How to make it the book for
Poll a thousand Sunday school teachers and you’ll find a thousand
teachers who want to pass on their love of the Bible to children.
Each week, all across the planet, these teachers spend countless
hours in preparation to introduce children to Scripture’s richness.
That’s the indisputable truth!
And, yet, if we took a closer look in some — not all — of those
classrooms, we might find that in our eagerness to share our
passion for God’s Word, we’re sending kids the wrong message about
the Bible. Press on to discover three ways teachers can present
distorted views of Scripture — and how you can avoid these
[WRONG MESSAGE #1: The Bible Is a Trivia Book
Do you know the definition of trivia? Here’s what dictionary.com
reveals: Trivia is “matters or things that are very unimportant,
inconsequential, or nonessential.”There isn’t a Sunday school
teacher on this planet who believes the Bible is unimportant,
inconsequential, or nonessential! Yet it’s one of the most common
beliefs we transmit to children. How could this happen? It’s
through our teaching techniques and discussion questions.
Kids LOVE these Sunday School resources!
There’s an adage in management that we can only “expect what we
inspect.” Children are intuitively aware of this adult trait.
They’ve learned that the reason parents ask more questions about
brushed teeth and cleaned bedrooms than they do about the names of
all the Pokémon species is that parents value hygiene more than
trading card games. When we use review games or debriefing
questions that focus on the details of the story (“Name the 12
disciples”) over transformation (“What does it mean to follow
Jesus?”), our children respond by assuming that adults value the
Bible as a collection of divine minutia.
[THE SOLUTION ] = Ask Questions That Promote Comprehension
Michael and Heidi Martin of TruthQuest Ministries say, “The most
important questions are ‘what?’ and ‘why?’ Knowing the facts about
the Bible is great, but unless a child understands why it applies
to life, it won’t really have the impact we desire.” When we ask
questions that promote comprehension, children pick up our
conviction that the Bible is telling an important story. When we
ask application questions, children come to understand that we’re
inviting them to take their place in that story.
Aaron Reynolds, the author of The Fabulous Reinvention of
Sunday School (Zondervan) and former Promiseland staffer (at
Willow Creek Church in South Barrington), goes a step further and
reminds us that the questioner is just as important as the
question. Reynolds says, “When done really well, a small group
leader is our best link to a parent, our best link to the heart of
a child, our best link to understanding if the principles and
application of the biblical teaching is sinking down to their toes
and getting lived out.” Relational context, then, shapes the
outcome of biblical assessment. Bible quizmasters and “game show
hosts” may extort rote answers from children’s memories, but they
also reinforce the “Bible-as-trivia” outlook. Disciplers, mentors,
and small group leaders ask “why?” questions that reveal their
conviction that the Bible is valuable for training in
[WRONG MESSAGE #2: The Bible Is a Collection of Fables
No matter how high a view of the authority of Scripture you have,
it’s possible that your teaching methods accidentally telegraph a
low view of the Scriptures to your learners. We affirm that the
Bible is the account of how God responds to sin and its effects —
broken friendship with God, each other, and ourselves; in a word:
“salvation.” On the other hand, Christian educators tend to break
the Scriptures into manageable pieces that can be taught in an
hour. Each of these pieces is then assigned a moral: “Avoid pride,”
“God wants us to serve others,” or “Be patient.” These morals or
“teaching points” aid teaching.
Michael and Heidi Martin note that a topical teaching point “helps
lay a foundation for a biblical mind-set.” And Dr. Martha Wright of
Child Evangelism Fellowship points out that “the point” is like the
bull’s eye of a target…if we don’t have this goal to aim for, our
teaching will be unfocused and most likely ineffective.
These points, however, can have a double edge. The same teaching
technique that focuses classroom learning can potentially dislodge
a biblical narrative from its broader biblical context. The story
of the week is valued for its utility to convey a moral but
possibly at the expense of explaining the place of that account in
our salvation story. Reynolds challenges practitioners with this
question: “Is it a value for us to show the whole scope of the
Bible and its overarching story, or are we content to present an
endless potpourri of unrelated Bible stories?”
Let’s be clear: There’s nothing wrong with one-point learning, but
“the point” cannot be the starting point when constructing a
lesson. The Bible is simply not a collection of short stories
waiting to be outfitted with morals. When teachers force
applications upon Bible stories, they do so at the expense of the
child seeing the grand plot of the Bible. Children will view the
Bible as Aesop’s Fables — lots of good stories that tell me how to
live — just far more encyclopedic. The Bible does more than give
advice for living; it tells the story of how to connect with the
Author of Life.