Dwell Flex Is Agreeably Flexible
Sam Huizenga has found the Dwell Flex children’s ministry curriculum at her church to be – just as the name suggests – flexible in meeting the needs of what they refer to as Rise Up Kids ranging in age from preschool through middle school.
“We are a church plant and never know how many kids we’ll get from week to week,” said Huizenga, who is working with her husband, Jon, in starting Rise Up Church in Cedar Springs, Mich. She is also director of the CRCNA’s Raise Up Global Ministries.
“I love the Dwell curriculum,” Huizenga added. “It is so gospel-centered and easy to teach.”
Created to adapt to a variety of contexts, Dwell Flex is a multi-age edition of Dwell, the CRCNA’s children’s ministry curriculum. And Dwell Flex has proved especially helpful for ministry to children who have had to stay home during pandemic lockdowns.
In addition, Dwell Flex is easily adaptable to children’s programs that include youths of various ages in the same class.
“Offering a number of Bible stories, Dwell is being used at churches throughout North America to help children find their place in God's Big Story,” said Jill Benson, Dwell curriculum coordinator.
“Recently, we added Dwell Flex — simple sessions for complex times — designed to support churches during the pandemic,” she said.
Benson added that she appreciates the ways in which leaders like Sam Huizenga are using Dwell Flex to meet the needs of their churches. For example, Huizenga has been using quilted mats, each featuring one of the Dwell Flex story symbols, for the children to sit on during their session time. Several adults at Rise Up Church pitched in to help make the mats for the Dwell sessions.
“Sam's creativity in adapting Dwell in her church has resulted in these beautiful pieces of artwork that the children sit on, arranged in order to get a sense of the biblical narrative and used to recall each week's story,” said Benson.
Each Dwell lesson includes a simple symbol that provides a visual representation of the story from each week. The Dwell leader is encouraged to show the symbol, connecting it with the week’s story, and then later to use the symbols from previous lessons for review.
Children, who may not immediately remember what was discussed two weeks before, readily proclaim “Zacchaeus!” when they see the picture of a face peering out from a tree.
As with the age-graded Dwell curriculum, Dwell Flex (multi-age) provides a leader’s introduction for each session. “The introduction is well written and always encourages us to find something new in a Bible text,” said Huizenga. “The program is very simple and easy to use.”
Dwell is targeted to a traditional form of Sunday school in which students are arranged by age group. To adapt for churches that have fewer children and need to combine several age groups in one class, Dwell Flex uses the same materials and encourages leaders to focus the program to meet the needs of their context.
“I love the creativity that comes with Dwell Flex,” said Huizenga. For instance, the story symbols are also used in the God’s Big Story card setdesigned for children to use at home with their families.
Huizenga noted that they give a story card set as a welcome gift to every young family who visits Rise Up Church. “And each week,” she said, “we begin each Dwell lesson by coloring the story symbol, and the children take that home to their parents.”
Drawing from ideas from Dwell leaders and from parents in the Dwell community, said Benson, here are some creative ways to display the Dwell story symbols:
- Hang them with twine and small clothespins. This is a great option for shared Dwell spaces that have to be dismantled each week, as you can just take your line down with the symbols on it and rehang it the following week.
- Create a grid with the unit title, unit memory verse, and story symbols. This works especially well with the Imagine level, as each unit includes a printable page of the memory verse that you can simply print out and add to your wall.
- Hang them as a border. Start at one side of the room and slowly wrap your way around as you move through the lessons each week. In early weeks, barely any of the space will be covered, but by the end of the year, you’ll have a beautiful visual of every story you’ve explored.
- Create a timeline. Print out the names of the books of the Bible and place the story symbols below the appropriate book names. This is a great way to show children how the Dwell curriculum moves through Scripture chronologically rather than jumping around to disconnected stories. In Dwell, each week’s session builds on the previous one in the same way that the biblical narrative builds throughout Scripture.
- Create a “What we learned today” board for parents. It’s also helpful to make parents familiar with the story symbols. A simple “What we learned today” space outside your room could display that week’s story symbol and title. This is especially helpful for parents because that same story symbol will be on the learner resource that kids bring home, as well as on the corresponding God’s Big Story card.
Want your own copy of the Dwell story symbols? You can purchase them through the Optional Resources page at DwellCurriculum.org or by calling 1-800-333-8300. The cost is $15 U.S. per year, per level, for 36 sturdy, reusable, full-color images. The images are also posted on the Dwell Leaders Facebook Group page.