I was recently speaking with a member of a church who recently joined their children’s ministry committee. Her church uses a broadly evangelical Children’s Sunday School curriculum, focused more on fun and fluff than the sound teaching of Scripture. So, she recommended to the committee that they take a look at our One Story Ministries materials. The general response was something like: “We want our children to enjoy themselves and have fun in Sunday School, learning things that are more applicable to their lives.” Dismayed, she asked one of her assistant pastors why they were using a curriculum which doesn’t teach the same sound doctrine as the rest of the church. His response (my paraphrase) was: “It’s okay to use material that is lighter and not so theologically sound in children’s ministry. We can correct that later, and in other places in the church.”
Now, I wish this sentiment about Children’s Sunday School was an exception to the rule in our conservative, evangelical and even Reformed churches–but I fear it represents a significant group out there. I sum it up as the “Entertainment Now, Sound Doctrine Later” crowd. The feeling is that we want children to enjoy being at church and hear interesting and relevant Bible stories while they are young; and then, learn all that boring theology later on. So, as the assistant pastor says, we can “correct” the doctrine they learned incorrectly sometime later on–or from the pulpit or in the home. The grand priority in this thinking is to see children who can’t wait to go to Sunday School because it is the most fun that they have all week.
I have addressed in another post that “fun” isn’t the antidote for boredom for our children. It also isn’t the preventative medicine for keeping our children interested in church or the Bible. And, I have written often on the myth that teaching the Bible and sound doctrine is automatically boring and lifeless for children. So, what I want to address here is the false notion that we can simply and easily correct our children’s false or limited views of Bible stories with sound doctrine “later.” This is a dangerous assumption which can reap lifelong consequences. And, from a practical standpoint, it just doesn’t make much sense.
Consider some practical analogies first. Would a father teach his child how to hit a baseball incorrectly, or only some of the rules of baseball, with a plan to correct all that misinformation later? O.r would a school teacher allow students to learn wrong principles of math with hopes of correcting them in a later grade? So why would we knowingly teach the Bible (or not teach the Bible) in a way that will educate our children in a poor theology when they are most impressionable? Won’t they quite possibly have a difficult time un-learning what they think they already know about the stories of Scripture?
I think this perspective in Children’s Sunday School is grounded in a reductionist view of children. It stems from a belief that children can only learn the simplest of things, and that they cannot comprehend the more challenging things of life. To be sure, it takes many years for children to develop brains that can analyze and synthesize more difficult concepts. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t learn truth from the very beginning of their lives! We just don’t give children enough credit for what they can know and learn from the earliest of days. And, we can often fall into the trap of thinking that keeping things “light” will somehow build the foundation for “heavy” things later.
As Christian parents, we are always in the business of correcting the lies that our children believe, and what they are being taught by their own sin, Satan, and the world. What we shouldn’t have to correct is the teaching in our own churches and Sunday Schools! Our children need to be taught the truth of God’s Word from infancy, over their entire lives, so the Holy Spirit can transform them into lovers of the one, true God.