by Melodie Davis
for release April 14, 2000
How Well Are We Teaching Our Children?
It was Easter. The minister gathered the children for the children's
sermon. Sometimes grown
ups-even those of us who should know better, ask some awfully dumb questions of children in
such settings, such as, Why is there Christmas?
And then sometimes the children surprise you, even children you taught
in Sunday school who
had to be put in the hall because they didn't want to cooperate.
The minister asked, "What is a symbol of being a Christian?"
Steve, one of my former hall sitters, had a good answer. "The cross."
The minister went on, "And why is the cross a symbol of being a Christian?"
Steve came right back. "Jesus died on it."
"That's right, to show us God's love, Steve," the minister added.
"And now he lives in our hearts," Steve added brightly.
The minister was clearly taken back. "Well, there's the sermon," she
said smiling. "That's very
good. We can all go home."
I felt myself tear up. After all of the times I had sat with Steve out
in the hall, somehow Steve
had learned-from his mother or father probably, but also from us at the church, the heart of the
My husband and I taught a Sunday school class of 10 third through fifth
graders this past year.
We studied some of the parables (stories) Jesus told as recorded in the book of Luke. They may
be stories, but they are not necessarily easy to understand. In this story (Luke 20:9-19) a
landowner planted a vineyard, rented it out, and then went away for a long time. The owner first
sent a servant to the vineyard to get some of the fruit; he got beat up. The owner sent another
servant, who was beaten, and another, and finally the owner sends his son. The tenants kill the
son. I asked the children, "So what do you think this story means?"
To which wise William quipped, "Don't rent out your vineyard."
The answer I was probing for is of course the Easter story. The landowner
represents God and
the servants represent the prophets through the Old Testament period, and the son is Jesus. It
was a story or parable told by Jesus which enraged the leaders of the day and they began to look
for a reason to arrest him. This directly led to his death which Christians commemorate on Good
Friday. The moral of the story is that even though Jesus was sent to a specific land and people,
his message is for everyone who will believe.
Sadly, too many of us today hardly know these stories or their meaning.
Our children are
shockingly illiterate when it comes to the Bible (and I'm sorry to say I have to include my own.)
We haven't done as good a job teaching them as we should have.
That's why I'm happy for one effort to preserve the history and teach
the stories in the original
land where Jesus lived and told all those wonderful stories about vineyards and farmers. For
several years, some college friends of mine, Mike and Ginny Hostetler, have been working with
a group to launch a kind of "living museum" in Nazareth, Israel, called Nazareth Village.
Planners are re-creating a first-century village and farm on the only land left that would have
been farmed by Nazareth villagers at the time of Jesus.
When completed, this working village will be surrounded by vineyards,
olive groves and
terraced crops illuminating the social patterns and farm practices that inspired many of Jesus'
parables. It should open sometime this year.
A consortium of persons in the Middle East and the international church
mounted an ambitious effort to make this village possible. Honorary chairs include Jimmy and
Rosalynn Carter and Andrew Young. Visitors to current day Nazareth currently find nothing
there that focuses on Jesus' life and teachings. Through a global educational off-site study and
research program, this educational effort will eventually be available to even those who can't
travel to the Middle East. Through the Internet and computer software programs such as
Compton's Interactive Bible (http://www.msbcd.com/cds4sale/8539.html), it is possible to make
all of the stories and history come alive to us and our children. For more information on this
project write to Nazareth Village, 550 S. Union Street, Mishawaka IN, 46544, or call
For a free booklet "Talking to Your Kids About God and Faith," write
to Melodie Davis, Another
Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column
since 1987. She taught
feature writing and has won awards from a number of organizations including the National
Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association.
She and her husband have three growing daughters.
NOTES TO EDITORS: text = 735 words; end material = 105 words
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