Monday, January 25, 2010

Nothing but the truth, the whole truth

Some of you reading this may be in churches that use Scripture Union's teaching material, Light.

I could write more about the teaching material choices available in the UK, but I shan't (= limited) and I have bought/used/tried/tested them all. I have written my own for short series but what I am about to write about now is, I feel, a real area of concern.

We repeat ourselves.


Forgive me for this next statement (and it is the title of a seminar I am doing in the future) but telling stories is just not enough. It's not going to build life-long followers of Jesus. I don't mean to single out one provider; I can honestly tell you I have audited a lot of material for my past studies.

Here in the UK we teach children, in the main, about these things:-
* creation/flood
* Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Joshua, Samuel
* sometimes Elijah (but not for the last few years!!)
* Jesus birth
* Jesus stories; his interaction with people (preferably not out of John)
* Jesus death and resurrection
* Spreading the news - the growth of the early church

These are good, good stories.
I do have a concern, though, that in the TWELVE years of church activities, we do not, at the very least, open up a whole spectrum of Scripture to children. I remember a class discussion at bible college about 4 years ago about how some parts of Scripture may not be suitable for children with challenging behaviour perhaps (!??)

Judges 3:21-22
Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king's belly. Even the handle sank in after the blade, which came out his back. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it

Some things I have been pondering. Why can't we teach.........
- a bit more from the Pentateuch. Covenant is usally solidly covered but I think there is a lot more to be unpacked on the Law which would assist children to understand the uniqueness of the New Covenant more fully.
- is the intimacy of the lover's call to the beloved to draw close not relevant for children learning about the tender love of a heavenly Father? (Song of Songs)
- are the lessons from the evil kings not worth looking at alongside the fear of the Lord that governed the good kings? (Kings/Chronicles)
- One or more psalms might be covered but what about a study of Proverbs? This throws up some great practical advice and lessons on what our own hearts can be like.
- the faithfulness and perseverance of Nehemiah in rebuilding the temple
- Job; for lessons about hard times and the dynamic breaking-in of revelation of the goodness of God who can more than repay
- and oh, oh, oh - the incredible prophetic outpourings which speak to a people in exile, a people who need to return wholeheartedly to the one who has never stopped loving them. I have only ever seen little bits of Isaiah in children's teaching material as it refers to Jesus and very little about the breakdown of the nation of Israel in her rebellion and unfaithfulness and the Lord's response to this. And yet the incredible promises of what was to come in the New Covenant; the new heart of flesh, the coming of the Spirit for all and not just for some, the river of God flowing out, the dreams and visions to come; the time of holding fast and persevering.

I could go on and on 6 years of children and family pastoring there has been very little from the pastoral epistles. Isn't Timothy so relevant to young people? I'm desperate to teach Romans to children. I do a little bit on justification and sanctification with children/family discipleship, so I personally have unpacked a little of Ephesians with children outside of a Sunday morning. I have never seen James in children's teaching material; nor Hebrews. I am sure someone somewhere has - please do post in the comments section with your thoughts or observations on this. But the main UK providers *do* stick to the stories I mentioned earlier.

End times
- have you seen any teaching on this? I have yet to see any children's resources that touches Revelation. I can feel some teaching bubbling up in me on:
1. "to the overcomers"
2. "having a heavenly viewpoint"
3. "praise and glory, wisdom and thanks to the Lamb - throne room praise"
::::::::need to gloss over creatures and horns/eyes/flying scrolls - bit too hard for me! :::::::::::::
4. "heaven - joy forever".

I have honestly witnessed children rolling their eyes and saying "not Moses AGAIN!" and while I recognise that the word of God has power and is to be honoured, a part of me has sympathy because I know of the variety and richness within that Word, which points again and again and again to a loving, faithful God who persues human beings to the point where it cost him everything!

Have had a bit of a rant there - please do comment on stuff you have used (the USA has a little bit of a wider spread, perhaps because of denominational differences) or to vociferously agree or disagree.


  1. hee hee. My friend used to work for Bibleworld and told the Judges story all the time to kids....mainly little boys for the love of all things a little gory.


    But agreed. I looooovvvvveeee Revelation. I once tried to draw Revelation 4/5 during a prayer time with my cell group.

    It was...uh.....interesting.

    I would also say, telling stories isn't do we teach folks the relevance. How do we teaching them that the bible isn't the 'end' of the story, but we have a choice to be part of the continuing story of all God is doing (sometimes we end up being part of it whether we 'choose' to or not).

  2. Yes...Just how many times have we had to colour in Joseph's coat?!

  3. Speaking just as a parent, you are absolutely, 100% right!

    A similar dilemma is looming facing adult ministries too though - countless churches are functionally Marcionite in their handling of the OT! Then, real obstacles are in the way of churches wanting to use the full breadth of scripture. Small group resources are printed in abundance for the gospels, the NT is generally covered well - but there is very very little available on parts of scripture that we have dared to deem as 'obscure'. The sacrificial system? Passover? Judges? Minor Prophets? Wisdom literature?

    The recent ructions in the Christian publishing trade have made the situation far worse, very little stock is carried, even by wholesalers; copies-to-view prior to large purchases are rare, and some of the best material cannot be ordered in by UK Christian bookshops at all.

    I want my kids to learn about Job - that good people suffer. And I need to study such things too!

  4. I've hit a chord here. Later I'll post further.

    I have been reading a heavy duty Catechism for Children, which I would never use, but which has been interesting me as I think about future ministry and service - we have a very narrow focus here in the UK and I believe that's to change. There is a wave coming and we have GOT to get ready; we need to make accessible the beauty of Scripture, the dynamism and relevance of its application to how children AND adults live their lives.

    THM, get hold of The Power of The Praying Kid by Stormie Omartian, which I am using with children(family) discipleship programme - doesn't flinch from dealing with hard issues such as suffering/illness/ and how it can be hard to pray and know God is there.

  5. Great post. Thoughtful points. I am sure that the diet the adults are fed in some places is similarly biblelite and even a bit cliched; I can think of a few meetings I've been in when I'd have welcomed the chance to colour in Joseph's coat - just to relieve the boredom.

    I heard an interesting story recently about a boy brought up in let's say a more conservative church. He told me that in his church circles a mother's effectiveness as a mother was assessed by how well her children knew the catechism. And apparently these "effective mum" tests were applied to the children not infrequently. No pressure.

  6. Hazel4:46 PM

    Hi Lynn,
    I just have some random thoughts on the topic.
    Another funny story - 2 Kings 2 vv 23-25 local Old Testament "neds" jeer Elisha, he curses them in the name of the LORD, 2 bears come out of the forest and kill them all! Introduced to me by one Rev P D***!
    At Bible Class (in the 80s!) we were told by a leader we were not allowed to "do" Revelation - as too dangerous and scary basically! I have an honours degree half of which was in Biblical Studies, all I know from a crusty old professor is Revelation is apocolyptic, so is Daniel, some people believe some of the stuff has already happened, some are waiting for stuff to happen! Sum total of my knowledge about Rev. As an adult, if we do the seven letters to the seven churches one more time I will scream. And I had number 666 on my Baptist Youth Conference card in 1988, I kid you not! I was terrified!
    End time teaching seems to have fallen by the wayside, I wonder if it's to do with the way we treat our kids nowadays, I was brought up on "end time" teaching (not the aspects you mention) but in the sense that every club or sunday school you went to "the Lord was coming back tomorrow" and "you mustn't get left behind" - this was not just where I grew up as have shared this with some folks down here and they agree - I went to Sunday school in the days that they were very pro the Ananias and Sapphira story told in a terrifying way and also not getting left behind "when the Lord came back" - inflicting terror on children and young people was a regular theme!
    PS It has stopped snowing now, although we did have some more on Tuesday! Which made for an interesting driving experience (again!)

  7. Nice post Lynn.

    I'm sure Ehud-the-left-handed-Benjamite was acted out a few times at our Easter camp drama-offs (like a dance-off minus the music), but the crowning moment was when our group, led by a certain Peter A, went for extra obscurity points with a dramatic rendition of Leviticus 14:33-53 - we had houses made of kids being torn apart by other kids to find mildewed bricks (kids) in order to throw them in a field - they loved it!

    But yes, all for making the stories more varied!


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