Over the years we’ve run some Bible computer lab photo and teacher essay contests for our customers. Below are some of the winning entries.
Luanne Payne, Hampton United Church, Hampton Ontario
The first time I ever used a computer in Sunday School was in 1996. I’d purchased a CD full of shareware… I came across a one called Billy Bear. Compared to today’s software it was simplistic. The next Sunday I took my 486 computer to Sunday School…and set it up facing the children. …they were awestruck. We had a blast. …Not a child left that day who didn’t know the story forwards and backwards. Everyone participated, everyone had comments, questions, ooh’s and aaah’s. In seven years of teaching Sunday School, I had never had so much fun or felt so rewarded at the end of class. I left thinking there has to be a way to teach with computers. The question was I would need computers, and the right software.
It was not until the spring of 2000, four years later at a seminar, that I would find my answer. I heard about “the Rotation Model” and they used a video projector to show a sample of Christian software called “The Life of David.” Within a month of that meeting I had put a notice in our church bulletin asking for the donation of used computers. I traveled far and wide to several Christian bookstores and found three titles. When I joined the internet world, I found Sunday Software and Neil…. and the rest is history.
We are a small rural church with 5 to 15 children on Sunday. We now have two new computers. As we upgraded, we passed along our computers to other churches. We’ve never looked back, and Bible literacy has never been so great. I promote Rotation and computers in Sunday School every chance I get.
Enclosed are two pictures. In the first, we are learning about Elisha (at the computer). I’m not sure who was more wrapped up in the story… me or the girls. I think I know a tiny bit what it was like for Elisha when the water parted… (it’s) how I feel every time I see a child reached through a computer program. In the second picture…. you can see the lab is in full use with a wide age range. If on a Sunday we didn’t use the lab, the children come running after me after Worship to turn them on.
Comments from Luanne’s Pastor: (excerpts): Luanne’s involvement with computers and teaching children has brought new life to our children’s understanding of scripture and their love of Jesus. The computer lab is a major part of the program and the young people can hardly wait. They often stay after class to do some work or complete the lab. The children who come are very faithful to the program. Our program has been observed by a number of other churches, and Luanne has helped them get established. We have shared our resources with them.
Louise Waszak, St. Luke United Methodist, Omaha Nebraska
I’ve been teaching Sunday School for over 33 years and have seen a variety of approaches and curriculum. By far the biggest change was the addition of technology, specifically computers. When I first learned of the changes, I thought, “Okay, let’s give it a shot.” I was asked to take on responsibility for the working with the children in the computer lab. My initial expectation was that the older students would enjoy it, but I wasn’t sure about the younger ones.
The initial challenge was directed toward me. I needed to become familiar with the software programs so I could coach and demonstrate them with the children. From there it was finding an approach that would work with the different age groups coming into the lab. The younger children didn’t have the motor skills and were not able to read. But we were able to resolve these issues by having an additional person in the lab, especially a youth. They were able to demonstrate, and read the instructions, captions and questions to the younger children.
It was amazing to watch the children go from “not too interested” .. to now having their favorite programs. There is nothing as satisfying as seeing a child master a skill or game, and watch their face light up …(as they) learned the books of the Bible or the Lord’s Prayer. Most of the older children had the experience with computers to jump right in. They (didn’t realize) they were learning, but learning they were.
The parents have been fun to watch too. At first… all they saw was that (the kids) had spent their time playing computer games. We took the time each week to highlight what the children were working on…. they soon saw a change in their children. The parents saw not only the knowledge they were gaining, but their children went from “waiting at the church door to go home” to “having to pry their children away from Sunday School.” Their children even want to bring friends on Sunday.
The addition of computers and Bible software to our program has been fabulous. We’re in our third year and each year we see the children take another step in their knowledge. They come running down the hall. It truly has re-energized our Sunday School.
Comments from Louise’s Pastor :
Louise is a gifted Sunday School teacher. When our Director introduced the concept of providing a computer lab, Louise was more than ready to give it a try. She is willing to do anything to bring the Bible to life for our children. I am impressed with the results. The software lets the scripture and message of the Bible connect with our children in a wonderful fashion.
Wendy Sempf, Gloria Dei Lutheran, Rochester Minnesota
For the first 15 years I taught traditional Sunday School the way I had learned. As I developed relationships with the students, I found out what interested them, and discovered that computers were big. I dreamed of the day when I could have a computer in my classroom.
About 3 years later, I met Neil MacQueen (at a seminar) as he was showing how computers could be utilized on Sunday morning. I remembered my dream. I had used computer a bit here and there, but I wasn’t technologically knowledgeable. I could surf the net, write papers and email, but that was about all. Over the next 8 years I learned more about computers than I ever imagined. I also learned from my students, and that is what excited me most of all.
Prior to computers, I remembered students with their heads down on the table as I attempted to teach. Now I was seeing our youth learning with computers. The first year I used a software quiz program called “Fall of Jericho” to see what knowledge the students had retained during the year. I was amazed when a girl stopped me to ask about the answer to one of my questions. We …looked it up in the Bible. I was dumbfounded to realize that I had the incorrect answer and she was correct.
We average 10-15 kids. It sure has made teaching a lot more enjoyable, and now our shepherds/helpers are familiar with the software.
I have kids who will stay up to 30 minutes after the lesson. (Because of her number of computers and now smaller class sizes Wendy writes…) I do not always use all our computers because I feel the students learn better if they are with another student. This assists a student who might have trouble reading, and allows the student who is more familiar with the story to teach and share the message with each other.
Comments from Wendy’s Pastor:
I can’t say enough about Wendy. She has a passion to teach our children and youth and she provides vision for our education program. Her adaptation of our regular Bible curriculum for the computer lab has been inspired.
Teacher Mary Lou Ferris and student Thomas Murray, Union Church, Hinsdale IL
Excerpts: After teaching 7th and 8th grade Sunday School for over twenty years, I admit, I was set in MY way of teaching. I was more than skeptical when asked to teach a five week trial unit to Middle School Youth in our brand new computer lab…….I was not computer savvy…..I have an assistant…. Honestly, the software has turned out to be so simple to use that if I needed to I could load and run the lab myself.
Aside from my fear of technology I was concerned that the youth would become bored after several weeks, that they would find the material dorkey, nerdy, dull. I also had concerns that there would be no sense of community or sharing among the youth. After only two weeks I knew I was wrong on both counts.
The five week trial has turned into a permanent Computer Bible class. The youth help each other… New people or visitors plug right in.
I will never go back to Sunday School as usual. The youth arrive early and don’t want to leave. For me as a teacher, it is gratifying.
Excerpts from student Thomas Murray’s winning entry, a student in Mary Lou’s class.
“A computer lab in our church? Come on!” What are we going to do, have a computer lecture us about Christianity? NO, this is definitely not what the computer lab is like. The games we play are fun and teach us about our religion. In August, I had the choice to go to a Bible study or computer class. I would rather learn on a computer.
That day we started exploring Life of Christ. Every week after that I went to the computer lab coming closer and closer to being a “Master Bible Explorer.” I was the second person in a group of seven who showed up every week.
A computer lab is fun because you virtually see and hear the information rather than read it in a book. …Church computer labs are really cool.”
Teacher Leslie Christensen and student Ruikang Liu and Kelly Christiansen, Kent Presbyterian, Kent OH
Excerpts from Leslie Christensen’s entry:
“…Until then, I never saw this child participate in class.”
As a child, I only attended Sunday School until the first grade. It was very boring and my mother stopped taking me. So I was wary of doing the same-old Sunday School with kids.
The change to using PCs has only had positive results. I cannot think of any student who doesn’t actively participate.
One change was really exciting. A student who had only been in the U.S. a year (came in and) took control of the keyboard. Until then I had never seen this child participate.
The children’s written entries tell you why I like teaching in the computer lab.
Excerpt from Ruikang Liu’s essay (the new student from another country mentioned above):
“It is more funner to learn from computers then almost any other way…”
Excerpt from Kelly Christensen (Leslie’s Nephew):
I like the computer lab a lot. I believe it should be fun to learn. It makes church more exciting to look forward to every Sunday.