Watered-down Sunday School

Russell Moore on the dilution of children’s Sunday school programs:

So many evangelical children’s Sunday school classes are translating biblical texts into a baptized version of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood of Make-Believe. Jesus’ calling of the twelve is about the fact that “Jesus had friends.” Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves and the fish is about the idea that “Jesus wants you to share.” Noah’s Ark is now about responsible care of pets. The children are then called on to emulate the biblical “characters” in being good boys and girls. Previous generations had a term for Bible study like this. It was called “Protestant liberalism.” And, in case we don’t remember, it didn’t lead to anything good.

There’s quite a bit of this around, and not only in children’s Sunday schools. A great deal of the material geared for teenage students seems to focus more on wacky graphic designs rather than solid content. The choice of curricula for adults isn’t much better.

I know that for my own denomination, Sunday school is in theory supposed to be more evangelistic than discipleship oriented. I think this approach is flawed because reality, more often than not, renders the theory useless. In my experience, most non-Christians never set foot inside a Sunday school class until they’ve been involved with the worship service for quite some time. The vast majority of people who attend Sunday school fall into the “discipleship” category.

This shouldn’t make much of a difference however, because we need not water down material even if the goal is evangelistic. Much of the moralism which Moore warns against in his article is seen in much of adult Sunday school literature. I’ve seen things like the Andy Griffith Bible Study in the Sunday school section of a local denominationally supported Christian bookstore. “Nip it in the bud”, I say!

Moore is right: “In our homes and in our churches, let’s teach the whole counsel of God-even to our little ones.” When teaching the Bible is overshadowed by anything, the entire church suffers.

2 thoughts on “Watered-down Sunday School”

  1. Jared, I totally agree. As a first grade Sunday school teacher, I was shocked at the curriculum I was given to teach. Some of the exact “stories” quoted by Moore were in our curriculum with the same “moral lessons.” Brother and Sister pointed me toward John Piper’s Desiring God Ministries for children…our first grade class is now learning about the attributes of God, and the Scripture is taught with the questions “Who is God? What is God like? How should I act toward God?” Rather than pointing toward sharing or friendship, this curriculum points toward God.

  2. This is one area where evangelicals (and Baptists in particular) need to recover a proper understanding of catechizing children…

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