Welcome to the coloured glass classroom! We hope to provide you with lots of creative ideas and resource links to help you engage the young people in your religious and Christian education classes. This blog is sponsored by the Anglican Schools Commission of the Anglican Church Southern Queensland.

27 June 2014

The Bible in Six Acts

In recent years there has been an increase in the number of resources that focus on teaching the overarching narrative of the Bible, as opposed to focussing in on smaller sections of the story. This may be due to dwindling time that churches and religious educators get with young people. Either way it is very helpful to gain an understanding of the big picture of the Bible.

One way of exploring the Bible as narrative is by considering it  as a drama in six acts. Using this method the story might look something like this.

Act 1 - Creation

In this act the drama is opened, the scene is set and the actors are introduced. We are witness to creation, Adam and Eve, and the perfection of God's world. This act is covered by Genesis 1-2. This is a short act, but important in understanding the rest of the story. There is more in this act than first meets the eye.

Act 2 - The Fall

Things go wrong in this act and the relationships between people and God and creation are damaged and disrupted. From this point on much of the narrative is about the consequences of human sin and God's work to restore relationship. Genesis 3 - 11 covers this section.

Act 3 - Covenant and Israel

In this act we see the beginning of God's action to restore relationship with people, how this evolves and humanity's continued sin, disobedience and failure. This is by far the largest act and includes the entire Old Testament from Genesis 12 through to the book of Malachi. 

Act 4 - Jesus

With the coming of Jesus, the drama, after a long and twisted path, introduces the one who will bring resolution to the conflict and tension that emerged at the Fall. This act is covered by the four Gospels.

Acts 5 - The Church

In Act 5 we have an opening scene which provides us with a picture of the early church and then the Biblical narrative stops. The Book of Acts and the Epistles provide us with the script for section.

Acts 6 - Eschaton / The End

The final act in the Book of Revelation reveals to us how all things will come to their conclusion.

There are many ways that religious educators might use this model to explore the Bible with students.Here are a few:

1. Explore each "act" with the class to help them understand the whole "drama:

The following books are useful resources for this task. They both use creative and innovative ways of approaching the topic. The one by Jenny Baker doesn't use the drama in six acts division but a similar twelve part one.

Through the Bible in Twelve Weeks - Jenny Baker
Enter the Story - Mike Novelli 

2. Create and play with a  drama act/timeline

Using pictures and/or words create signs that designate the six different acts. Spread them out in order across the ground. Have students write the name of a story and character they know from anywhere in the Bible on two pieces of the paper. Get students to place their pieces of paper where they think they go on the timeline. Some work might need to be done is helping them do this or it could be used as a culminating activity. Alternatively the timeline could be a permanent part of the class. As student learn about parts of the story they can add things where they belong.

3. Help student understand that they are part of the story

Act 5 is mostly empty. We have the first bit and we know what has happened since the end of Acts, but the story continues and we are in it. Thinking this way can help students understand how they are part of the story and what role they might play in it.

10 June 2014

What is Bible engagement?

Over the last few years ‘Bible engagement’ has become a big buzz phrase in some of the circles I move in. One of the reasons for this is that there is a growing awareness that few people, even Christian people, read the Bible. This situation raises a few pertinent questions for religious educators:
  • Why don’t people read the Bible?
  • What can we do to help students read the Bible?

There are lots of answers to the first question: 
It is difficult to access, some working knowledge of its structure is required, there are large chunks considered ‘boring’, sometimes the language is difficult, sometimes it is hard to understand. The list goes on. 

Answering the second question is harder because it requires us to address some of the answers to question one. And it isn't just about people reading the Bible. It is about them being interested and engaged in the reading of it.

But what do we mean by 'Bible Engagement'? What are we trying to do? This is my own view.

Firstly, I think that Bible Engagement is a different thing for Christians and non-Christians. For Christians the goal of Bible Engagement should be about how the text might be transformative for our life and how can we hear God speak through it. But for non-Christians, for the majority of students in our classes, we need to have a different goal. I think it should be about two things.
  •  helping them to focus on and be interested in the text
  • helping them to understand what it is about

I think the first is much harder than the second and if we can do the first the second is easier. These might seem like pretty uninspiring goals but if we can’t get students to look at, think about and play with the text…we have no hope of them learning anything about it or how it might apply to their life.

So how can we achieve these goals. How can we get students to focus on and be interested in a text that they may lack interest in or even be prejudiced against?

My general approach is simple. Get students to do something creative with the text so they might forget their prejudices and fears. If the process is fun and interesting, then students are more likely to learn. 

To do this we need to bring to the table all the best approaches we have for engaging students in learning and unleash them upon the Bible. This includes helping them to see where it connects with the things in life they might be interested in such as movies, art, and music. 

We also have to leave some of our fears aside about what students might do and let them play. If we try to control their play too much they will disengage. Good pedagogy, I think, has boundaries but it also has a lot of freedom.

Here are some links to previous posts that provide examples of what I am talking about:

3 June 2014

Agora: A community of Christian educators meeting together

Looking to find a place to talk with other Christian educators? The Anglican Education Commission in Sydney has developed an online platform to do just this. Called Agora it is described as : a virtual and physical space in which teachers, University students...academics...researchers and educational practitioners in all sorts of learning environments, share, discuss and debate their ideas about the interaction between Christian beliefs and education.

While it appears to be relatively new it still contains some interesting articles in the forum and some resources to download. While not all of the articles relate directly to the teaching of religious or Christian education they do provide some stimulation for discussion. In particular "Thinking theologically about Seligman" caught my eye as I know many Christian educators are interested in how positive psychology relates to the Christian faith. In fact there are a few articles that open up the topic of happiness and human flourishing in schools. 

Check out:: www.agora.org.au