In class? After school? During the summer? Yep, Simon has seen it all!
It’s about that time of the year when teachers reflect on their year and maybe—after a nap or twenty—begin a little dreaming for the future.
I’ve had the delight of visiting classrooms, seeing posts, and hearing about ways that Simon and his fellow Messengers have helped others learn. So, I thought it was my turn. I wanted to learn how others were teaching the trilogy. Wow! Check out just a few ways that some teachers are sharing the Message worth dying for.
What’s your name, and what is your title?
Pastor Ryan Kleimola
Associate Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church and School in Toledo, Ohio
Parish Education at Ramona Lutheran Church
Sunday School teacher
In what settings have you taught The Messengers?
I have been using it for the last three years in the 8th grade religion class I teach. Each year we have added a book to the curriculum as they’ve been released. This year we are on schedule to complete the trilogy in class together.
After-school book club at Ramona Lutheran Christian School
Summer book club with church kids aged 10–18
What is one blessing in teaching The Messengers?
I love that the students in class, many of whom are confirming their faith in their 8th grade year, get to see a “take it seriously” situation for the confirmation process. It heightens their awareness of the reality of the gifts they receive, the treasure they are, the importance they hold, etc. It also provides a great opportunity to talk about the body of Christ, the institutional church, the assembly of believers with a faithful yet foreign depiction of what it looks like in “the City.”
No matter how bad I was at teaching, the kids were reading the Word of God throughout the book, and that alone was a blessing in itself. I might not ever see what comes of it, but the Holy Spirit has that covered, praise the Lord!
We all loved recognizing the Lutheran liturgy in the story.
What is your favorite activity to do when teaching this series?
I assign an art project, a poetry project, and a martyr research project. My favorites have been with the art projects.
There were two: I made a board game using scenarios from the book. We played the game after we read the first few chapters, before we fully knew what the Messengers were and what they believed, and again toward the end of the book.
The kids’ favorite activity was our last game. We held a special night book club meeting, and after it got dark, we went outside and played “Messengers.” It was a mixture of flashlight tag and capture of flag, complete with vials that had red lids (found them on Amazon!) that the teams had to smuggle back and forth. They still request to play this game!
We had a lot of fun with flashlight tag—it was challenging to do in our facility due to the massive windows, but we still made it work. They had to hide and transport the messages without getting “tagged” by the flashlight. They also really loved the sidewalk chalk Bible verses. We did it in our parking lot so the congregation could enjoy them on Sunday morning.
(Blogger note: There was more info for this question! If you want more details, let me know.)
What is your advice for others who are thinking about teaching The Messengers in their setting?
I find using google classroom to assign (and grade) the reflection questions provided in the book is a good way to keep the kids thinking and talking about the book. Next year I am going to look at creating discussion posts within google classroom about hot topics in the series. The book companions really well with Lutheranism 101. I teach Religion 3 days a week for 45 minutes. We dedicate one of the sessions to The Messengers, one to Lutheranism 101, and one to discussing/working on assignments.
There were so many great things that this series can be used to teach. It was hard to try to narrow it down and frustrating when I didn’t think the kids were “getting” the message I was trying to relay. There is nothing more important that the kids’ reading the Word throughout the book, and even though I did my best to get in the way (hah!), I know that God was able to work around me and His message was given to the kids. “For just as rain and snow fall from heaven and do not return without watering the earth, making it bud and sprout, and providing seed to sow and food to eat, so My word that proceeds from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please, and it will prosper where I send it.” Isaiah 55:10–11
The series is appropriate for a wide age range. I loved it as an adult, and my tween loves it just as much. So creating a multigenerational group, or even a group of kids that spans several years will provide a variety of perspectives and connections to experiences that can enhance the experience for all. In planning your discussion questions, be sure to tap into those perspectives and keep your ear tuned for those spontaneous nuggets during discussion.