‘God’s Word: Guide to the Treasure’

By Linda T. Gracey

lgracey@altoonamirror.com

When it comes to Biblical knowledge and understanding, Gloria J. Miller wants children to know more than just the right answers. She wants them to have a revelation of who God is.

That’s why she has written a Biblically-based curriculum for students in first through sixth grade. Called “God’s Word: Guide to the Treasure,” the study takes four years to complete, beginning with Genesis and ending with Revelation.

Each lesson features stories and encourages conversation with the students to keep them engaged. The teacher’s manual suggests props and illustrations to give the message even more impact.

Miller, who has taught Bible lessons at various churches in four states, said much of the curriculum available seems to emphasize mechanics, such as knowing the books of the Bible or being able to find verses quickly.

Other teaching packets are full of materials that are not feasible for use in small churches where a range of ages meets together, she said.

In a program she previously used, the lessons were based on themes and were all over the place. One week the lesson would be on Noah, the next on Jesus, followed by one on Moses.

“There was no continuity,” she said.

While Miller said nothing was wrong with any of the materials, they seemed to lack substance.

“It’s not all about knowing the right answers,” she said. “It’s about knowing God. How God reveals himself through the Scriptures.”

Miller, who holds an associate degree in early childhood education from Eastern Mennonite University, is a special education aide for the Altoona Area School District. She also homeschooled her four sons and has been teaching children since she was a teen.

Her search for children’s Christian curriculum grew into frustration when she could not find any materials that had depth.

So she developed her own curriculum to use at New Life Community Church in Altoona where she is the children’s church teacher.

“I wrote it for me,” she said. “People found out about it (and wanted the materials).”

To respond to the requests, she began self-publishing her work about five years ago.

Now, a missionary as far away as Spain as well as a leader as close as Hollidaysburg use it.

“My kids are growing in knowledge and maturity. … Thanks for letting me benefit from your hard work,” wrote missionary Rebecca Cox in an anecdote on the curriculum’s website.

“The stories are well-written and keep the attention of the children,” said Beth Neely, children’s church director at Hollidaysburg Church of the Brethren. She began using “God’s Word: Guide to the Treasure” about three years ago.

She said explanations are given to help children understand concepts.

“When Jesus says, ‘I am the Good Shepherd,’ the lesson explains what shepherds do,” she said.

Neely said she learned about the curriculum in an ironic way. At the time, her daughter’s boss was Miller’s husband. They were having a casual discussion at work when Neely’s daughter mentioned that her mother was looking for Christian-based teaching materials for children. Miller’s husband recommended Gloria’s work.

“They (the lesson plans) come with a lot of good suggestions on visuals,” Neely said.

Those may include a scepter to signify a king or a stack of stones to represent the altar made by the ancient Jews.

“Kids enjoy those things,” she said. “It helps them visualize the story.”

Neely, whose group includes children in kindergarten through fourth grade, said the program “has worked well for us.”

She added that the lessons would be suitable for Sunday school classes as well as children’s groups attending mid-week or family night services.

Pastor Terry Farr of New Life Community Church said the program has been used by Miller during the church’s Wednesday night services.

“It’s quite effective for children who have not been brought up in church, and for those who have grown up in church, too.” he said.

Farr said he has observed the quality of children’s lives grow through the lessons.

“Gloria is very gifted with young children,” he said.

Because of the flexibility in the lessons, Miller said the ones taught at the Wednesday night program were shorter and different from the Sunday schedule. This allows time for games and other activities on Wednesdays. Miller said the plans can also be adapted for use in discipleship groups, time release sessions and club programs.

The curriculum includes:

– Year One — The first book covers creation, the calling of Abraham, the 12 tribes of Israel, the Exodus from Egypt, hearing the words of the prophets, the judges and kings until David’s time.

– Year Two — Stories of kings, some who served idols and self-indulgence while others lived for God are among the teachings in the second book. Stories include Esther’s role in saving the Jewish nation, Daniel’s time in the den of lions and Nehemiah’s rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem.

– Year Three — Stories about Jesus during his time on Earth, including healing the sick and quieting a storm, are part of the third book. In other stories, Jesus forgives the accused, holds children on his lap and deliberately heads down the road toward Jerusalem.

– Year Four — Stories of Jesus’ death and Resurrection and how the church got started are lessons in the fourth book. Concepts and truths — such as forgiveness, salvation, relationships and faith — that are found in the Epistles are illustrated by stories of Christians who lived after the first century.

One of those accounts is about Corrie and Betsie ten Boom and teaches the importance of being thankful in every situation, Miller said. Despite the difficult conditions, Betsie thanks God for the fleas in their barracks at Ravensbruck concentration camp during World War II. It is only later that they learn that the guards stay out of their area because of the fleas.

It’s a real life story that illustrates what Miller hopes to accomplish in her curriculum. She said the Bible is the guide to the treasure.

“Knowing God, walking with Him, hearing His voice, having your thoughts and actions transformed by Him — that’s the treasure,” she said.

For more information, visit guidetothetreasure.com.

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