraordinary or of little use depending on the leader.
It is surely possible to do the whole thing from the book without a training session with two recommendations: First, the DVD put out by, I think, the RCA shows it in action and can really help people envision it with a good tone. Second, there are significant barriers to entry in terms of supplies — every story of the 40 in the cycle needs its own set of wooden figures and structures (for biblical narratives) or felt cut-outs (for parables). An outfit called worship woodworks [dot] com can supply the whole shebang for a price, or a marginally handy dedicated soul could make them week by week using the patterns in the book.
@Gary: Thank you for this information. It is really helpful to have heard more about this from you. Blessings.