by John Klawiter, M.Div. '12
Greg Rawn, '05, is proof that sometimes the Lord calls you to a place you didn't expect.
"In seminary, I thought I was going to be doing more teaching
with my degree," Rawn says. "I didn't have the plan of
writing Sunday school curriculum."
Rawn, who holds a Master of Arts in church history from
Luther Seminary, is the creator of "Spirit and Truth: Teaching
Kids the Heart of Worship." The innovative Sunday school
curriculum, which launched in August 2012, aims to educate
and empower students to worship Jesus in spirit and truth
through their congregation's liturgical worship.
Rawn's entrepreneurial endeavor came about while his wife, Sheila, was on internship to become a pastor in Everett, Wash. The couple planned to have Rawn stay home with the kids, but he discerned a passion for writing.
In 2009, the Rawn's oldest son, Elijah, complained about having to go to church. "In worship, he wouldn't pay attention and was bored," Rawn says. "But if the part of the service, like the Lord's Prayer or liturgy, was familiar, if it was something he knew, he was engaged."
"I sat down and explained what was going on to him," Rawn says. "I utilized my background and passion and wrote stories for children from pre-kindergarten to second grade about some of the themes and concepts of worship."
"Teaching Kids the Heart of Worship" developed into 18 lessons of the liturgy, complete with skits. "It's about kids processing what just happened and picking up the main themes that are going on in church."
Rawn's approach is working. Ten ELCA congregations use his curriculum and three others purchased "Spirit and Truth" skits for use within their congregations.
"All too often it feels like we get in a rut of only going through the motions of worship," says Beth Shultz Byrnes, pastor of St. John-St. Paul Lutheran Parish in Berry-Marville, Wis. "We forget the meaning behind what we do. It's great to have a curriculum that helps our kids explore what worship is about and actually get excited about it!"
Rawn suggests that congregations using "Teaching Kids the Heart of Worship" repeat the curriculum every two to four years, because the kids will gain a deeper comprehension of the materials as they get older.
Rawn also has another curriculum in development called "Living the Word: Teaching Kids God's Story" to meet the needs of many congregations that have moved toward using the narrative lectionary. That curriculum will be completed in anticipation of each year in the four-year cycle.
Having a background in theology and children's literature, as well as being a parent himself, has allowed Rawn to make important connections between the stories of the Bible and the current reality of how kids learn today. "What's special about this project is that I'm not only learning to teach the kids that story," Rawn says. "But I'm trying to take the whole narrative of the Bible and connect that to the spiritual practices of prayer, service, worship and defining stewardship—how we love God and our neighbor rooted in creation."
Rawn practices what he teaches. "One of my commitments is teaching kids to worship and practice stewardship," he says. "I tithe all my income to Lutheran World Relief."
Rawn hopes that churches will see the unique nature of his curriculum as a positive thing for the church—and then spread the word.
"I'm relying a lot on Facebook and word of mouth to see if people are interested and have experienced it," Rawn says.
For more information, to order curriculum or to register your congregation as a beta test site for the "Living the Word" curriculum, visit http://spiritandtruthpublishing.com.