The church, the body of Christ gathers together for worship Sunday morning. The children goes to age appropriate classes while the adults gather in the worship center. The sermon, Sunday School lessons and music are all coordinated so everyone throughout the building is studying the same bible passage at the same time. On the way home from church, the family can talk together about what they’ve learned and the parents can supplement what the children have learned by what they themselves have learned in their session.
Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Sounds idyllic? Sounds . . . nice to a certain extent. What’s the problem with this picture?
Creating curriculum for your church so that everyone – children, teens and adults - re all studying the same bible story sounds good in theory. For some topics, it’s a fantastic way to build enthusiasm and unity so that everyone can share in the same project. I’ll talk later about several programs I know about that work great on this kind of model. However, there are a limited number of topics that people of all ages will relate to. It may work for short term projects but I wouldn’t recommend coordinating material for the long term.
The reasons are basic ones. First, children have different learning needs than adults. Children are concrete thinkers up until the age of eleven or twelve. They really do need to learn the concrete, imagery oriented stories of the bible. They are not ready to handle the more abstract concepts of grace, atonement, sacrifice, forgiveness that adults needs to hear unless there is a lot of groundwork laid beforehand.
Children also need to learn the basics about God’s love, obeying God and serving others while adults are ready to move on the bigger topics. Children need repetition. The same lesson needs to be taught four different ways. That’s why children’s curriculum is often built on theme units. Each week, something is layered on top of the theme of the last lesson. Adults would get bored real fast with this approach.
If you try to coordinate your material for all ages, you’ll either water down the material you present to your adults or you’ll move too fast for your kids without laying down that foundation of basic Bible knowledge they need to have. Yes, parents could fill in that knowledge through the week. But we are talking about a perfect world where both parents attend church and are committed to continue biblical teaching outside the classroom. Sadly, families that attend church together are few and far between. Children really do need their own curriculum – for the most part.
In my next post, I’ll talk about the exceptions. In the meantime, I’d like to hear from you. Have you seen your church do a temporary program where everyone studies the same topic together? What curriculum have you seen that presents an “all-in-one” package? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s see what’s out there.