By: Carol Wehrheim
After teaching the sixth-grade church school class for a number of years, I retired. A few months later, the phone rang. “Carol, I think I have a project that will interest you,” began the director for children’s and family ministries. I listened politely as she explained that some mothers who bring their young children for choir on Wednesday afternoon asked if they could have a Bible study while they waited. What words of bliss! Parents asking for a Bible study! The plan was to do a trial run in the month of December with probably six to ten parents. Was I interested?
You bet I was, and the next question was this: What would you suggest for curriculum resources? We use Feasting on the Word Curriculum with children, so I suggested that the Bible study be based on the focus Scripture for the coming Sunday.
At the end of December, I asked whether the group wanted to continue. The answer was “Are you kidding? Of course we do!” And we didn’t visit that question again until the end of the year. Then they asked me, “Will you do this again next year?” This September began the third year of our choir parents Bible study. So far, no one has “aged out” because younger siblings keep these parents (all moms and a couple dads) coming to the church for rehearsals.
This is how it works: We meet for 45–50 minutes while the children are in rehearsal. Child care is provided for infants and toddlers. The beginning moments are a bit open-ended as parents drift in from getting younger children settled in child care. The end time is definite because parents must pick up their children. Coffee and tea are ready when they arrive. Once in awhile someone provides a treat. We meet in a bright space with comfortable chairs and sofas.
To plan for the session, I read the focus Scripture and the questions on “Conversations,” a discussion guide for young adults that is part of Feasting. I plan an introduction to the book of the Bible or provide some background for the Bible passage. I may bring a piece of art or a poem or quote that represents (or challenges) the text or picks up a theme from it. Finally, I select or write discussion questions that will help them get into the text as well as connect it with their lives as parents, Christians, members of this congregation. Usually, they ask those connecting questions. The discussion is pretty freewheeling, but I do call it back to the topic if it seems to have strayed too far. We end with a prayer.
I see only good results from this group that we call In-Choir. These parents are not in adult education on Sunday morning; some haven’t been in a Bible study since they were confirmed. I can tell you that they are much more familiar with the Bible now than they were when we began, and they’re eager to dig into it. At the end of last year, one participant said, “I am so glad you told us it was okay to look up the book in the table of contents.”
A core group is almost always present along with three or four others who come when they can. Last year I asked if they wanted to study the Lord’s Prayer during Lent with the small groups in the congregation. The answer was a swift “no.” They wanted this heads-up on what their children were studying. From their conversations, I surmise that knowing what the focus Scripture is encourages them to talk about church school and the story with their children during the week.
The members of In-Choir have become a support group for each other.They provide transportation for each other’s children and check up on members who are missing. They often stay later to have pizza together at the church. This past year they welcomed a mother with two children in the choirs who would only be in the area for one year. The participants are and will be leaders of the congregation.
In-Choir is not only a good thing for these parents. I cannot begin to say how much I enjoy leading this group and getting to know them and their children. Being with them—sometimes even staying for pizza—is clearly as important to me as I think it is to them.
Carol Wehrheim is general editor for Feasting on the Word Curriculum. Besides leading In-Choir, she is Clerk of Session at Nassau Presbyterian Church, Princeton, NJ. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.