Ian Weekes grew up in small country towns where every aspect of his life was grounded in the Bible. At home, his parents taught him the Christian faith. At church, he was embraced and supported by faithful congregations who explained the Scriptures to him and made sure he understood the gospel of Jesus. Ian acknowledged Jesus as Lord of his life as a 15-year-old, later attended Bible College and was ordained as a minister in the Uniting Church of Australia.
It was in his first parish placement in Shoalhaven that Ian experienced teaching for the first time, through the Special Religious Education (SRE) program at his local public school. “I had experienced SRE classes during my own schooling,” Ian says, “but this was the first time I’d taught. It was a great experience.”
Ever since then, Ian has been teaching SRE in primary schools. “It is a great challenge and a great joy, to help the kids understand what the Bible is about, to fill them in on what the Bible has to say, particularly about why Jesus came.”
Ian soon realised that his experience – of being immersed in the Bible from childhood – was not a common one among the children he taught. “It became evident to me that the children had no real understanding of the Bible, or who Jesus is. There was no basic understanding of the Christian faith.”
Margaret Barlow, from Orange Presbyterian church, has also experienced the importance of passing an understanding of the Bible on to children. Margaret teaches year 6 students in SRE, and has requested classroom sets of Bibles through Bible Society’s Bibles in Schools project to aid her teaching.
“A lesson I do early is how to look up verses in the Bible. I think that having the experience of using a Bible, holding it, and looking up verses is important. It is a way of setting up the children for the future. SRE teachers see the kids for such a short time. It’s our job to demystify the Bible, to teach the children of its veracity and reliability. To give them enough practical experience using it so that they don’t feel any constraints on using it themselves. And maybe, it will give them a motivation to do so.”
Margaret is very grateful for the opportunity to teach children about the Bible. She says, “Teaching the children has caused me to ask questions. I need to have answers for them, so I have been confronted with things that I have never questioned. So, I have gone to our minister and found out more in depth why I believe what I believe.”
Margaret is also grateful to teach the children is because it has allowed her to realise “why the Bible is important to me”. Teaching the children has meant that God’s word is applied in both directions: as she opened the Bible with them, the children’s questions have served Margaret in deepening her knowledge of the Bible and her faith. She says, “It’s good to give the children the chance to learn about the Christain framework and foundation for life.”
Ian also adds, “It’s an amazing opportunity we have, to teach these children the basis for the Christian faith. It’s an opportunity that we need to make the most of. It is wonderful to help the children understand the Bible and its place in our society.”
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