It’s All Good

By Rose Stutzman

The light was good,
The sky was good,
Even the clouds in the sky were good.
It’s all good, so let’s do what we should ,
Caring for God’s green earth!

These words are from Together, this summer’s Multiage student book. The poem echoes the repeated words throughout Genesis 1: “And God saw that it was good.” At the fullness of creation, God pronounces the world not only good, but VERY GOOD.

Mennobytes Together Gather Round

Children today are in danger of Nature Deficit Disorder. It’s a term from Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods, a 2005 title. The term is not found in medical manuals for   mental disorders (nor should it be). However, it describes a lot that is heading in the wrong direction among our children: more screen time than time spent playing outdoors, fewer opportunities to roam in nature, and sports teams for elementary children taking more time than imaginative play in the backyard.

What might be the effects of limited exposure to the world of creation? How might it affect children’s sense of awe and their attitudes toward the natural world? Does it affect their emotions and physical health?

It makes good sense that limited exposure to the outdoors would affect children’s sense of wonder. How can children say, “I lift up my eyes to the hills—from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1) if their eyes are ever turned downward and hardly ever turned toward the heavens. It makes good sense that lack of experience in nature will lead to lack of respect for the beautiful world that God created—a world where all parts interact to make the whole. In addition, children who sit indoors rather than running, riding bike, and playing in the sunshine (or rain) can have compromised physical health. Being outdoors can calm us and give life in times of sadness, so we can only imagine the buildup of tension and despair for children who do not experience God’s world.

I asked my son-in-law what his hopes were for their unborn child. “I don’t want him to just be watching video games. I grew up playing informal soccer games in an open lot. I played in the corral with the sheep. I helped care for and rode horses. We carried around young chicks and made pets of them. I want to take my son hiking and go on walks with the dogs.”

Even in the city children can plant things, use city parks, and interact with pets. Much depends on the priorities of parents. But, perhaps, we should consider that much may also depend on the church. Could an adult hiking group within the congregation plan a hike with the children in mind and invite young families? Could those who bike to work plan a biking event that includes the children? Could children’s time at church become a time to tell about bird watching experiences; experiences of looking at the stars; holding baby chicks? Could the children plant flowers at church and help care for them each week There is no better time to start than by using this summer’s Sunday school materials from Gather ’Round.

Mennobytes Leader magazine

This summer’s Gather ’Round Sunday school materials are coordinated with summer worship materials from Leader. At my own congregation we have plans for the children to be with the adults for at least half of the worship time then they will do activities in rotation. Adult leaders will plan a nature activity that is done once with older elementary and once with younger elementary children on separate Sundays. Sometimes we plan to have the whole church do something together in an outdoor setting. Plans so far include nature walks; an animal game, nature related crafts, time with a birder, a service at nearby park, and kids helping to harvest, potatoes, onions, and garlic that they will then sell to raise money for alleviating world hunger. We plan to memorize Psalm 121 together and hear the stories of a couple who has followed the walking paths of another country. We’ve even dreamed of a morning where we dress up as various insects and learn what insects do to help the earth.

Mennobytes Gather Round God's Good Creation

I hope no congregations cancel summer Sunday school this year. I also hope that it won’t be Sunday school as usual. Instead, I hope congregations find many opportunities to open children’s hearts to the awe and beauty of the world God created. I can’t help but think that a church that cares about introducing children to the wonder of God’s world will also be inviting to young parents who hope to find a way to resist the encroaching appeal of screen time.

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An appreciation for God’s world starts at a young age and continues as they grow.

The rest of the poem with which I began this post goes like this:

The water was good,
The earth was good,
Even the sun and the moon were good.
It’s all good, so let’s do what we should,
Caring for God’s green earth!

The fish were good,
The birds were good,
Even the mosquito and the wolf were good,
It’s all good, so let’s do what we should,
Caring for God’s green earth!

I am good, and you are good,
Even the bully in my school could be good.
Made by God to love, work, and play
On God’s green earth!

-From Together, Multiage, Summer 2013; Gather ’Round: Hearing and Sharing God’s Good News published by Brethren Press and MennoMedia.

I’d love to hear about the “God’s world” activities that you do in your congregation this summer. E-mail your great plans or photos of your activities to [email protected].

Rose Stutzman with granddaughter Elena

Rose Stutzman
Shine project director (and former Gather’Round curriculum editor)