If you have been exposed to the Montessori Method of education or child-directed learning, you will probably adapt easily when the children in your Bible class begin to lead everyone off on a tangent. Most of you though, were exposed to a more traditional teacher-led educational style, particularly in Bible classes. Lesson plans were followed and those who tried to deviate were often ignored or corrected.
Letting the children take the class off on a tangent can be really scary. What if they start asking questions about subjects in the Bible that you weren’t prepared to teach? What if they manage to get the class so far off topic, the children don’t learn anything about God? The next time your class begins to get distracted by a tangential subject, I want to encourage you to think about allowing them a little leeway.
One of my favorite things I did when my daughter was young, was to start a mother-daughter book club. We met once a week during the summer, discussing the chosen book for the week. Every meeting featured crafts, games, refreshments or a field trip. The club included many of the girls in her school class and their moms.
Now I wish I had made it at least partially, if not entirely, a Bible book club. We tend to forget that the Bible is actually sixty-six separate books put together in one volume. Some books like Ruth and Esther are basically one long true story, while other books have multiple true stories within them. There is even poetry and wisdom literature.
The world values knowledge. We spend millions of dollars on education. Large cash prizes are awarded each year by the Noble committee to people they feel have contributed the most to certain fields of knowledge. Game shows give value to having even the most trivial knowledge as a part of your repertoire.
Yet we look around us in the world and see what looks like an absolute mess. If people are so smart, why are there so many problems in the world? Why do equally well educated people have polar opposite opinions on almost any topic? Why does it appear that seemingly well educated, intelligent people make really poor choices?
My small group Bible study has been reading a book about Jewish customs during Jesus’ lifetime on earth. I found it interesting that during this time period the Jewish people used every opportunity to discuss God’s words. In fact it was not unusual for a small group of people to break away during a wedding or other celebration to talk about the Torah or other teachings. This week we even learned that one of the main focal points of meals was to use them as an opportunity to teach their children about God, the stories of the Bible and the lessons to be learned from them.
Learning about God and understanding His words sometimes means trying to understand some abstract topics. I think one of the reasons parents shy away from teaching their children more Bible at home is the fear of trying to explain concepts like eternity when we don’t totally understand them ourselves.
While I believe it is probably impossible for the human mind to totally grasp some of these concepts, there are ways to help your child begin to understand them in a simple fashion. Young children tend to think only in concrete terms. This means they can understand things better when they can use their senses to examine them. That is why for a small child “love” might mean hugs and kisses. It is also why young children often say “I hate you” when they really mean they are very angry with you. To them anger and hate look alike.