Friday, November 2, 2018

PBT Favorite Posts #6

Here’s a hypothetical: Let’s say your faith community is planning around a  sermon series on the concept of The Holy Trinity. You want your whole faith family to explore this concept together organically, but it’s a tough concept for children. It’s a tough concept for adults! Remember, learning about The Trinity is a life-long journey so offering activities that connect with the sermons will enhance their learning journey if you consider their ages and experiences.

Picture Book Theology (PBT) is a big proponent of organic church programming that has folks in various settings talking about the same ideas. PBT encourages you to explore even complex theological concepts via literature that children (and adults) can connect to and relate to meaningfully. Encouraging children to experience the idea of The Holy Trinity in various contexts and within a variety of activities will lead to better understanding and richer meaning. Isn’t that what we all want in religious education?

The book I’m offering today is such a book. At the surface, One Family is a fun book about counting and collective nouns – those words that stand for a group of persons, places, or things. The numbers 1-10 are explored in order, but 1 is emphasized. Here’s a taste of the text pattern:

One is one. One lamp. One clock. One book to share.
One is two. One pair of shoes. One team of horses. One family.
After the number 10 is explored...
One is one and everyone. One earth. One world. One family.
The Holy Trinity is a collective noun so here a book about numbers and language can be transformed into a profound lesson about The Holy Trinity. 

In your lesson, read the book first, then connect it to the concept of The Holy Trinity. While reading, point out the collective nouns (you might want to call them “group words”) in the text. In later pages, let your children locate those words. After reading, continue with the pattern and play of the text to bring in the concept of The Holy Trinity by saying...
One is three.
Creator, Jesus, Holy Spirit (Use your terminology here.)
One is God.
One is the Holy Trinity. (Repeat.)

To teach these lines, present them visually and use movement in creative ways.  Eventually have them say the phrases with you. Explain that “Trinity” is a group word too. The children will more easily see the link if you make those connections with the text of the book in overt and subtle ways, such as in your voice tone, rhythm, and finger play. Refer back to the page in the book about the number 3. Offer other examples of threesomes that are seen as one (a Neapolitan ice cream cone, 3-leaf clovers, a fleur-de-lis, triangles of all sorts, etc.)

When talking about The Holy Trinity, be sure to get a sense of what the children know already. Build on that knowledge and reassure them. This concept is hard! If this picture book is too juvenile for your tweens and teens, go ahead and check it out because while reading it, you might be creatively inspired to design programs appropriate for those ages.
There are several aspects of this book that I especially love. It emphasizes the power of “one” which in turn emphasizes the power of unity. Such is The Body of Christ and The Trinity! Also, this is a great book for practicing counting with young children. Engage them in some choral counting while you read the book. 

I use phrases like “family of faith” or “religious family” a lot here at PBT. This is an important value for me and this book fits nicely with that idea. If you share this value and use similar phrases, mention this in your lesson. 

One last benefit I’ll mention here is the way this book presents diverse families, diverse in membership, color, and culture. It is crucial that children’s books represent children’s realities so that the connections to self can be more easily made.
Picture Book: One Family
Author: George Shannon
Illustrator: Blanca Gomez
Original Publisher & Date: Frances Foster Books, 2015
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet