Sometimes someone will say to me that they want more practical teaching. What they usually mean is that they want me to tell them specific actions to take or do. That is an easy thing to do but usually leads to moralism. My goal as a preacher is not to tell people what to do but to paint a picture of the grandeur and glory of God and what he has done for us in Christ. It is my conviction that as one sits under this latter kind of teaching, the mind and the heart are shaped and transformed which frees up the will to obey God as a response to the beauty and joy one finds in Christ (Rom 12:2). This is particularly important for us in regards to teaching our children. If we take the moralistic route of teaching children rules we can end up raising up good little moralistic church kids that have no interest in Christ! Here is a good article from Christianity Today on the importance of how to teach children.
Ed: Why do you think the storyline of the Bible itself is important for kids to know? Why do they need to know the big story?
Lou Cha (Kenwood Baptist Church, Cincinnati, OH): As a congregation, we value the whole counsel of Scripture...
It’s like a puzzle and the kids do not see the whole picture. It’s important for kids as they are growing and learning God’s Word to be able to put the puzzle pieces together to see how they connect and that the God of the Old Testament is the same God as the God of the New Testament. And that since the creation of the world and the fall of humanity, He’s been redeeming people to Himself. This is what God has been doing all along.
It provides a more consistent picture and image of who God is. It also demonstrates to the children the character, the faithfulness, the compassion, and also the righteousness of God throughout the different historical periods of the Bible and the different people in the Bible.
I think it really helps children to be able to piece the Bible together to see the whole picture, and not just have missing pieces and missing parts of their Bible knowledge and understanding.
Kate Neighbors (Valley Baptist Church, Bakersfield, CA): One thing that I love about the idea of the story is that children are learning at younger and younger ages a worldview that is contradictory to the Bible. I think by telling them the story, even though it’s taking us three years, we’re showing and teaching them truth, absolute truth about the Bible. And we’re equipping them to understand what the Bible says versus what the world is telling them.
I love the idea that The Gospel Project takes it a step further and says here’s Christ in creation, here’s Christ in the Judges, here’s Christ in the Prophets, and here’s Christ’s actual life. And then they see how once Christ died, His followers didn’t stop. So I just love that from the beginning in Genesis 1:1 to Revelation, we’re seeing what Christ has to do with everything.
Ned Gable (12Stone Church, Lawrenceville, GA): I had the benefit of growing up with my dad teaching me at children’s church, and he taught us through the Bible. He taught chronologically and how everything built upon the next and would literally repeat a year of Old Testament, a year of New Testament, and then cycle back through. So we got that over and over and over and over. I grew up with a framework of the Bible. And when I would step into a sermon, or when I was older and hear a sermon taught from Scripture, I knew where it fit. I knew how it plugged in and I was able to take that and learn from it.
My first year in Bible college was a review of what I had learned up til sixth grade because I literally had a big picture framework that I could hang it on. It wasn’t just random ideas and random stories at all. It played into a bigger idea and a bigger picture and a bigger plan of what God was doing.
So I was so excited when this came out that we had the opportunity now to take that same type of thing that I had the benefit of growing up with, and give that to kids as well so that they can have that framework that puts it all together. The Bible is not just a collection of random things, but is one big story and one message and one plan.
Sam Luce (Redeemer Church, Utica, NY): I would say that I think one reason it’s so important to teach [the whole story], is that oftentimes we tend to teach kids disconnected facts about the Bible that can be—on their own—refuted. And when kids get older and go to college those disconnected points of information can be brought into question. But when they see them tied into the larger story of what God is doing, and the larger story of who He is and what He’s done in the earth and what He’s done in their life, it ties all those points together for them and creates a much tighter web—net—of truth that is much harder to be refuted by others.
Kathie Phillips (Central Presbyterian Church, Baltimore, MD): One of the things that drew me to The Gospel Project was that the whole scope of the Bible being presented—[it] offered a different perspective then I think a lot of our kids had gotten who had really grown up in church. I think digging into the Old Testament, which is where we fell when we started to subscribe to it, was a section of the Bible that not many of our kids were familiar with. And I think it gave a different picture of the cutesy kind of God who made the world and Noah and those kind of things and then just skipping over to the New Testament. I think that they were able to see a different side of God through the hard things that happened in some of those Old Testament passages.
Karen Dolan (Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York, New York): I would say obviously that’s something that I don’t have all figured out or have all the answers to, but something that I think we do at Redeemer from our congregation to our children’s ministries, is that what we’ve focused on is making all of the curriculum and all the stories point back to Christ, our need for Him, and why we’re talking about this. Why are we learning these Bible stories? Why do we study the Bible?
And even if you are learning a story in the Old Testament or something that doesn’t seem like it directly has a tie-in to Christ and our need for salvation, we always try to make it point back to that. Because I think from a young age kids are getting that life is more about just being good. We’re trying to tell them and instill in them that we are sinners in need of a Savior and there’s nothing we can do on our own apart from Christ to learn that. So that’s something that we try and really put into all of our curriculum.
On Thursday, we'll continue this discussion and I'll post the next part of our conversation, in which we talk about why it's important we teach children to have their own faith and love Jesus for themselves—not just because their parents told them to do it.