The message of the gospel—the entire storyline of scripture—is God’s loving pursuit of people who run from him as fast as they can and who live lives unworthy of his love. That’s why it’s called grace. But our Sunday school lessons teach us to be good little boys and girls, and God will love us and use us. It’s the total opposite of the gospel. It’s a counterfeit of the worse kind.We teach kids to follow the examples of the the "heroes of the faith," yet Scripture presents flawed role models in need of grace.
Rethinking Biblical Storytelling
The solution is to start anew, teaching kids the stories of Scripture with the reason they're included in the Bible. Why did the Holy Spirit record these things for us?
1. So we could see more of Christ
And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
- Luke 24:25-27
2. So we could see more of ourselves
Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.3. So we could see more of the Christian life and godliness
- 1 Cor 10:6
What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”
- Rom 7:7
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,
- 2 Pt 1:3
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
- 2 Tm 3:16-17
The Point of Children's Ministry
A related question is the "why" of children's ministry. We are under no direct command in Scripture to have a children's ministry at our local gatherings. The question then becomes, why do we do what we do?
The goal of any church ministry is to honor God through the discipleship of others:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.Thus, whether the ministry aims at the homeless or at toddlers, it should be discipleship-oriented. Obviously, that fleshes out in a variety of ways depending on the age-group. However, the point is the same - cultivating a genuine understanding of the gospel and Christ's commands in our lives.
In a children's ministry, that means facets of lessons plans will run spectrum of evangelism, world-view building, and heart-application. Discipleship must be our drive—not arts and crafts, not top of the line games and toys, not entertaining programs, puppet shows, and music, not dumbed-down Bible lessons, not policies that accept teachers and volunteers based solely on the fact that they breathe! Children's ministry requires churches to think as shepherds, providing discipleship for the kids, discipleship for their parents, and discipleship for the volunteers.
This reflects in the kind of curricula we place in our children's ministry. We cannot claim to be biblical if our kids are learning the Bible through VeggieTales or some other moralistic source. Let us define curriculum quality based on its gospel presentation, not its entertainment or production value. Choose something that teaches kids the Bible, not young-life self-help principles.