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About the Author
Brittany Sky holds a Bachelor of Arts in Christian Education from Oklahoma City University, and a Master of Arts in Christian Education from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. Brittany is currently the Senior Editor of Children’s Resources. Before coming to The United Methodist Publishing House, Brittany worked as a minister with children and their families in local UM congregations, and taught children’s ministry workshops for the Oklahoma Annual Conference. Brittany is currently the editor of Deep Blue Large Group/Small Group and Deep Blue Rotation Stations, the writer/editor of All Hands on Deck, Deep Blue Basics, Deep Blue Family Devotional, and the Deep Blue Bible Storybook. Brittany continues to explore approaches to Christian Education that create relevant, vibrant experiences with God for kids. Brittany loves reading, chocolate, and her terriers—Charlie and Lily.
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History, Philosophy, and Theology
From the very beginning of the Wesleyan movement, John Wesley, and the American Methodists, felt it was important for all people to have access to books that helped followers of Jesus grow in their Christian faith. At the General Conference meeting in 1787, the delegates voted to establish the Methodist Book Concern, the first agency of the Methodist Church. In 1789, with six hundred dollars, John Dickins started producing pamphlets and books to help people on their Christian journey. What would later become The United Methodist Publishing House was established.
We have a 229-year tradition of "Reaching more people in more places with quality services and resources that help them come to know and deepen their knowledge of God through Jesus Christ, learn to love God, and choose to serve God and neighbor." Of those years, we have been creating resources for children and family ministries for 191 years.
The Book Concern had been publishing The Christian Advocate for six months when it began running advertisements for The Child's Magazine. The magazine began its circulation in 1827 and "intended to embrace in this little work short practical essays, anecdotes, narratives, accounts of the conversion and happy deaths of children, facts illustrative of the conduct of Providence, sketches of natural history, poetry, &c. The constant aim in conducting this little work, will be to lead the infant mind to the knowledge of God our Saviour." While we no longer publish the "happy deaths of children" (I mean, what on earth?), we continue to aim to help children come to know God.
The people who came before the current group of children's editors left a long legacy of creating curriculum and other written resources that promote grace-filled learning encounters with God. These folks, many of whom were female theologians and educators, were all very creative — integrating theology, educational theory, and spirituality into resources for churches to pick up and use in their children's Sunday school classrooms. (It is quite humbling to me to be a cog in this very big, long-lasting machine.)
To honor the work of all those who have come before, we have intentionally kept the underlying theology that has always gone into our materials and have fashioned a mission statement to articulate what we always aim to do through our ministry by
Reaching, empowering, and equipping children, and those who care for them, with grace-based resources that help them on the journey to
* understand themselves as children of God,
* explore and deepen their relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and
* love and serve God and neighbor.
Every book, session, and video that we publish is measured against this mission. If a proposed resource doesn't help us accomplish this goal, or seeks to undermine this goal, we don't create it.
We also have a guiding document called "Elements of a Core Curriculum for Children." (You can find the full document, along with other free teacher resources, online athttp://www.deepbluekids.com/resources/2/free-stuff-forteachers.)
* Our core curriculum document outlines our objectives for children, parents, and teachers,
* the general areas of content covered in our curricula, specific learnings and experiences we believe children need to grow in their faith,
* what each age-level and stage of development needs in order to create these experiences,
* a list of Bible stories every child should experience,
* a list of faith vocabulary that every child should know,
* a list of faith images and symbols important for children to learn, and
* a list of contemporary discipleship issues that children will experience.
These areas of content are covered through our vast and ever-growing library of resources and curricula. I would like to encourage you to review this document at some point, but I will also highlight some of the key points in it.
* experience the awe and mystery of God's love, especially as experienced through Jesus Christ; identify themselves as children of God, the recipients of that love; and respond to that love by commitment to God through Jesus Christ within the community of faith.
* know the Bible and make its stories, people, passages, and verses a part of their lives.
* learn skills for using the Bible so that its message can be accessible to them.
* experience the faith community through the worshipping and serving life of the church, especially within their local congregations, and also connecting with persons of faith both past and present.
* grow in discipleship, exploring the calls of God, the teachings of Jesus, and the witness of the church as they participate in worship and other spiritual disciplines, decision-making, service, and witness.
* address with the riches of the faith the life issues that concern them and those who care about children.
* value the diversity among persons, recognizing the contributions that the variety of gifts, cultures, and physical abilities make to the community.
Parents and caregivers will
* find help for their own faith and life skills, empowering them to model and speak about their faith with their children.
* be nurtured in the Christian faith, enabling them to grow in faith and in their ability to model and speak about their faith, especially with children.
* be equipped with the skills and understandings needed to teach effectively.
Pastors and congregations will
* recognize children as an integral part of a vital community of faith and value their participation in worship, mission and service, and fellowship, as well as in the specific settings of children's ministries.
All adults will
* be advocates for children in the communities and world in which they live.
GENERAL AREAS OF CONTENT
The Bible — its stories, people, passages, and verses; the message of the Bible as a whole; the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus; and skills for using and understanding the Bible.
The Church — its beginnings; the heritage of our denomination; its practices of worship; its sacraments; its call to service, mission, and outreach; and the relationships found in the community of faith.
Christian Identity — commitment to God; commitment to Jesus Christ; commitment to the church; commitment to the practice of spiritual disciplines; a life of faith; and commitment to one's own ministry.
Christian Living — self-esteem based on knowing oneself to be a child of God; relationships with others and with the natural world; ethical decision-making; coping with difficulties; and the skills of critical thinking.
SPECIFIC LEARNINGS AND EXPERIENCES FOR GROWING IN THE FAITH
In order to create a more complete picture of what core curriculum is, we can identify some of the specific knowledge, skills, relationships and experiences, and attitudes and values that children need in order to experience God's grace, recognize themselves as children of God, and discover their calling as ministers of the Christian faith in their families, schools, churches, communities, and world. All of the Deep Blue–branded products have been created and published to help us accomplish this mission and to meet these objectives.
* Bible stories
* Bible passages and verses
* Faith heritage, which includes stories of the history and development of the Christian church, stories from the children's denominational heritage, and stories from the development of their own congregations
* Language of the faith, including not only special words, but symbols, images, and concepts
* The story of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection
* The elements of worship (sacraments, hymns, traditions, and so forth)
* Coping skills
* Bible-use skills, such as being able to find books, chapters, and verses
* Skills in using Bible-study tools, such as atlases, biblical maps, concordances, and dictionaries
Relationships and Experiences
* Relationships with loving, caring adults who help children experience trust
* Parents, teachers, and other adults who speak about their faith and model faithful living
* Positive relationships with their peers
* Caring support of a Christian congregation
* Experiences of being nurtured
* Participation in acts of service
* Opportunities to help others
* A sense of belonging
* Being forgiven and forgiving others
* Acceptance and participation in the community of faith
* Commitment (to God, to Jesus Christ, to the church, to one's own ministry)
* Awe and mystery of God's love
* Awe in the experience of God's creation
* Christian living in response to Christian learning Experiences of the reality of living in a multicultural world
* Opportunities to be creative
Attitudes and Values
* Identity as a child of God
* Reverence for God's world
* A sense of responsibility for the natural world
* Valuing of the diversity among persons
* Respect for the rights of others
* An understanding that God expects us to act toward others in fair, kind, and loving ways
* Awareness that God is with us wherever we are
* Knowing that we are called to be followers of Jesus
* Recognition that the Bible is God's Word
* Belief that every person is important to God
* Concern for meeting human needs
* Christian attitudes and values reflected in responses to a variety of contemporary discipleship issues
I was serving in the local church as the director of younger children's ministry when the Common English Bible (CEB) translation team (a brand and ministry team at The United Methodist Publishing House) put out the CEB Deep Blue Kids Bible. I had been looking for Bibles to give on Third-Grade Bible Sunday, but wasn't very pleased with the kids' Bibles on the market. They were all translated to a reading level that was far above a third-grade reading level. Several were condescending in the notes written in the margins to children from a lack of respect for children's curiosity and spirituality. Some had confusing imagery or really played to the "girls are all pink and boys are all blue" stereotypes. I just wasn't happy with anything I was finding.
That was until I got my hands on a copy of the CEB Deep Blue Kids Bible. The readability editor, Elizabeth Caldwell — a children's minister and professor — did a great job making the Bible common English for kids. The notes were respectful of the faith of children. The images showed a diverse group of kids exploring the Bible together, asking questions about Scripture, and wondering together about faith. It is an INCREDIBLE Bible.
When I moved to Nashville to be the GROW Early Elementary writer and editor, GROW had just begun. It was a fun curriculum that lived out the theology and philosophy of our team and church, but the team was already thinking about what would come after the three years of GROW were completed. I remember talking to some teammates about how cool it would be to have a curriculum that went with the CEB Deep Blue Kids Bible. We put together the proposal, and we got to work envisioning a Deep Blue–branded curriculum that provided opportunities for children to be with God, love God and neighbor, understand themselves as children of God, and explore faith and the Bible.
Be with God
All of the Deep Blue resources seek to create opportunities for children and their caregivers (teachers, parents, grandparents, foster parents, neighbors, and so forth) to come into contact with God. We intentionally choose stories, learning activities, and spiritual practices that create inbreakings for the Spirit to move. (Though we know the Spirit moves however the Spirit wants.)
Each quarter, all of the writers and editors gather together to prayerfully think through what each of the upcoming thirteen sessions will be. For each session, we begin by reading the Scripture in a Common English Bible and any of the accompanying notes the CEB team included about the passage. (There are so many great CEB products with fantastic notes!) We then review Bible commentaries, archaeological resources, and any new academic articles that have been put out. We each describe what theological themes we hear and think should be included in our session. Once we have these theological objectives, we talk through how these objectives could be experienced. Utilizing multiple-intelligence theory, we create activities that teach through visuals, music, movement, art, verbal reasoning, logic, interpersonal relationship-building, and intrapersonal soul-building.
We trust that through this spiritual practice of creatively creating curriculum, God will show up in our minds, hearts, and hands as we write. From these written words, caregivers will lead sessions for children to be with God.
Love God and Neighbor
In Luke 10:27, Jesus responded to the legal expert's question about gaining eternal life by saying, "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself." As followers of Jesus, we must teach our children through modeling loving God and neighbor. This means setting an example children can follow so they, too, can embody the spirit of service and care for all.
We believe that being a Christian (a Christ follower) means following the example of Jesus. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus learns, grows, and serves others. By teaching our stories of faith and giving children opportunities to serve, we help children learn to love God and neighbor.
Because this is so important to our faith development, we include missional opportunities every quarter. We also encourage each congregation to invite the children to serve (alongside trusted adults) at church and at local community organizations. By participating in service, we also have chances to be with God through loving relationships.
Understand Themselves As Children of God
We believe that every human is a child of God. Because of this, every human has inherent worth, deserves love and respect, and is valuable just for existing. Every session we write is written from this viewpoint. It aligns with what John Wesley called prevenient grace. "Wesley understood grace as God's active presence in our lives. This presence is not dependent on human actions or human response. It is a gift — a gift that is always available, but that can be refused" (http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/ourwesleyan-heritage). Because of this grace freely given by God to all humans, regardless of what humanity does, we do not write activities that are in any way condemning or shaming. Instead, everything is written to empower and encourage children to recognize their infinite worth. Through this loving experience, children come to know they are a part of God's family.
Explore Faith and the Bible
Our faith is rooted in the stories of the Bible and the stories of our Christian foremothers and forefathers. These stories guide us on the Christian journey. They help us make choices that show God's love to all of creation. They inspire us to stand up for justice. They give us examples to draw on when life is hard. This vast library of stories grounds us in our faith. Because of this, biblical literacy is incredibly important to us.
Each resource we create offers opportunities for children to explore the Bible through multiple learning styles. We want children not only to have fun when our learning materials are in their classrooms, but to have chances to explore and experience the rich stories of our faith. This sets the faith foundation of each child that will continue to be built as he or she grows.
We have created a three-year Scope and Sequence covering 146 stories from the Bible. These stories draw from the list of important Bible passages children will come to know.
I felt it was important to include in this chapter an overview of the process the children's unit has implemented to create resources— partly because I think it's good for everyone to know how our curriculum is created, and partly because it's one of the ways I am living out my call to be a minister. This process is called Design Thinking. It's a way of creating solutions that is based on deep empathy. It recognizes that we are not in a vacuum. Instead, the ministry we do is in direct partnership with the ministry you do, and it creates connections between the UMPH children's team and the children's teams we seek to support.
This graphic helps give an overview of the process we go through as we create new resources and make changes to the quarterly curriculum.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Deep Blue: Teaching with Confidence"
Copyright © 2018 Cokesbury.
Excerpted by permission of Cokesbury.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Preface — Teaching with Confidence,
1. Deep Blue History, Philosophy, and Theology,
2. Sacred Conversations,
3. Using Deep Blue Resources,
4. How to Set Up a Deep Blue Classroom,
5. The Flow of a Deep Blue Session,
6. Deep Blue Teacher Tips,
7. Deep Blue Families at Home and at Church,
Appendix — Using This Resource to Train Deep Blue Volunteers,