Having a Ball Teaching the Parables

Mrs. Betty Bauch of Zion Lutheran Church in Kerrville, Texas, began teaching The Parables of Jesus two times a month in February this year. When the group of 30 broke for a summer hiatus, the students requested that Betty teach the course once a week when they resume in the fall. Betty is also trying to schedule a block of time in the normal Sunday school slot to teach selected parables in the fall. "I am having an absolute ball with this," she says with a laugh. "I am learning so much; I’m just reading, reading, reading!"

Bauch says that several resources have proved invaluable in teaching The Parables of Jesus. They include Poet and Peasant / Through Peasant Eyes, by renowned Middle Eastern scholar, Dr. Kenneth Bailey, and The Atlas of the Bible, published by Reader’s Digest . She draws on every resource available to her within the class itself; several of her students have been to the Holy Land, and they share their experiences in the discussions. Betty has also relied heavily on the help of a retired pastor in the group who is a gifted linguist and scholar.

Bauch prepares for a lesson by reading it through first, writing her notes out longhand, and then typing them, which means she goes through the material three times by the time she teaches it to her students. "I know everyone has their own method, but at my age, I have to do it this way in order to remember it!" She uses newspaper clippings to illustrate a point of a parable, showing how times truly have not changed. "[The clippings] make it so interesting and [the study] is so 21 st century," adds Bauch. She also gains context from looking backwards in biblical history: "We spent time in the Old Testament researching priest defilement when we studied the parable of the Good Samaritan, which helped the students to understand what was going on in the story. It makes it real to people."

A high point in the class included dining Middle Eastern style during the parable of the friend at midnight. The food included flat bread, cottage cheese, humus and grape juice.

Next time Bauch teaches the course, she would like to hand out blank slips of paper during the first class; students would write one thing they’d like to change as a result of this study, seal it in an envelope and then open it again at the end of the study. They wouldn’t be required to share the contents with anyone.

Bauch observes, "One thing that comes back to me over and over again is what a masterful teacher Jesus was and is, and how brilliant he was and is. He had those Pharisees right where he wanted them. I think it is easy to forget this sometimes, but I am constantly amazed by our Lord."

  • Management Material: With emphasis on managing (not owning) wealth, talent and power, In Heaven’s Name, Why on Earth? and An Apostle’s Creed for the New Millenium are compelling courses for Christian businesspeople. A church in Nebraska offers the course to businessmen and, based on demand, will soon add a session for businesswomen.
  • Combining forces: Three churches in Long Beach, California have combined their confirmation classes in a study of The Divine Drama®. The 18-member class, taught on a rotation basis by three pastors and two interns, has been so popular with parents who sit in as guests, that a plan is in the works to offer The Divine Drama® on a citywide basis to adults.
  • Middle Eastern cuisine: Several churches have reported incorporating Middle Eastern food into their lessons by having a theme dinner or snack during the class. Sandi Wolmack of Chattanooga, Tennessee teaches 5 th and 6 th graders The Divine Drama® and The Bible’s Big Story, and says incorporating "signs of the times" helps kids to remember what they are learning. Betty Bauch of Kerrville, Texas (see article this issue), is currently teaching The Parables of Jesus to adults. The class enjoyed a light Middle Eastern-style supper during the class concerning the parable of the friend at midnight.
  • Take a "tour" of the Holy Land: Pastor Chris Schwenneker illustrates the journey of Jesus’ ministry to youth by setting up various stations around the church. For example, a drinking fountain becomes the River Jordan. A small room off a nursery can be a guestroom like the one in which Mary and Joseph stayed when Jesus was born.
  • Cut up your Bible: Schwenneker has a creative way to teach how the Old Testament is put together during the first class in both Crossways and The Divine Drama®. He takes an old Bible, tears each book away from the binding, keeping the binding intact. He then staples each book together, and tucks them all back into the binding. In class, he pretends to trip and the books spill all over the place. Students are then assigned to put the books of the Bible into the groups discussed in Unit 1 (history, poetry, etc).
  • Make "family" discussion groups: Ask the students to form groups, and designate each member of the group to play the role of a member of Middle Eastern extended family; don't be afraid to assign men to women's roles and vice versa. The group can discuss the lesson and simultaneously learn something about how families operate in the Middle East.
  • Give swaddling lessons.
  • Take field trips: Sandi Wolmack takes a trip every year to the Jewish-Christian museum in Chattanooga with her students.
  • Write Psalms.
  • Use Current Events: Marge Franzen of Peace Lutheran Church in Lombard and Betty Bauch of Zion Lutheran in Kerrville, Texas (see article this issue), both report using newspaper clippings of current events to illustrate how things have not changed so much since the time of Jesus.
  • Money-back guarantee: Rev John Bookshaw, a pastor, Michigan, asks people to try Crossways for three sessions and offers a refund on their manuals if they choose to drop out. In his 10+ years of teaching, no one has cashed in.
  • On the Home Front: Lynn Hantel of Cleveland, Ohio home-schooled her son Mark using Crossways as his Christian Education course during high school (He went through The Divine Drama® in junior high). Hantel says the audiotapes and illustrations make it easy.
  • Devotions to Go: Crossways transparencies are always on the go with Rev. Kenneth Kotzer, who serves a large church in Minneapolis. He uses them to lead quick breakfast Bible studies, informal worship services, and meeting devotions. "The response has always been tremendous," says Rev. Kotzer.

For more on See Through the Scriptures®, click here.

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