Liberty Park teaches children chronological timeline, context of Biblecomment (0)
July 25, 2013
By Neisha Fuson and Grace Thornton
Do you remember the significance of the 12 tribes of Israel? What about the promises given to Moses and his descendants? And what about the prophecies of Christ’s coming found throughout the Old Testament?
They are all part of one big story that points to Jesus, and Russell Murer and Susan Compton say it’s vital to understand the Bible that way.
That’s why, when they found that type of cohesiveness lacking in the children’s Sunday School curriculum at Liberty Park Baptist Church, Vestavia Hills, they decided to do something different.
“The curriculum we used bounced around a lot,” said Murer, who noticed the children knew the stories of the Bible but didn’t understand “how the Bible actually works.”
Compton also saw similarities between current curriculum and curriculum used when she was in Sunday School nearly 40 years ago.
As they did back then, now “we talk about Jesus’s birth at Christmas and His death at Easter, as we should, but otherwise we [teach] Noah one week and Moses the next and Elisha the next,” Compton said. “[The students] have no context of when all this happened and how it all fits together.”
That realization prompted Murer and Compton to begin teaching the Bible in order, and now the two co-lead a chronological third- and fourth-grade Sunday School class.
Along with using “The Gospel Project for Kids,” a three-year chronological plan of study produced by LifeWay Christian Resources, the co-teachers wanted to use a timeline in their classroom as a visual reminder of the figures, places and events of the Bible. After an unsuccessful search for a thorough and interesting timeline, Compton said, “We just made our own.”
Every Sunday, Compton begins the lesson with a time of review. Murer then teaches the next story in the chronological study and another volunteer, Julia Bratton, helps the children create a craft or piece of artwork to add to the timeline on the walls of the classroom.
“[The kids] will staple their own work on the wall … that serves as a reminder of what happened in each book of the Bible,” Murer said. “By the end of the year the wall is very full.”
Nate French, associate pastor at the Birmingham Baptist Association church, said the class is “well attended.”
“Susan and Russell and Julia are very prepared and (teach a lesson that is) very well thought out,” said French, who thinks “The Gospel Project for Kids” has been vital because it “allows students to study every story from the Old Testament to the New Testament not only in chronological order but in the context of the gospel message.”
And Compton sees a clear difference in what the students remember now as opposed to a few years ago.
“It’s amazing how much [the timeline] helps them remember,” she said. “It gives them something to spark their memory of what we’ve been talking about.”
Murer agreed and said the students have “an understanding of where their religion came from and why.” The chronological study, he said, has given the Bible “a context and more of an authenticity.”
“It’s more than just a story,” he said.
And it’s more than just for children — French said the church has used the chronological method in adult classes, too.
It’s effective for any age, said Steve Evans, a specialist in oral communication who has written chronological Bible storying curriculum for the International Mission Board and other organizations.
He noted that research shows a majority of high school and college graduates say they will never pick up another book in their life, but all adults enjoy hearing stories, especially if they continue to build on each other toward a climax.
“Chronological Bible storying in evangelism, Sunday School, home and student Bible studies is proving very effective,” he said. “When God’s Word is presented chronologically, people begin to see the movement of God in history, and the pieces fall together and make sense for them.”
And from a teacher’s perspective, it’s a method that’s fun, enjoyable and memorable, he said.
Stories “are easy to learn and easy to reproduce,” Evans said. “This isn’t about head knowledge — it’s about the language of the heart. Stories speak from the heart, and they speak to the heart.”
For more information about “The Gospel Project for Kids” or “The Gospel Project for Adults,” visit www.gospelproject.com.