Dan Edelen shares his concerns about the curriculum usually used for Children’s Sunday School and VBS. The underlying assumption behind almost all children’s curriculum used in churches is that the kids are already regenerate (the theological term for “born again”). He writes:

Somehow we’ve created this sheen about kids that says that all of them are flesh-and-blood Precious Moments figurines. That bedrock assumption fuels almost all learning materials aimed at little kids. But here’s the truth: All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Unless someone is born again, they have no relationship with God. Yet all of the Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and Summer Camp curricula I’ve ever come across overlooked that truth and naturally assumed that somehow every kid got magically saved by little fairy evangelists that hovered around their pillows for ten years and whispered the Gospel in their ears.

The problem is that the kids grow up with the idea that because their parents take them to church, they are automatically Christians. As a result, they do not have a clear idea what it means to be a Christian. Instead, the lessons tend to focus on good behavior, with the result that we often end up training a group of little legalists instead of leading them into a saving relationship with Christ. No wonder “85% of kids drift away from church between the ages of thirteen and sixteen” (from Dan’s post).

I realize that it can be risky for pastors and Sunday School teachers to suggest to church people that their little ones or their teens might not be saved, but those parents who are more mature spiritually will appreciate our genuine concern for the eternal welfare of their kids.

This also has implications for the way in which we share the Gospel with children. Dan writes,

While we’re at it, let’s also clarify that “Ashley, did you ask Jesus into your heart?” coupled with little Ashley’s head nod does not equate to knowing that Ashley is born again. In fact, what’s the deal in so many churches with cajoling kids into asking Jesus into their hearts? My Bible doesn’t list that as being the mechanism for salvation. We know what the Bible says about leading a little one astray, don’t we? Well, evidently not.

The Bible does not ever tell us to “ask Jesus into our hearts.” Children come to salvation the same way that adults do, namely by “repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). I don’t think that it is possible to come to salvation without admitting that we are sinners and acknowledging that Jesus took on Himself the punishment that we deserve. Without that, we are preaching “another gospel” that would have been unrecognizable to Jesus or to Paul.

I do not have a great deal of experience teaching children, so those of you who have experience teaching Children at church can tell me whether you think this criticism of the curriculum is too harsh. I realize that most of those who work in children’s ministry are faithful and hard working, but I agree with Dan in wishing that the publishers would give us better material.

What do you think?

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  1. Thank you for the link to my post at Cerulean Sanctum.

    I’d like to comment on your last paragraph in your post. It’s not enough to be hardworking and faithful. You can be faithfully teaching the wrong thing or work hard making the wrong assumptions. I’ve seen it a million times.

    We have to do what’s right by the Lord first and the kids second. I’m just asking if that’s what we’re doing. Sometimes I think we approach Christian Ed for kids as if its nothing more than something we have to do or else.

  2. Hi Dan,

    I wanted to recognize the hard work and dedication of children’s workers, but I agree with you that that is not enough. I think that the burden is on church leaders to give them better training and materials so that their teaching includes solid biblical content.

  3. I agree that oftentimes children’s curriculum is weak. From the two curricula that I’ve used at CFC, they have valid focuses but don’t always include solid biblical content. Also, by the time the kids are in first grade, they oftentimes already know all the stories and the “Sunday School” answers. It’s an ongoing struggle as a children’s Sunday School teacher to know how to show the kids what it means to be a Christian and who God is rather than just teaching them more Bible trivia. (They actually know a lot of Bible trivia.) It is encouraging, though, to hear about my kids in 1/2 grade who share the Gospel with their classmates at school, insisting that there is only one true God. There was another time when one kid did not believe in sin, and the rest of them jumped in about how we are all sinners. Can you imagine a bunch of 6-7 year olds talking about what sin is? =P We also shouldn’t forget what it’s like to have a child-like faith, and to not make the Gospel very complicated.

  4. While I can’t speak for CFC, seeing as I didn’t grow up there and don’t have any current involvement with the childrens’ ministry, I can say that it certainly should be something to think about. My home church’s Sunday School curriculum was very much legalistic and focused on the Bible trivia more than theology and the basics of the Gospel, even in higher grades. One of the reasons I stopped taking God seriously in middle school/early high school was because of my misconception that Christianity was so legalistic. Literal interpretation of Matthew 5 will kinda do that to you. For that reason, the Personal Spiritual Growth class two years ago was amazingly eye-opening to me.

  5. As a worker in children’s ministry, I’ve had this same concern regarding the curricula that we’ve been using- a lot of focus on behavior and not a lot on basic Christian doctrine. I
    would like to know if there is a children’s curriculum that teaches doctrine.

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