Synergy with Schools
By Samuel Voth Schrag, Dove's Nest's Board Treasurer
As a Sunday School teacher I’ve gotten to teach the Circle of Grace curriculum to all different ages. I really appreciate the image of a Circle of Grace around the children in my congregation. And as a parent I’ve found it very useful in helping my children negotiate their relationship and how they can think about their own sometimes rough-and-tumble play.
One of the things I wasn’t necessarily expecting when I started teaching Circle of Grace, but one of the most encouraging things I’ve found, is how often elementary and middle school age kids respond to the material with "Oh yes, when we talked about this in school, we said . . ." Whether that’s good touch, when to talk to your parents or other trusted adults, or age-appropriate conversations about consent and sexuality, the young people in our congregation have been equipped by school as well as family for the work of self-protection, and the church’s teaching reinforces and engages with a community of support around our children.
I’m not sure what you’ve found in your context; there are different levels of education that take place in all the different schools around the country. This isn’t something with a clear national curriculum, so I wouldn’t want to assume that the public schools are doing a perfect job at this work. But I think it is useful for church leaders and Circle of Grace instructors, and anyone engaged in the project of protecting children, to remember that you’re one part of a larger system of protection, not the only place that children are picking up messages about safety and appropriate boundaries. That allows us to discern what the youth have already learned and allows them to share what language has been memorable and useful for them, and then we can either build off that foundation or slightly redirect when the church’s countercultural perspective might be useful.
There is a Circle of Grace around every child, and it has been a blessing for me to remember that the church is not the only community committed to maintaining and defending it.