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Congregations embrace Gather ’Round Sunday school curriculum


The Ken and Amy Regier family of Newton Kan. gathers at the dining table to discuss the daily Talkabout item they received from their church. High praise has been especially expressed for the Talkabout feature of new Gather ‘Round Sunday school curriculum, an at-home discussion item that helps connect church with home. Each quarter produces a fresh take-home item for each family’s dining table, inviting families to keep the God-talk going throughout the week.

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Mennonite Church Canada/Mennonite Publishing Network Joint Release
For immediate release
December 15, 2006

Newton, Kan. — A complementary parent resource for the new Gather ‘Round Sunday school curriculum sold out by the second week of the quarter, reported Mennonite Publishing Network.

More copies of Connect were printed within 10 days, said Cynthia Linscheid, who works in marketing for co-publisher Mennonite Publishing Network.

“Mennonite and Church of the Brethren congregations are responding creatively to the new Sunday school curriculum, Gather ’Round: Hearing and Sharing God’s Good News,” said Linscheid, adding that six other denominations are already recommending the curriculum to their congregations (see sidebar).

Innovative resources that can be bundled with Gather ’Round include year-round multiage materials, a high school youth level, and the Connect study guide. Connect includes weekly Bible sessions on the same Gather ’Round Bible texts and themes as materials for other ages, and daily devotions designed for parents. Connect also relates to the content of the Talkabout, a quarterly take-home item designed to sit on each family’s dining table.

“Connect is a much-needed resource to help parents talk about parenting and faith issues together,” said Eleanor Snyder, Christian education consultant for Gather ’Round and director of Faith & Life Resources. “I’ve heard from parents who feel better equipped to talk with their children about God and the biblical stories, and who appreciate the short daily devotions provided each week.”

One Church of the Brethren congregation used Connect for a class of grandparents. The group became excited about the material, even though most of the class members were not previously attending Sunday school.

“I’m also hearing marvelous things about the youth piece,” said Modesto (Calif.) co-pastor Russ Matteson. Recalling one particular exercise about prayer, he noted that kids talked about it the following Sunday and said they had used the prayer exercise during the week. “It’s challenging kids to think in fresh ways about what it means to pray, what it means to be present with God—in ways that give them tools they can use throughout their lives.”

In addition to linking home with church, numerous congregations are also taking seriously Gather ’Round’s call to nurture faith across the ages, and integrate Christian education with congregational life and worship. “Since all our Sunday school classes—children, youth, and adults—are studying the same scriptures we can use those scriptures as the focus for worship,” explained Mark Diller Harder, pastor at St. Jacobs Mennonite Church in St. Jacobs, Ontario. “It’s been a rich experience for us. It’s great to look out at the congregation and see everyone repeating and signing the same memory passage. During the children’s time we can talk about what the children learned in Sunday school, or work with the common story creatively.”

Ron Diener and Tyler Hartford, pastors at Pleasant View Mennonite in Goshen, Indiana, also appreciate the foundation Gather ’Round provides for church leaders. “This curriculum gives us a strong across-the-board base for Christian nurture,” said Hartford. “As Sunday school classes are using Gather ’Round, we’re also doing a sermon series based on the common Scriptures, and even compiled a special Advent devotional written by our own members tied into them. The experience of building these connections has been worthwhile and meaningful for us.”

Gather ’Round, launched this fall in Canada and the United States, is a project of Mennonite Publishing Network, the publishing agency of Mennonite Church Canada, Mennonite Church USA, and Brethren Press, publisher for Church of the Brethren.

Other denominations selecting Gather ’Round Sunday school curriculum

Newton, Kan. — To date, six other denominations are already recommending Gather ‘Round curriculum to their congregations. Two more are signing up to begin in 2007.

Some of these groups were users of the earlier Jubilee curriculum, and others are coming on board after selecting Gather ’Round from among several options they evaluated.

“We’re certainly gratified when our colleagues in other denominations think highly of our materials,” said Wendy McFadden, publisher of Brethren Press. “We’ve worked hard to produce the best curriculum we can for our congregations, and it feels great to have other Christian educators and publishers evaluate Gather ’Round and say it’s the best for their congregations too."

Individual congregations from a wide range of denominations are also finding Gather ’Round thanks to the website at Visitors have been able to learn more about the curriculum, take advantage of some of the training events offered during the introductory period, and order materials online.

“Your materials are a hit,” wrote Phil Okerlund, as he ordered more Gather ’Round materials via the website. “Our teachers, staff, and children are really excited about it. What a ministry you have.” Okerlund, of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Muskegon, Michigan, first learned of Gather ’Round from an ad in Sojourners.