home | FAQ |

Q & R: Using We Make the Road in Middle/High School

Here's the Q:

I’m the Upper School chaplain to about 550 teenagers, 7th-12th grade. I’m considering using your new book, We Make the Road by Walking as our chapel lectionary this year. A little background, because I’d like to know if you think it might work:

We have a 15-minute chapel three times a week, usually on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Chapel is mandatory for all students and for teachers. While we are an Episcopal school, we welcome students from other faith traditions. We have a large number of Roman Catholics, a smattering of Greek Orthodox, Pentecostals, Baptists, atheists, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, one Buddhist teacher, and one Wiccan… you name it. We even have a few Episcopalians! However, for all of that, I would guess that most of the self-labeled Christian students here have not been raised in the Christian faith. Church is not a high priority with many of their parents, and some even use the fact that we have chapel several times a week as a reason not to go, believing instead, that the school serves as a substitute. For some the school is “too Christian,” for others it is not “Christian enough” or my favorite, not “real” Christian.

You can imagine what a humbling challenge it is for me to speak to these 550 students (plus faculty) who have to attend chapel. Our Chinese students use it as nap time, but for the most part the “congregation” is respectful and many of them surprisingly attentive. I am 61 years old, but I do my best to be relevant. They are fond of Rob Bell videos, and I often use movie clips to illustrate Bible teachings. I try and keep chapel time about worshipping God, and learning the amazing stories of God’s care and involvement in God’s creation. It is not youth group time, but we have done skits, or played a game now and then that makes a point – remember I only have 15 minutes – in a way that they will listen and, I pray, “inwardly digest.” I do not have a lectionary, and instead do topics according to the church year, and whatever the Holy Spirit sends my way. There is often no rhyme and very little rhythm to it. On occasion, I’ll get a student volunteer speaker. I love those days!

Our liturgy: Student chapel leaders do a few opening sentences (BCP-ish), there is a reading, then the “homily,” followed by a prayer and we end with a song called “The Grace” (the Pauline sendoff…may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God our father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you…), and a final dismissal (Go in peace to love and serve the Lord! Thanks be to God!)

So, given those dynamics and those limitations and those opportunities, and also given your own experience with different age groups as a pastor, do you think We Make the Road by Walking might work as a lectionary? I envision it working like this, but am open to other suggestions:

Monday: First reading. Homily is first half of your sermon.
Wednesday: Second reading. Brief review of Monday. Finish sermon.
Friday: Third reading. Quick review. Use the questions, and allow a time of reflection/prayer.

I have a Chapel Council consisting of 10th-12th graders who advise me on what resonates with the students. If this is resonating, I’d love to offer a learning circle once a week for those interested. Or, I could offer it from the get go.

Thoughts? Ideas?

Here's the R:
I'd say two things from the intelligence of your inquiry - 1. Your students are blessed to have you, and 2. if you think it will work, I trust your judgment!

Here are a few suggestions.
1. I'd try to have students be actively involved as much as possible, and I'd try to "change voices" frequently. For the "sermon," you could have three to five students alternate reading a paragraph …
2. For the Scripture readings, if there's a way to project the texts, you could have half of the students read a paragraph aloud in unison and then the other half read the next paragraph.
3. If you have some students with artistic sensibilities, they could create a long banner or mural (or series of them) based on the biblical story as it unfolds.
4. I really like the idea of having the students interact about the questions. Maybe there's a way to include a shortened version of Question 1 during each session?
5. It would be really amazing if that additional learning circle formed.
6. You'll get some ideas for multimedia, etc., here: http://www.geekedoutsoul.com/category/we-make-the-road-by-walking-2/

A lot depends on how "into it" the students want to be, and I know that's not a given and can change from day to day. Please let me know how it's going if you decide to give this a try. I think you're the person for the job!