Dwelling in the Word with children

Children are providing their own unique insights into scripture as they Dwell in the Word at the St Mark and All Saints Benefice in Reading. The Revd Jo Williams, describes how.

“Peace is the most important thing, you have to say that first,” was the response of children as one five-year-old led us in wondering about how we could tell people about the kingdom. The children had just heard the Luke 10 vs 1-12 passage for the first time. We talked about who we might tell, and what we might say. The children continued talking about the importance of peace: “Yes, that way they will know you are a friend… we say peace to everyone when we (high five/fist bump) after the story.” The children realised it was the same peace that Jesus gave us all.

As well as our formal process of Dwelling at the start of every church meeting, our youngsters engage with the passage in our monthly children’s service.

We read straight from the NIV Bible, occasionally simplifying a more complex word or phrase for clarity and using visual prompts in the style of a Godly Play story.

To help children and adults speak about what they were noticing we use wondering questions, “I wonder what you liked best?”, “I wonder what you particularly noticed in the story today?”, and sometimes, “I wonder what part of the story is about you?”

We found this helped even the two and three-year-olds to participate.

Dwelling is helping our whole church to engage with scripture in a new way.  Bible passages are not just stories to be taught but texts to be reflected on. It helps us learn to be attentive to each other and to God.

This reminds me that just nine verses on from the passage we have been studying Jesus says: “You have hidden these things from the wise and learned and revealed them to little children”.

We look forward to sharing their insights on the new passage this year! (see opposite page)

Tips for Dwelling with children under 10.

  • Choose your translation carefully – if necessary, simplify any complex words or phrases. (Issue one of Pathways used the International Children’s Bible for the Dwelling in the Word passage.)
  • Use pictures or symbols to help children follow the passage – even preverbal children can indicate what they notice in a visual story.
  • Allow the text to speak for itself – try not to interpret.
  • Use open-ended questions to get people talking about what they notice.
  • Repeat back what you hear people saying. ¶

Our new Dwelling in the Word passage is Acts 20.17-38. It is one of the key passages in Acts as Paul roots his ministry in the call to be like Christ and gives to the whole church timeless principles for Christian mission.

17 From Miletus he sent a message to Ephesus, asking the elders of the church to meet him.
18 When they came to him, he said to them:

‘You yourselves know how I lived among you the entire time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears, enduring the trials that came to me through the plots of the Jews. 20 I did not shrink from doing anything helpful, proclaiming the message to you and teaching you publicly and from house to house, 21 as I testified to both Jews and Greeks about repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus. 22 And now, as a captive to the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and persecutions are waiting for me. 24 But I do not count my life of any value to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace.

25 ‘And now I know that none of you, among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom, will ever see my face again. 26 Therefore I declare to you this day that I am not responsible for the blood of any of you, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son. 29 I know that after I have gone, savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Some even from your own group will come distorting the truth in order to entice the disciples to follow them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to warn everyone with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the message of his grace, a message that is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all who are sanctified. 33 I coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothing. 34 You know for yourselves that I worked with my own hands to support myself and my companions. 35 In all this I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”’

36 When he had finished speaking, he knelt down with them all and prayed. 37 There was much weeping among them all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, 38 grieving especially because of what he had said, that they would not see him again. Then they brought him to the ship.

These verses are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible
copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.