Nancy Short: School Teacher
Nancy Short has been teaching school for over thirty years in the greater Seattle area. I met her several years ago when I was teaching a lay study on the Old Testament. She serves the VCC community of faith by helping the kids in the community understand how to think about living in God’s Story. Nancy believes that kids really matter to God, just as much as adults do, which has led her to also believe that Christian kids should be shown how to live in a different story than their counterparts who are not Christian. Part of her desire to storize kids is fueled by a quote from the forward of a book by Sue Miller called Making Your Children’s Ministry The Best Hour of Every Kid’s Week. In the forward by George Barna he says, “Did you know that the ideas driving people’s behavior are generally acquired and adopted before a person reaches the age of thirteen? Were you aware that the religious beliefs a person develops by the age of thirteen are pretty much the set of beliefs they will maintain until they die? Further, we found that people’s major spiritual choices are generally made when they are young, again underscoring the importance of focusing on the development of children.” These words weigh heavy on her and she wants to impact kids so they can impact their communities, neighborhood friends, classmates at school, soccer team members, or their own extended family members. With all this rolling around in her head, Nancy formed a mission statement for the kid’s ministry at VCC which reads, We help kids think, so they can be God’s people, reflecting His character, and furthering His purposes. She has discovered that finding a suitable curriculum to fit what the mission and values are, became an impossible task. Some materials were great at building character, while others did a good job teaching the Bible. But most used a thematic approach which does not fit the way she wants to train these kids. What was her solution? While taking a year’s training from me stressing the value of story, she has continued writing her own curriculum. It’s a work in progress. She readily admits that her hopes from the project are greater than her time resources, but she moves along. She is currently seeking an artist to illustrate her vision of a storied Bible for kids; not, she would say, like the story Bibles that are presently available. She rather wants to paint the story on the walls of the classrooms so the kids always know where they are in learning the Story. In addition to this focus, she also wants to incorporate meaningful spiritual practices that kids can understand and practice. She has taught the kids to practice the ancient form of Lectio Divina. She encourages them to notice God in their everyday lives as they live in his Story. What is done in the classroom setting on Sunday with kids is breaking out into their lives during the week. On one Sunday, she told a child that Jesus wanted to have a relationship with him and help him live out the Story of God in his life. He believed her. During the week he and his mom were lying on their couch when the lad asked his mom if she could see Jesus. Somewhat startled, she responded, “No.” Then she asked her son what he was seeing. He told her that Jesus was in the room standing by the sliding glass door. Sure, there are ways to interpret this happening. But, isn’t it really possible that this could have happened? It surely did in the Story in Scripture. What would be different now? She tells a story about a kid who had a dream from God and another kid in the room who interprets the dream. Sounds somewhat like Joseph, huh? She tells of kids who stand up for their classmates in school when being bullied by others, or comforting them during stressful incidents that happen in their lives. Kids seem to get living in his Story easier than adults. The curriculum that Nancy is creating is called The Bible Eras. When she first began writing it, she wanted to get her kids through the curriculum in a year. After considering the scope of the project, she has changed her mind. The first emphasis in the curriculum is to tell the stories in the Bible, not with a moral attached to it, but with a basic way of thinking about interpreting each story that a kid can grasp. She wants the kids to grasp the meaning of the Story the same way the first hearers of the Story grasped it. She uses materials that she creates for the kids during the story telling. On 4½ by 5½ cards there are pictures that relate the events in a Bible story. On the back of the card is a short paragraph with a title. Each card has a different part of the story. The kids lay out the cards and tell the story to each other. As an example of how this works, in the Judges Era, the first lesson shows the Israelites worshiping the Canaanite idols on the cards. The paragraph talks about their actions and how God reacts to their idol worship. By telling the story, the kids learn what these stories say about God and his relationship with people. On a weekly basis, the kids are told that they are God’s people and the stories they tell each other from the Bible are stories that they live during the week. She also does interactive stuff in the telling of the stories. Again, in the Judges Era, she asked each kid to tell a story about how they had received consequences from their parents for something they had wrongly done. While telling the story, they turned their backs on the rest of the class and then turned to face the class when they tell how the relationship was resolved with their parents. Sometimes they turned away from their classmates more than once in a story, mimicking the cycles found in the stories of the book of Judges. This interactivity makes it easier for the kids to understand the same cycles in their own lives. She has conversations with them about how to face their parents instead of turning their backs on them, because of their need for relationship. Story has become the driving force behind her passion to pass on these stories, while fitting them into the larger Story of God so the kids can live well in God’s Story.