One challenge of teaching Sunday School to middle-schoolers is keeping it relevant to their life and faith, but not getting so into their teenage world that we forget the gospel. I somewhat enjoy the challenge of finding scripture and Christian truths that speak to current events or current situations that come up: it keeps me on my toes.
When the September 20 Global Youth Climate Strike happened, I changed gears from the lesson book and decided focus on this messy greenhouse atmosphere my generation and elders are passing on to them. Too many kids their age were skipping school to get the world’s attention to do something. It felt like a disservice to the kids not to discuss it at church.
I solicited suggestions for Biblical truths and talking points from a PC(USA) Leaders Facebook group, Fossil Free PC(USA) group, and my own circles. I found some excellent advice and got a lesson plan together.
Two kids came: Sarah and Elizabeth. We prayed for one’s friend struggling with school, we prayed for thanks for the other’s success at a volleyball tournament the day before. We read Psalm 24 v1. We watched some videos about Greta Thunberg—who isn’t much older than these kids—speaking to Congress and the UN, pleading them to listen to the warnings of science and to act soon. We read from Genesis 1 about God creating people on the sixth day because he needed someone to take care of everything He created. Then we went outside, read from Genesis 2 about Adam (which translates from Hebrew as “red clay”) and we took a minute to hold some dirt, and blow into it like God breathed into it to make our ancestor. We pondered how we are connected to this earth, this soil, this Adamah.
I don’t know what kind of impact that made on the kids. Are they forever scarred by the doom and gloom of their peers’ prophetic warnings to the UN? Did I get too far off church doctrine to go play in the dirt and breathe on it? Did they get the message I tried to lay down that with our faith we have a connection to the Earth?
One mom told me later that her daughter liked breathing on the soil it and gave it thumbs up. The other girl, the following week was helping the other youth kids paint some scenes to represent God’s creation on a board for the church garden. They agreed to paint a sunset to show the beauty God makes. The girl from my Sunday school pointed west to the actual sunset behind the Peaks of Otter. It was a beautiful scene God painted for us that night. She pointed out which peaks were “Sharp top” and “round top.” She said she would just paint that. I was taken away of how she took me back to my connection to Earth that this scene in front of us in real life is exactly representative of God’s creation.
The kids teach me more than I teach them. The future leaders of America, and the world are pretty bright, and we will probably be ok. But for now can you help me pray for the condition of the earth we are leaving to these bright kids and the next generations? Can you cut back on waste, consumption and plastic use, can you help these kids to make a better world? They deserve it.
Alex Haney is a youth volunteer at Quaker Memorial Presbyterian Church in Lynchburg, VA where he also works for a construction company as a solar panel installation project manager. He is active in the church’s various mission projects and is an alumni of both PCUSA’s YAV program (Boston 2013-14, Little Rock 14-15) and The EcoStewards Program (2016, 2017).
you've found the blog for www.fossilfreepcusa.org