Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Book Review Week

I am humbled that companies will send me a copy of their book or resource to review!  It's a great joy to read, and even more fun when someone want's my opinion on what I read!

Sunday School Changes Everything...

A practical book. One I will consider integrating as a textbook for my course on Children’s ministry in the future.  I would recommend it to anyone who loves children’s ministry and wants to grow their program. It has a lot of valuable information in one place and leads you to process, plan, and set goals for your program.   

I love that the book’s foundation builds on the concept that the teacher knows (and loves) the students that you will teach in order to be most effective!   The book paints a picture of how to sow a seed (your student) by knowing exactly what the seed needs.   Over 150 pages of the book are spent sharing characteristics of students by age, by learning style, by suitable environment, by what spiritual concepts and age appropriate methods to communicate them.  This warms my teacher heart! And I agree this is essential and have worked to gather this information for my teachers.  I love that it is central to this book.  I also love that it takes learners from birth to adulthood and their unique characteristics and needs across many years!  Teachers need to know not just about the age group they teach, but also where they have been and where they are going.   

Aside from knowing who you are teaching, the book gives the reader, a biblically based how to plan.  This book will help you to: evaluate and consider your current program, to set goals, and gives supportive steps to creating a plan that is even better than the one you currently are following.  The lens for evaluation and solid programing stems from the needs of a local church in Acts 2:42:  worship, fellowship, prayer and teaching. I couldn't agree more, and found the tips and strategies on these topics very helpful, and often overlooked.    

As a children’s ministry leader and as one who trains future leaders, these are all key concepts to explore and to have a plan for each.  Much of the book could be read independent of the whole book.  (Which is nice for the busy person seeking to grow!)  The book also gives you a list of 10 standards to use as a lens to select curriculum.  The list is quite thorough and leaves application to the reader, and several of the criteria are expanded on content covered in the earlier in the book.  

My only wonder, as I read through the curriculum lenses, is why the standard is worded: meet Jesus. But perhaps I'm too sensitive?  (Instead maybe: see who God is AND then meet Jesus.)  I believe that we need to see who God is in His character, and His plan for redemption through His Son.  Again I wonder if it should also emphasize more directly that we can teach our youngest children about who God is in a concrete way, even before they can fully grasp why Jesus is Savior, needed to die, and how Jesus is God.  But maybe I am just seeking different vocabulary?  The book says:  “Place the Lord Jesus as a stake in the midst of young life, and see how His presence will lift the child. The child’s personality will become an integrated one around this great Savior and lifter of men.”  I am wondering if this truth needs expansion.  Should we also teaching our children about who God is because it will also help children see God’s plan through the Lord Jesus as a  man, and yet God, who saves us.  From reading the book, Ms. Mears definition of Meet Jesus is on salvation through Jesus Christ, who was a man yet God.   I don’t disagree that meeting Jesus isn’t a big goal of Sunday school, and perhaps this knowing Who God is concept is another method to accomplish that goal?  But I wonder if it also shouldn’t be emphasized?  

I was given this book to review by Gospel Light to provide my honest review. I was not required to provide a positive review, all opinions are my own.  I would recommend this book to others and will use it again!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Sarah for this helpful review of Henrietta Mears, "Sunday School Is Everything." We appreciate your comments very much. My name is Dr. Gary Greig, and I am Editorial Director for Bible and Theology for Gospel Light Publications. I wanted to address your thoughts on teaching children, teens, and adults about who God is first and then helping them know Jesus in that context. While that is certainly a biblically valid approach, we believe that Henrietta Mears insisted on a Christo-centric approach of connecting kids, teens, and adults with Jesus first, because the Bible teaches in passages like those below that Jesus is the very means by which we come to know who and what God is like. What biblical scholars refer to as Christological theology in the New Testament comes from passages like these that show that Jesus Christ, as the exact representation and image of Father God, is our "contact point" or our entry way by faith into knowing God and how much He loves us. Yes, God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, are distinct persons of the Triune Godhead. But Henrietta taught with biblical support that if we can connect people to Jesus, who is God the Son, they will also come to know God the Father and God the Holy Spirit as a natural outcome:

    Heb. 1:3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.

    Col. 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

    John 14:8-9 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.

    Henrietta was a modern-day champion of Christo-centric interpretation of the Bible. At a time when others were totally centered on historicism, or the evolution of the idea of monotheism, or genre studies, or the study of the communities out of which certain writings were supposed to arise, Henrietta steadfastly kept the main thing of the Bible the main thing--Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col. 1:27). As Director of Christian Education at Hollywood Presbyterian Church for many years, as the founder of Gospel Light Publications and the Forest Home Christian Conference Center in the San Bernardino Mountains of California, Mears put together a highly successful three-year Sunday School curriculum on the whole Bible for what grew to be a Sunday School of 4,500 children, teens, and adults. In her persistent attention to the centrality of Jesus Christ, Henrietta was in good company. This impulse is found in the best thinking of the Church Fathers through the centuries—including Augustine, Basil the Great, and John Chrysostom—and it had its start in the Bible itself as the Christological passages from the New Testament above show.

    In her article, “The Bible: Christo-Centric" (1937), Henrietta put it this way:

    There is one principal subject of the Bible to which every other subject is related. The Bible is Christo-centric. Take Christ out of the Old Testament and the whole structure falls apart. The Book from Genesis to Revelation has but one theme—the Bible speaks only of Jesus Christ. You remember Paul said to the Corinthians, “I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2, KJV) That is the theme of the Bible from beginning to end.

    The subject of the Old Testament is the same as the New. Each complements the other. Neither is complete without the other. They both are “the witness that God has borne concerning His Son.” (1 John 5:9, ASV) No one can ever understand the Bible unless he sees Christ on every page. He is the One who solves the difficulties in interpretation. He is the key that unlocks every page.