The problem with many Bible studies is that we treat studying the Bible like a jigsaw puzzle piece. We examine the piece from every side, and when we are finished we put it back in the box. We never connect the piece to the other pieces.
Do you agree with this statement? The more I thought about it, the more I began evaluating my teaching.
I enjoy working jigsaw puzzles. I am guilty of locating all the outside pieces, and putting them together while the inside pieces remain safely tucked away in the box. Only after the border is complete do I begin to sort and assembly the inside. I look for patterns, colors, or the easiest areas to assemble first. If I pick up a piece and cannot locate where it fits, I put it away and move to another one. Over time, if I stay at it long enough, the puzzle begins to take shape. However, I have to admit, there are times I walk away thinking I did not accomplish much at all.
I began to think about the four-year-olds I teach each week. How many times do I treat the bible stories as puzzle pieces? I have the framework of the puzzle in place—the lives of the children. I take the Bible story and try to find how to make it fit against the outside edges. I turn the story many different ways, teaching it from different angles and approaches, may at times have tried to force it to fit into a place it is not designed. I leave the class feeling like I added something to the “puzzle.” However, if I am honest, I have to admit there are times the pieces did not fit, they are floating around in the middle without any connection. Sometimes I feel like the piece was just put back in the box without any attempt to connect it.
This thought continued to wonder around in my mind. I was challenged to find better ways to connect the Bible stories to the lives of my preschoolers. Here are some of the areas I am challenging myself to work on (hopefully you can follow my metaphors).
- Realize each “puzzle” (child) is different. Some have 50 pieces, some 100, and some are advanced and have 1,000 pieces. Each child is different in her stage of development, spiritually and physically.
- Understand that because one piece fits one puzzle, it does not mean it will fit in the same place with another. I have to know my puzzles, are they squares, rectangles, circles? What did the designed intend the puzzle to look like? Children have different likes, dislikes, home lives, and challenges. Knowing how to connect the Bible stories to their lives takes time.
- Commit to taking the time needed to see the puzzle assembled. It takes time, energy, and commitment to accomplish this. Very few people can complete a 1,000 piece puzzle overnight. To puzzles I have in my class will not be complete this year. In fact they will continue to add pieces throughout their lives. My challenge has become to fit the pieces together so the next set of teachers can build on my efforts.
- Determine not to give up. Working a puzzle is not always easy. There are times I want to put all the pieces back in the box and give up. However, when I take time to reflect on the outcome, I have a renewed purpose and drive to complete the task. When I feel like giving up on the four-year-olds I teach, I have to remember where my strength and calling come from. Taking time to pray, refocus, and renew my strength allows me to better impact the lives of the children.
Where are you in the process of assembling puzzles? Remember, when one piece is placed, it makes the next one easier.