(Feb. 16, 2007) — The full staff of “Gather ’Round: Hearing and Sharing God’s Good News” gathered at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., from Feb. 6-8, for a time of celebration, evaluation, and planning. The meeting began the evening of Feb. 6 with a celebrative dinner and program, and concluded the afternoon of Feb. 8. Members of the group also led the weekly chapel service for the General Offices.
Gather ’Round is a new Christian education curriculum jointly produced by Brethren Press and the Mennonite Publishing Network. The curriculum has been used in congregations this past fall and winter. The second year of the curriculum is currently in production.
The Gather ’Round team celebrated successful production and sales of three quarters of the first year of the curriculum. Many Brethren and Mennonites are reporting good experiences with the curriculum, and several other denominations have decided to promote the curriculum to their members.
In evaluating and planning for the future, the staff paid special attention to feedback from users. “We were very grateful for those people who submitted an evaluation form after the first quarter or who have contacted staff members by phone and e-mail,” said Anna Speicher, project director and editor. “These comments shaped our evaluation of how we can refine and improve the Gather ’Round products. Ongoing refinements are possible because Gather ’Round will be produced new every year.”
“People have responded especially positively to the emphasis on connecting church and home,” said Wendy McFadden, publisher of Brethren Press and member of the Gather ’Round steering committee. “We received much affirmation for using the same Bible story for all age groups, for the Parent/Caregiver guide, and for the at-home Talkabout that helps families connect on the Bible themes throughout the week.
“We also received requests for more active options for the younger children, and more alternatives for readers and nonreaders in the Primary unit,” McFadden said. “To that end we’ll be revising the Primary student book, the Good News Reader, for the Fall of 2007, and will be adding more options in the teachers guides as well.”
This “staff summit” included the steering committee for the curriculum, project editors and other staff, and employees of one of the partner publishing houses who have a portion of time allocated to the curriculum project. Project staff are Anna Speicher, Amy Gingerich, Terry Mast, Rose Stutzman, Nancy Ryan, and Cyndi Fecher. The steering committee is made up of Ron Rempel and Eleanor Snyder representing Mennonite Publishing Network, Wendy McFadden representing Brethren Press, and Anna Speicher, project director and editor. Other publishing house staff involved in the project are Merrill Miller, Cynthia Linscheid, and Terry Graber from Mennonite Publishing Network, and Karen Stocking and Jeff Lennard from Brethren Press.