"Olivia doesn't want to do Bible at school this year," said Olivia's mother. "It was boring last year."
"Rick isn't fussed either," said Rick's mother. "He'd rather go to the library during Bible time."
"I'm not sure about letting Ryan do Bible this year," said Ryan's mother. "Last year he didn't even want to go to school on Thursday mornings. All because of the Bible teacher."
It was the end of February and several mothers sat outside the classroom, idly chatting as they waited for the three o'clock bell to ring. A sign in the window announced that Bible in Schools (Religious Education) was to begin the following Thursday.
When Georgia's mum opened her mouth, I couldn't stand it. "Oh, please, do encourage them to stay. We have such fun in Bible." "You! Are you the Bible teacher?" "Ooops! I'd forgotten you teach Bible." "Are you teaching our kids this year?" "Yes." I wondered what last year's Bible teacher had done. Or not done. Admittedly, Year One children can be hard to teach. They're mostly illiterate, and so most of the session needs to involve pictures and activities rather than written words. And if you're into speaking Christian-ese, five-year-olds just don't get it. Even Year Two children are at early levels of literacy. And so, Bible in Year Two consists primarily of stories with pictures to accompany them, interactive activities and songs that are memorable. It wasn't long before parents began to talk to me about Thursday morning. "Matthew's really enjoying Bible," said Matthew's mother. "Ryan loves Thursday morning," said Ryan's mother. "It's the one day of the week that he leaps out of bed, raring to go to school." "The only thing Caitlyn ever tells me about school is about
Bible," said Caitlyn's mother. "She loves it." "Sophia insists on telling the Bible stories to her little brother,"
said Sophia's mother. A grandfather rang to express his appreciation that his
granddaughter, raised in an agnostic home, was learning things of the Bible. A mother asked what she could tell her son about a pet who had recently died.
Another mother asked me if I would do more Bible-based activities with her daughter after school. This six-year-old girl had told her Buddhist parents that she wanted to be a Jesus-girl, not a Buddha-girl.
One of the final lessons was about prayer. The children learned about how prayer is "for them." They remembered how the great people in the Bible stories had all prayed. They learned that talking to God is really very important. And they learned that talking to God is easy.
The last five minutes of the session involved making a flower garden. Each child wrote on a cardboard flower one thing they'd most like to tell God. The flower was then glued onto a stick, and planted into a pot of sand. Above the pot hung a rain cloud with the words I can talk to God about anything.
There were lots of interesting replies. "To God, my tooth fell out." "To God, I've got a baby sister." "To God, thank you for my friends." "To God, I'm glad the sun is shining."
I was nearly afraid to read the words on the last flower. It was made by a child who, at the beginning of the year, had not wanted to be in Bible class and had declared to other children that Jesus was a big, fat lie. It was from a child who had sat at the back of the group, often seeming to be aloof but never causing a distraction. I took a deep breath to steady myself.
"To God, I love you." I felt like I had been knocked in the back of my knees. And I had to say, in response to this declaration, "Dear God, I love You too." Work hard and cheerfully at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and the Master you are serving is Christ. Colossians 3:23, 24. Christine Miles is a freelance writer, mother and Bible teacher, who lives in Auckland, New Zealand.