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New Anabaptist curriculum Shines

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Books-shineAn interview with Rose Stutzman

The new Sunday school curriculum Shine: Living in God’s Light for fall quarter 2014 is now available from MennoMedia and Brethren Press, the publishing houses of the Church of the Brethren, Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA.

The long-time collaborators began almost three years ago to prepare a successor to their previous curriculum, Gather ’Round. Designed for children ages 3 through Grade 8, Shine incorporates the latest understandings of the ways children learn. 

“We are pleased to offer our congregations a user-friendly, enriching curriculum that grows out of our distinct beliefs as Brethren and Mennonites,” says Wendy McFadden, publisher of Brethren Press. “We dream of raising a generation of children who are inspired to shine God’s light in the world around them,” says Amy Gingerich, editorial director for MennoMedia.

Melodie M. Davis, MennoMedia writer and producer, interviewed Shine’s project director Rose Stutzman about Shine’s vision for discipleship that starts young, crosses denominational lines, takes Jesus seriously and goes straight to the heart.  

How can we as churches begin using Shine?

The first quarter of Shine began August 31. We have a special offer on starter kits, so you can see all of the fall quarter and how it all fits together. 

What does Shine cover?

Shine covers much of the Bible in a three-year outline. This outline is available on the Shine website (www.shinecurriculum.com). The Primary and Middler stories of Shine are found in a 320-page story Bible called Shine On. The Bible stories in Shine On move from Genesis to Revelation with a strong overview of the Old Testament and a heavy emphasis on
the Gospels. 

What do the publishers of Shine believe about teaching children about God and Jesus?

Like Gather ’Round, Shine is Bible story-based and easy to use, emphasizing thoughtful theology. It is grounded in the belief that children are partners in ministry. Following each Bible story, there are questions to help children and adults reflect on the story together.

The creators of Shine believe followers of Jesus are the best and first curriculum. Yet congregations also need good written curriculum. We want to be your partners in this journey. Shine calls children to experience the transforming power of God’s love and shine God’s light in the world. We seek to nurture trust in God and invite children to follow Jesus. 

Can you explain that further? 

Sure. When it comes to faith formation, we should start small. Very young children may not have the ability to verbalize faith concepts, but they are spiritual beings who thrive on experiencing God’s love among followers of Jesus Christ. Even very young children can learn to pray and trust God as we nurture the inner life of the Spirit.

Shine is grounded in a prophetic interpretation of Scripture that lifts up Christian discipleship, peace, simplicity, service and community. We use wondering questions and activities to help children reflect on the Scriptures and apply them to their lives in age-appropriate ways.

What is a wondering question?

Wondering questions have been a feature in our curricula in both Gather ’Round and in Jubilee before that. Wondering questions are open-ended, reflective questions. They help children enter into the story with their hearts, not just their minds.

Why did you name the story Bible Shine On?

We dream of raising a generation of children who are inspired to shine God’s light in the world around them. All of the products and guides in this curriculum will help children do that.

If these materials are designed for three years, what will happen after that?

MennoMedia and Brethren Press have every expectation of continuing to produce excellent Christian formation resources for children and youth – curricula for Mennonite and Brethren churches as well as for other churches to whom our style of thoughtful, Anabaptist curriculum appeals.

Why is spiritual formation for children important, and why do you call it that now instead of “Sunday school”?

Sunday school indicates a school model based on acquiring information. We certainly want children to become biblically literate, but we hope for something much deeper. Spiritual formation happens in vibrant communities of God’s Spirit. One of the things we try to convey is that children’s natural language of prayer is thanksgiving. They need to experience joy and hope. Children also need to know that God walks with us in difficult times. God’s love transforms our lives, so we can show God’s love and call others to follow the Prince of Peace.

Can any denomination or Christian church use it? How is it particularly Anabaptist?

I am amazed at the interest Shine has generated in people of many denominations who are hungry for the gospel of peace. I’m not as surprised when it is a Friends church or a Mennonite Brethren church, but Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists and many others are seeking out Shine. When we first saw this interest in the GatherRound years, we quit using insider language and examples. Everyone should feel welcome even if they don’t use Hymnal: A Worship Book as the source for songs, cook from More with Less or know the term “Anabaptist.”  

As an insider to Anabaptist ways of knowing, I sometimes miss what seems fresh and new to others. However, I think the key is taking Jesus seriously. In the Shine curriculum, we believe that God’s mission is peace and reconciliation through the person of Jesus Christ. The life that Jesus showed us, the love Jesus demonstrated, is a love that actively seeks justice, mercy, humility and peace in the midst of community. Because of Jesus, we are called to live in this way too. Shine is for any congregation who affirms the same.

For more information, products and purchasing information, go to KindredProductions.com

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