Curriculum to meet changing needs in faith formation

Kansans form a nonprofit to offer resources online that are Anabaptist, accessible

Jan 29, 2018 by and

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When Carol Duerksen heard Canadian singer-songwriter Bryan Moyer Suderman perform “Detectives of Divinity” in April, she thought it would make a good theme for children’s Sunday school material.

Duerksen helped create a 13-week curriculum for use in her congregation, Tabor Mennonite Church of Goessel, Kan., with funding from Mennonite Church USA’s Western District Conference.

Springs Forth! Faith Formation board members, from left: Doris Unruh, Cindy Snider, Karen Ediger, Dorothy Nickel Friesen, Frankie Huxman. Not pictured are June Thomsen, Alan Stucky and Phyllis Regier. — Carol Duerksen

Springs Forth! Faith Formation board members, from left: Doris Unruh, Cindy Snider, Karen Ediger, Dorothy Nickel Friesen, Frankie Huxman. Not pictured are June Thomsen, Alan Stucky and Phyllis Regier. — Carol Duerksen

Now it is being developed into two multigenerational, downloadable curriculum packages for vacation Bible school under the umbrella of a new organization called Springs Forth! Faith Formation Inc.

“There are lots of people who access curriculum online that is not necessarily Anabaptist in its approach,” said Duerksen, who described the main goals of the curriculum — to be “Anabaptist and accessible.”

The song, “Detectives of Divinity,” talks about finding evidence of God in the happenings of ordinary life.

“It’s a very upbeat song that talks about finding and seeing God everywhere,” Duerksen said. “I think particularly for children, that’s important: knowing that God is in their daily lives no matter what happens.”

The new curriculum units will focus on finding God in various stories of the Bible. One unit will look at stories from the Old Testament, and the other will feature stories from the New Testament. There will also be versions for youth and adults.

“It’s something that all ages can access,” Duerksen said. “It’s something that adults and children can get into.”

Once or twice a month

Springs Forth! board chair Dorothy Nickel Friesen of Newton said the curriculum’s accessibility online was a needed resource.

“The reality in many of our Sunday schools is that kids are there once or twice a month,” Friesen said. “One of the implications is that churches don’t want to buy a lot of printed material that’s not used. They’re looking to download things. We need more good material online to be not only cheaper but retain the theological integrity.”

Friesen said the material could work not only for Sunday school or VBS but for any short-term Bible study session.

“In some of our congregations, there are more kids and youth showing up on Wednesday night than on Sunday morning,” she said.

The original 13-week version of the curriculum is being used on Wednesday evenings at Tabor. It will be available through Western District Conference.

“We’re still very committed to an Anabaptist, Jesus-centered curriculum,” Friesen said. “While there are some good things on the internet, they’re from a different theological perspective.”

Theologically, the Springs Forth! material will be in line with the print material available from MC USA’s publishing agency, MennoMedia. Friesen described it as “Anabaptist in terms of a peace-and-justice emphasis, a Jesus-centered emphasis and a whole-Bible emphasis.”

The two units of VBS curriculum will be available for the 2019 season. Friesen said another curriculum would be developed for the 2020 VBS season.

There will be a small fee for the downloads, which will be from a website that is still in development. Springs Forth! is applying for nonprofit status and will seek additional funding sources. Donations can be made to Western District Conference designated with “SPRINGS!” in the memo line, addressed to SPRINGS!, WDC, P.O. Box 306, North Newton, KS, 67117.

“I see Christian education as vital to individual faith development and corporate faith development,” Friesen said. “We have to be good stewards, but we also have to be good theological consumers.

“This is kind of a leap of faith in a way, but I feel it’s a way to respond to a call, and I’m willing to give it some energy.”

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