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Fun with Bible study: Young students at First Presbyterian learn through ... - Jackson Sun

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Fun with Bible study: Young students at First Presbyterian learn through ... - Jackson Sun
Apr 14th 2012, 10:25

One hallway in the children's education area of First Presbyterian Church has been transformed into ancient Israel. Desert landscapes are painted on the walls. Palm trees hang from one portion - a stuffed camel smiles down from another.

Four rooms are devoted to specific activities -- the First Century Cinema features elevated seating for movie viewing. Masterpiece Theater has a stage, props, curtains and backdrops. The art room is called "And God Created." Cooking lessons are held in Mary and Martha's Kitchen. "Synagogue School" is where music, games and Bible skills are held.

This atmosphere is where children ages 5 years old through fifth grade come for Rotation Sunday School every week at First Presbyterian Church.

Lisa Spurlin is the coordinator of this program, which was started four years ago at First Presbyterian. Hers is a volunteer position, not paid.

Rotation Sunday School is a format that has students study on Bible story for four to five weeks at a time. Each week students study the story in a different way -- they watch a movie, participate in a drama skit, make a craft, cook a snack in the kitchen and play games that involve answering questions about the Bible story.

This format for Sunday School was started at a Presbyterian Church in Chicago, Spurlin said.

"I had a conversation with the pastor's wife a few years ago at lunch and she told me about a Rotation Sunday School program at a church in South Carolina," she said. "It piqued my interest. I went to the director of education here and he said I could look into it. So I investigated, purchased a book about it and went to the Christian education committee, who said it was a neat idea. So here I am."

All the decorating, teaching and participation have been done by church volunteers, Spurlin said. Penny Kendall painted the murals in all the rooms and the halls. The rotation program is called "Journey to the Holy Land."

"This is intensive Bible study -- the children read a story from the Bible. Each rotation lesson has a memory verse that they memorize over the four to five weeks," Spurlin said.

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In the drama room, children act out the roles of the story with scripts provided by teachers. Art lessons involve a craft that reinforces the theme of the story. In the kitchen, a snack like Resurrection Rolls are made while talking about the Easter story.

"The beauty is, if you have a child who is not interested in drama, they might become absorbed in creating something," Spurlin said. "By the end of the five weeks, they have a good understanding of the Bible story."

Stacey McAdams appreciates the variety offered in the Rotation Sunday School program. She has two children in the program -- a second grader and a preschooler.

"I like it because I have the opportunity to work the with Rotation Sunday School program. Because it rotates, I appreciate that my kids get to interact with lots of different adults," she said. "There is a lot of variety in the lessons."

While the children know they will also do certain things -- like watch a movie or cook, they don't do the same recipes or watch the same videos week to week, McAdams said.

"It makes me happy to see them be excited about what they'll do. It keeps the kids interested," she said. "It makes what they learn fun to learn and I think it helps them retain that knowledge."

The rotation is based on a six year plan - in that time frame the children will learn most of the Bible stories by the time they graduate out of the program, Spurlin said.

Pam Bowers said she and her husband Steve have both been pleased with program. Their son Clayton is in the third grade.

"We were real excited about," she said. "Our feeling is it's a coordinated curriculum and they go through progressive steps toward confirmation in our church. They have a cooking class, they have fun, they do a theater program. It all relates to the same theme, focus, Bible verse."

Bowers said her son enjoys Sunday School and anticipates what each week's lessons will bring.

"He's really eager to go and loves going to Sunday School. We think the program is wonderful and very kid-friendly and exciting with all the murals and the movie theater. It reinforces the theme and story through various learning styles."

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Twyla Morgan said she's been amazed at how much the children learn and that every week is different. Her 10-year-old daughter Mari is in the fourth grade.

"She's very excited about showing up because there's something new every week," she said. "I think she really likes the cooking and the videos."

Morgan said sometimes she fills in as a teacher. She usually coordinates the games and quizzes the children through games like Jeopardy that test their knowledge.

"I'm surprised at how much the children know the stories and the historical context of the stories," she said. "They're always excited about being able to answer questions about the Bible."

Spurlin said the rotating model can be adapted to any church, no matter the denomination. She said she's heard of Baptist, Church of Christ, Methodist and other churches using this format.

Currently, First Presbyterian has about a dozen children in the program. About 20 regular volunteers teach or help out with the weekly lessons, Spurlin said.

"We have some who teach almost every rotation," she said. "We can allow people to teach with the God-given talents they have."

Usually the church has Rotation Sunday School year-round, but this summer they will take a break and use a video series. If the number of children increases, next summer they will go back to year-round rotation, Spurlin said.

"The parents really like it a lot," she said. "And the children seem to like it also. I've heard good things from so many people. In editing these lesson plans every week, I've learned so much about the Bible myself."

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