Blog post submitted by The Rev. Stacy Johnson Myers, Minister of Christian Education, First Congregational Church, River Falls, Wisconsin.
Several years ago I was talking with a group of second grade Sunday Schoolers about Zacchaeus. I asked, “Why do you think the people were surprised Jesus wanted to go to Zacchaeus’ house?” A child answered, “Because they thought Jesus would go to Moses’ house.” I paused for a moment, or probably two. Then I remembered our lectionary-based curriculum featured Moses in the previous lesson. On Monday morning I gathered construction paper, scissors, and glue sticks and made a pictorial timeline—individual pictures representing specific Bible stories. From then on I could point out in a visual way that “Moses is way back there”; “Jesus is way up here.”
The timeline worked wonderfully. It helped my students gain a perspective of time and the progression of the overarching biblical story. They learned how individual Bible stories, events, and people fit together. It also helped my students learn to interpret the art and Bible stories.
Fast forward many years: the timeline is still in use in Sunday School, Wednesday School, and Confirmation, in my church in River Falls, Wisconsin. We decided to commission a new set of images from a professional artist. The result is Picture the Bible.
Picture the Bible is a set of 36 collages that tell 36 different Bible stories, from creation through Pentecost. The images are beautiful and engaging. They portray details of stories but are not overly laden with symbolism, so they can be quickly embedded in children’s imaginations. The Picture the Bible images have had a dramatic impact on the whole congregation’s biblical literacy and interpretive skills.
Recently we completed a set of 36 student engagement pages to correspond to each image. The pages reflect an approach to biblical study that intentionally occupies the intersection of daily life and the Bible.
The goal of the pages is not to “tell learners what to think.” Rather, the goal is to provide a variety of “conversation centerpieces” designed to engage learners and leaders in authentic conversation about their lives, the world, and the Bible.
For example, the page dedicated to Slavery in Egypt poses:
- Read the story in Exodus 1.
- Why do you think some people hurt others?
- At first the Egyptians welcomed the Hebrews. As the Hebrews became more powerful, the Egyptians became afraid. Why might they have been afraid?
- Do people have to agree to get along? How so?
Then, learners and leaders talk about this Conversation Centerpiece:
“Conversation Centerpieces” put Bible stories into their own cultural contexts and connect them to learners’ lives. The pages include Martin Luther King’s mountain top speech; Ruby Bridges; carbon-14 dating, architecture, Dr. Seuss, constellations, and a wide variety of other images and topics. The student engagement pages are flexible, can be used by a wide variety of ages, are colorful, and packed with ideas.
For more information, please visit www.picturethebible.org; follow us on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/picturethebible; or contact me at email@example.com. Congregations may purchase art reproductions, books featuring the art, a CD of images for projection in worship, and permission to download and print the student engagement pages.
One of the great benefits of Picture the Bible is that it is truly intergenerational. The images engage young children, teens, and adults, drawing together people’s lives and the Bible—a central goal of faith formation.