Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sunday School - Proverbs (4) parents and children

How do you get wise? Listen to your parents. That's a pretty good summary of much of Proverbs. So it was an obvious place to start, as the children and I got into the nitty-gritty of the practice of wisdom.

Proverbs has an enormous amount to say about parents and children. The book starts as a conversation between a father and his son: "Listen, my son, to your father's instruction, and do not neglect your mother's teaching" (Prov. 1:8). In weeks to come, we'll be looking at one topic a week - money, friendship, words, laziness - but parents had to come first, since this is the main relationship and source of wisdom in a child's life.

As I prepared the lesson, and looked up the verses about parents and children, I found myself being challenged to keep up the tough work of teaching, training and disciplining my kids. It's not easy to teach a 5-year old to obey 20 times in one day, or to find the energy to read the Bible with a 10-year old night after night, and it's helpful to be reminded that to neglect these things is to hate your child.

But what about our lesson? We started with a quick game of "Simon Says" - you know, the one where commands starting "Simon says" have to be obeyed, and commands not starting "Simon says" have to be ignored - to remind the kids that obedience is all about listening and doing what you're told.

Then we did a Bible study, with a printed sheet for the kids to fill in, as we looked up verses from Proverbs on parenting. The boxes along the top show the main responsibilities of parents - teach, train, discipline, example (Prov. 4:1-4; 22:6; 13:24; 20:7) - and the boxes at the bottom show children what to do / what not to do, with the results of each underneath (we looked at Proverbs 10:17; 13:13; 15:31; 17:1; 19:16; 19:26; 20:20; 23:22):

This would work well with older children, but I discovered not every member of my group (which ranges in ages from 6 to 11, so it's not an easy group to run!) could write confidently enough to make this work. If I was to do this lesson again, I would choose less verses, print them out rather than look them up, and get the kids to circle or underline relevant words.

I'd probably also grab a big sheet of paper, draw a picture (of a family?), get the kids to shout out the answers (whoops - I mean, put their hands up and answer politely), and write them up on the sheet, with the help of the more confident writers. And I wish I'd allowed more time for discussing how to practise what we learnt in our own families.

We couldn't start painting our wisdom wind-chimes, since the clay was still hardening and being fired. Instead, we created a mind-map of what we've learned from Proverbs so far, showing what wisdom is, how you get it, what the results of wisdom and folly are, and what wisdom looks like in practice. We ran out of time to make this as big and beautiful as I wanted, but it was still a useful exercise, and one the kids enjoyed. Here it is, with contributions from everyone:

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