While it is disappointing that Special Religious Education classes are currently on hold and may not return until next year thanks to the current lockdown, there is plenty to look back and be thankful for.
We asked Scripture teachers to share their most memorable moments in the classroom. Here are several stories of student curiosity, students grasping key concepts and realising that the Bible has a place in their lives.
When students get grace
Seeing a room of students click and understand the concept of grace still makes Wycliffe Ochieng, a Scripture teacher from St Stephen’s, Bomaderry, smile. Last year, he ran a seemingly simple paper airplane competition with his class, promising a gift to whoever could hit the extremely small bullseye.
“For the analogy to work, everyone had to miss the target, so you can imagine what I was secretly praying for while the game went on,” he says. “Nobody actually hit the target, so I was very much relieved.
“[At] the end of the game, I went to give the gift to the least deserving student, and woah, in came the reactions. From ‘I was the closest, I should get the reward’ to ‘It’s not fair, how come he is getting the gift?’ It’s safe to say that in teaching them this year, they all understand the meaning of what God’s grace is.”
“This lesson really touched her heart”
A lesson on reversals while studying Mark’s gospel stands out for Katie Stringer, who goes to church at All Souls’, Leichhardt. While her class shared what kind of reversals the class would like to see in the world – as a lead-in to talk about Jesus and the reversals he brings – a normally disengaged and quiet student spoke up and surprised her.
“She put up her hand and said, ‘I want to have a world that doesn’t have disabilities, [or] where if you have a disability, you are treated with kindness, compassion and fairness’. She had all of these ideas bubbling out, and we got to write them up on the whiteboard.
“I could see, for her, this lesson really touched her heart. For this student, sitting in a wheelchair, the things that Jesus brings, the hope he brings, are really important, especially to her.”
Choosing to be on Jesus’ team
For Matt Shannon, families pastor at Minchinbury, it’s always memorable when a student makes the connection between the lessons that have been taught and their own lives.
“My most memorable moment came in a Year 1-2 class I had been teaching for a whole year,” he says. “There was one boy in that class who, for the whole year, had seemed pretty disinterested. One day after class he came up to me and said, ‘I want to be on Jesus’ team’. That was such an awesome moment, to see a kid thinking critically about what the Bible says and what Christians believe.”
Tricky questions mean kids are thinking
The tougher, or more left-of-field questions, are a joy for Pam Hilton, who attends church at Moorebank. She loves hearing how little minds are working and thinking through the Bible stories of each lesson.
“A child asked me how did Joseph talk to the Egyptians when he was taken there as a slave?” she recalls. “My response was, wait until next week for the answer, as the next lesson they mentioned they used translators. [It was] not a deep theological question, but it did show he was engaging with the lesson.”
Other questions she enjoys answering and gets asked often include, “Was God ever a baby?” and “What if we don’t trust and follow Jesus?” She finds there is always an opportunity to point children to Jesus in her classes.
If you could say one thing about Jesus, what would you say?
Although it’s been a few years since he taught Scripture, Moore College student Adam Johnson remembers his SRE lessons fondly. The student minister at Sylvania has many quotes from students tucked away that bring him great encouragement and joy, remembering how his primary students would make connections between different parts of the Bible.
While explaining about the Lord’s Supper in a lesson about things that happen regularly in church he asked his class, “Why do you think we eat bread during the Lord’s Supper?” One student paused, and then replied, “It’s like a reminder of Jesus, when he broke bread during his last supper with his disciples before he died.” Another student, bursting with excitement, added: “Oooh! Ooh! It’s also like how Jesus said, ‘I am the bread of life!”
During his final Scripture class he asked his students, “If you could say one thing about Jesus, what would you say?” Students replied, “Jesus is the king!”, “Jesus made the world”, “Jesus is the saviour”, “Jesus died to pay for our sin!”, “Jesus is God’s son” and “Jesus is Lord!”
Mr Johnson says, “What a great joy it has been to see God at work in the classroom”.
Pray for the students enrolled in SRE classes, that they would continue to think about the things they have learned although classes aren’t currently happening. Please also pray for the many Scripture teachers and volunteers who make these classes happen, as they wait patiently for the opportunity to teach Scripture once more.