5 Changes Elementary Sunday Schools Need to Make…ASAP

5 Changes Elementary Sunday Schools Need to Make…ASAP

As all the studies started coming out in the last decade on how at least two-thirds of young adults are turning away from Christianity, a lot of attention started turning toward high schoolers. That attention is rightly placed, given that high school-age kids need strong spiritual preparation for the college world they’re approaching.

Some attention has also been given to middle school-age kids. This is critical, as studies have also shown that much of a child’s spiritual formation is set by age 13 and these kids need a far more robust spiritual training than they’ve traditionally received.

Meanwhile, most elementary-age children are still coloring pictures of Noah’s ark. Over and over again.

OK, that’s an exaggeration. But not a big one. There seems to be a huge gulf between the level of spiritual training elementary-age kids are typically getting on Sunday mornings and the level they need for today’s world. It seems that either no one thinks they’re capable of more, or no one thinks more is necessary.

I firmly believe kids this age are capable of much more, and that much more is hugely necessary.

If I had the ear of every person in charge of a church’s elementary Sunday school, these are the five changes I would suggest most urgently need to be made.

 

1. Shift from a focus on teaching individual stories to teaching the significance of those stories in the big story.

After going to church for 18 years, my understanding of the Bible when I left home was basically a loosely-knit tapestry of popular stories. God created the world, Noah built an ark, Jonah was swallowed by a whale, Daniel was in a lion’s den, and Jesus was born, performed miracles, died for our sins, and came back to life.

After 18 years in church, this was pretty much all I had down.

I couldn’t have told you one thing about how it all fit together. The Bible as an overall story of salvation history? Covenants, Promised Land, divided kingdom, exile, promised Messiah, fulfilled prophecies? Huh?

I see this playing out exactly the same way in my kids’ Sunday school. They learn the individual stories in the Bible, but there is zero emphasis on how they all fit together as part of a big picture.

Why does it matter? In the same study that I referenced in last week’s post, researchers found this lack of connected understanding was one of the most significant reasons that college-age atheists had left Christianity. They “heard plenty of messages encouraging ‘social justice,’ community involvement, and ‘being good,’ but they seldom saw the relationship between that message, Jesus Christ, and the Bible.”

Sunday schools need to better connect the dots…starting at an early age.

 

2. Stop treating important topics like simple facts and start spending time on in-depth understanding.

“Jesus died for my sins.”

That was like a mantra I learned throughout childhood. It was repeated so many times that I never even questioned what it meant. I just knew that He did, like I knew that 5 + 5 = 10. It was a fact.

A fact I had no understanding of until I was an adult, even though I had heard it a million times.

Sunday schools need to dig much deeper to give kids the understanding they need. What would that look like for elementary-age kids? Here are some key points we’ve talked about with our 6-year-olds as one example:

  • Why would God need to punish people for sin? This should be a discussion of what it means for God to be both loving and just.
  • What is God’s penalty for sin? This question should explore the meaning of Romans 6:23 (the “wages of sin” is death).
  • Why was Jesus’ sacrifice necessary for us to be forgiven? This should be a discussion of how God was able to justly forgive us by paying our penalty Himself (which, as the offended party, He was uniquely able to do).

Some other important “facts” that need deeper discussion include the nature of miracles (their purpose and possibility) and that Jesus rose from the dead (why we should believe that when we don’t see anyone else coming back to life).

 

3. Encourage an active dialogue on the questions kids have.

Sunday school is almost always a passive learning experience—information being directed at the kids. Obviously, that’s a hugely critical component of learning (see the last two points). But what about addressing the questions kids already have?

The most spiritually productive times we have with our kids are the nights when we “open the floor” to their questions. Kids have tons of questions if you take the time to let them ask. Here are some recent ones our kids have raised:

  • Why did God create the Garden of Eden if He knew Adam and Eve would disobey?
  • Why doesn’t the Bible tell us more about what we want to know?
  • If we can’t see or hear God, how are we supposed to have a “friendship” with him?
  • How can God exist with no beginning or end?
  • How do I know what to say to God when I pray?
  • Why is free will so important to God?
  • Why did Jesus pray to God if He was God?
  • Why was Jesus baptized if He was without sin?

If these are the kinds of questions raised by 6-year-olds, the typical Sunday school experience comes nowhere near engaging on what they’re thinking about.

Every Sunday school should have a morning regularly set aside for kids’ questions, or allocate time each week to answer one question from the class.

 

4. Start directly addressing what nonbelievers believe.

With an increase in the number of atheist parents today, kids are encountering atheist peers earlier than ever. Nearly all of my friends’ elementary-age kids have had classmates comment to them that “there is no God” or that they “believe in science instead of God.” My kids go to a private Christian school, and a girl in the other Kindergarten class told them she doesn’t believe in God because her dad doesn’t (clearly the mom enrolled her in school)!

Sunday schools should actively acknowledge this and help kids understand why there is good reason to believe that God exists, that Jesus was God, and that Jesus rose from the dead. With more and more kids being surrounded by nonbelieving family members and classmates, it can’t be taken as a given anymore that all kids need is a good understanding of Bible stories.

“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so” is a beautiful song for young hearts, but those young hearts need so much more for the day when their 7-year-old atheist friend tells them the Bible is a stupid book and God doesn’t exist.

(Need help understanding the challenges nonbelievers pose to Christians today? Check out my new book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith.)

 

5. Simultaneously equip the parents.

I firmly believe that it is first and foremost the parents’ responsibility to provide the spiritual training for their kids. I don’t suggest any of this as a replacement for the home. But given that most parents don’t actively take on that role as they should, Sunday schools could make a giant impact by taking the lead on better equipping young hearts and minds for the specific pressures they will face today.

As part of that lead role, they should work to simultaneously equip the parents—to educate them on the most significant faith challenges today, answers to those challenges, and how to better develop their kids’ spiritual life at home. It’s my deepest desire and most earnest prayer that my book might be a starting point for some churches to do just that.

 

Clearly, not all Sunday schools are the same. I’d love to hear your experiences. What would you add here?

42 Comments

  1. Kirsten on April 17, 2015 at 3:32 AM

    Yes. To all of it.

    Our church doesn’t have many children so they have to be lumped together. And it’s hard to teach a non-verbal two year old alongside an exceptionally bright 5 year old. That makes these sorts of discussions even tougher but it doesn’t absolve us of our responsibility to teach these children and save their souls!

    And as far as equipping the parents – I usually don’t even know what my child learned about in class. I can’t reinforce it at home. And when I ask her she says “I dunno. Nuffin “. Sometimes she’ll quickly remember and other times she remains confused. Obviously, the class entirely missed the mark that day.



    • Paul Short on April 17, 2015 at 3:24 PM

      ” I usually don’t even know what my child learned about in class.”

      I know it’s hard for churches (or any organization) to properly communicate to parents, but… isn’t this something they should still be doing?

      I mean…do you have any way of knowing if they’re teaching your kids that Jesus is the Norse god of thunder?

      We struggle with this issue a lot in our scout troops…



  2. Lindsay Harold on April 17, 2015 at 6:42 AM

    These are great ideas. I’ve said some of the same things. I know I didn’t get much more than isolated Bible stories in Sunday School. Lucky for me, my parents did train me more rigorously and gave me the big picture view. But many kids don’t have that.

    I’ve written about the problems with merely telling kids “Sunday School Fairy Tales” and thus giving them an inaccurate and incomplete picture of the history given in the Bible.
    http://lindsays-logic.blogspot.com/2012/05/sunday-school-fairy-tales-or-why-bible.html



  3. Dawn on April 17, 2015 at 7:26 AM

    I love all these – it seems so much of the SS curriculum out there is just ‘cheesy’ and dumbed down. Our kids are smarter than that!

    And can I add one: Stop segregating our generations. We have separate Sunday School, separate Wednesday nights and now our church, as like many others, even has separate Sunday morning worship. I hate it. Every generation can learn from the generation before them – but only if we only actually interact with each other. I think this is even more important in this ever increasing transient society. Kids are no longer surrounded by their grandparents and aunts and uncles, etc because they live across the country. This is compounded even further by the increasing rate of family dysfunction. Kids need to hear Grandma and Grandpa pray and share stories of faith and testimony – even if it’s the G &G from church because their real G&G lives 400 miles away… or they’ve never met them due to family circumstances.



    • Steve Wilkinson on April 17, 2015 at 9:14 AM

      re: “And can I add one: Stop segregating our generations.”

      Exactly! In fact, I’d go so far as to say that Sunday school during church services should be done away with. (It’s actually a very recent thing, with IMO, destructive consequences.) Instead, kids should be in the services, learning to worship with the rest of the body… struggling to understand the message (to be talked about with their family over lunch, etc.). And, then ‘Sunday school’ could be held at the same time as Adult Education, so parents could easily attend (and to answer all those questions, they’d have to!).



      • Jeni Walker on May 12, 2015 at 11:01 AM

        YES YES YES!!! When will churches get this? There is nothing about the worship service that is not appropriate for children. So many churches have gone the “entertainment” route with their children’s programs, and I think it is what is creating the disconnect between the parents and the kids. They have no shared worship/learning experience to talk about.



  4. Kelli on April 17, 2015 at 7:31 AM

    Amen! My background is similar to yours, and it took me awhile to get the big picture. My biggest question as a teenager was “How do I apply this to my life?” Our church does a great job with answering that question, but not all do.



  5. Mary on April 17, 2015 at 8:35 AM

    Our church uses Generations of Grace curriculum. The kids have homework each week and they study redemptive history straight from the Bible passages, sometimes several chapters a week. Our former church emphasized stand-alone Bible stories and really preached Theraputic Moralistic Deism. I am so thankful God opened our eyes and brought us to a church that cherishes God’s Word.



    • Paul Short on April 17, 2015 at 3:31 PM

      Mary
      Can you describe how your sunday school kids “study redemptive history”? Can you give an example of a lesson, and how it might be taught, or what might be expected of the kids?



  6. Maureen Small on April 17, 2015 at 9:07 AM

    What’s lacking is training the children’s teachers. I have a bachelor’s degree in Theology, and I still don’t know how I would answer several of the questions your children raised, or how I would have a discussion on how God is both loving and just. I imagine that the majority of our teachers would be embarrassed and confused if we opened the floor to kids’ questions. So where do we find material to teach our teachers and the children’s parents? (I know…you have an awesome book coming out 🙂



  7. Steve Wilkinson on April 17, 2015 at 9:22 AM

    Excellent article Natasha! Teaching the overall story and significance of the sub-stories is so critical. A resource I haven’t checked out yet, but have heard is excellent is Greg Koukl’s “Bible Fast Forward” (I think they just released an updated version too… @ str.org). I’d guess it is aimed more at adults, but I think the adults need it.

    And that is where your point #5 comes in about educating the parents. An hour a week just isn’t going to do it anymore. It is crucial the parents become more involved. (Not to mention that they do anyway to become disciples and play their part in evangelism.)



  8. Kellie on April 17, 2015 at 9:59 AM

    As a children’s pastor I think you are right on with this article, Natasha!!!!
    I have spent the last year steering clear of the traditional Bible stories and teaching our children how to apply biblical principles to their everyday lives, to take ownership of their sins and to truly capture the love of Christ for them personally! It has been difficult for the volunteers and there have been plenty of times that I have had to ask them to trust the Holy Spirit and present the lesson as is. It is awesome to see the children light up when they begin to understand and God gets all the glory when a volunteer says “Wow, I am amazed they understood that!”



  9. Ronelle on April 17, 2015 at 10:51 AM

    Yes! Yes! Agree completely. Today’s kids, especially in the part of the country where we live (in the Pacific North West), are confronted at earlier ages with questions by peers who come from non-believing homes. The primary role in equipping them with answers is the parent’s, but I think more can also be done in Sunday school, church activities, classes and VBS settings as well. I’ve been saying this for a while now, kids are able to handle more than what we give them credit for. They can deal with the difficult questions and deserve answers. This is one of the reasons why we decided to leave our previous church. I volunteered in the children’s ministry. I have two kids of my own. The rooms where completely chaotic most of the time and very little time was given to an actual “lesson”. I think the only think the only thing my then first grade daughter took away from her time there was “God made the world and everything in it.” Ok, that’s great, but I wanted more. So, we searched and searched for a new church with a great children’s ministry. Finally found one where I think they do a good job at teaching the “big picture” concepts you talk about. The kids have fun and earn tickets by memorizing scripture and bringing their Bible’s. They play games, but also have a lesson and read scripture. My daughter is in 3rd grade now and is doing great at memorizing scripture and understanding the key concepts of Christianity. My four year old is learning more about Jesus too. I’m volunteering again in the children’s ministry and I can tell a major difference in how things are run at our current church vs. the previous one. At our team training, the leader said, that he was not interested in providing “day care”, that this was a ministry to teach the kids about Jesus, to be passionate Jesus followers and reach our community with the gospel. Love that! That’s what it should be about!



  10. Christine on April 17, 2015 at 2:32 PM

    Fantastic article! And I echo the comment above; any curricula you could suggest? I’ll definitely be getting your book as well.



  11. Paul Short on April 17, 2015 at 3:21 PM

    “Why did God create the Garden of Eden if He knew Adam and Eve would disobey?”

    I love that you put that question up. It’s one of the pillars of my own disbelief.

    Would anyone care to answer that particular question? I’d love to hear some ideas on that.



    • Laura Gong on April 17, 2015 at 4:29 PM

      — Because He knew us and loved us anyway, before we yet were.
      — Because He wanted a relationship with human beings who could love Him back, not with robots, so He knew He would give us free-will.
      — Because it gave Him the opportunity to to show just how GREAT His love for us really is!…

      Of course each of these opens up much more opportunity for further discussion, but they are good starting points.



      • Paul Short on April 17, 2015 at 10:14 PM

        Thanks Laura



    • Heather on April 20, 2015 at 7:56 AM

      Paul, This is a question we all struggle with, basically the “why does God allow sin and pain in the first place?” question. I agree with Laura that God made us with free will (the ability to obey or disobey Him, to choose Him or rebel against Him) because He wanted a relationship with people who want to be with Him, not robots forced to be with Him. We want to marry people who want to be with us, not who are forced to be. We have kids and get pets and have friends knowing that they will all let us down and cause heartache at some point. Yet we still want them because we are relational beings. God is no different. He is a relational being who wants to have a family of people who willingly choose Him. And this meant allowing people to choose, knowing that many would reject Him. But He so loves us and so wants a relationship with those who would choose Him that He allowed free will and pain and rebellion, and He made a way to bridge the gap between our sinful, fallen state and His holiness by paying the price that is required for our rebellion and sin. He is holy, just and loving and He wants us with Him in eternity. And granting free will yet paying the price for our sin so that we could be saved from our fallen state is how it all comes together in the best way.



      • Paul Short on April 20, 2015 at 1:53 PM

        Thanks, Heather.

        The basic problem with both your response (and Laura’s above…) is how strongly you’ve anthropomorphized god.

        A perfect, omnipotent god would be able to create a universe where limitations like free will and the problem of evil aren’t problems at all.

        But he made this world imperfect anyway. And that strongly implies that he wanted it this way, which also implies that he wanted a universe in which he sends people to hell. And that contradicts any assertion of god being loving.

        Anyway, I appreciate the feedback. 🙂



        • Natasha Crain on April 20, 2015 at 2:12 PM

          Hi Paul,

          This isn’t going to fully address your question (which I hope to come back to later and maybe do a blog post about), but I do want to reply to what you just said. It’s actually not true that a perfect God could create a universe free from moral evil if He wants to create creatures with free will. Even a perfect God can’t do something that is logically contradictory, like a make a square circle. You’re referring to the “logical problem” of evil – saying that it’s not possible for a perfect God to co-exist with evil. But even atheist philosophers have conceded that the logical problem of evil goes away with the “free will defense.” Philosophers focus now on the evidential problem of evil (probabilistic arguments) instead because the logical problem that you point out does not hold up in light of free will. A good overview of the free will defense is Norman Geisler’s book, “If God, why evil?”

          WLC breaks down much of it here: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-problem-of-evil

          I think I’ll be doing a blog post about that question. 🙂



        • Natasha Crain on April 20, 2015 at 2:17 PM

          P.S. That doesn’t make the answer easy. I often wonder why God would value free will SO much that He would allow all that happens in the world. It’s absolutely troubling to me. In the absence of other evidence FOR God, I think evil in the world is surely strong evidence AGAINST God. But the evidence for God in the existence of the universe, the design of life (which I strongly believe is actual and not apparent), fine-tuning of the universe, human consciousness, our sense of morality and historical evidence for the resurrection all outweigh that for me. I conclude that God did value free will strongly and that He simply has a perspective we do not.



        • Heather on April 21, 2015 at 6:39 AM

          Paul, one problem with your argument is that you seem to think you should know exactly how a loving, omnipotent, perfect God should act or be. And we are not attributing human characteristics to God by saying that He is loving and relational, we are referring to the characteristics of God that we can understand because He has built these into people too. But there is still so much about Him we cannot understand. Like for me, I cannot fathom the patience He has, that He just does not blow this evil planet up. I am amazed at His patience and the love He has for people, wanting as many people to find Him as possible, while there is time, so He continues to let this planet live. Yet I have no doubt that there will be a day of judgment, when we all stand before Him and give an account for our life and when He makes all wrongs right and dishes out eternal justice. Until then, though, He allows evil to live on earth because it is part of free will. I personally think the whole ‘free-will to choose for or against God’ and ‘Jesus dying for our sins to make salvation possible and free for us’ shows a level of perfect wisdom and relational love that is amazing, far beyond our understanding and ideas of what a ‘perfect’ God should be like. We think a perfect God cannot allow evil (and yet we sure do want our free will). But God found a way to allow free will and yet redeem this fallen planet, to overcome evil ultimately. Just not yet. But in the end, it will happen. Till then, we live with the consequences of the Fall and our choices. I imagine that if God did not allow free will and made sure everyone was good all the time, people would still complain about Him, ‘How could a loving God force people to be good? That’s not loving. It is controlling like a power-hungry dictator. Why doesn’t He let us decide how we want to act and believe.’ Many people would be critical of God no matter what He did. Paul, you always keep it interesting and make me think. Thank you for your friendly debate. 🙂



    • JulieK on April 20, 2015 at 4:49 PM

      This may or may not help but… I think about God the same way I do being a parent. My husband and I wanted children to love and who would love us back. Even though we “knew” that children are their OWN people and may choose to NOT love us, or even though they love us may choose to do things that hurt our hearts… we “created” them anyway… b/c we loved them before we even “made” them. (note: I believe GOD makes each one of us, but for the purpose of explaining how God could create man even though He knew sin/death would follow, that is how I can understand it just a little bit).



  12. Barbara Henderson on April 17, 2015 at 3:39 PM

    Good article.
    Here is an article I wrote giving reasons why children leave church. Basically it is because they have never been to church. they have been to nursery, children’s church, and youth church. they have been taken to church so they will have nice friends and stay out of trouble. Church is a social circle and very little else to the youth of a church. They see ‘big church’ as the place for old people.
    http://tobarbara.blogspot.com/2010/12/kids-leave-home-and-leave-church.html



  13. Andrew Mattson on April 17, 2015 at 5:16 PM

    As I grew in my faith, I also missed the meta story of God’s redemptive love even as He is fully pure and righteous. A supportive resource we are using in our congregation is from: http://www.thegospelcoalition.org. Check it out. We are using the three year plan to review the Bible, the entire special revelation of God’s plan for His people. Each lesson has a Ghrist connection that points to Jesus and His saving attributes. Thanks for your incite and clear exposition.



  14. tim on April 18, 2015 at 8:15 AM

    Fyi..As an “Athiest”…we don’t all teach our kids that religion is “stupid”…some of us do actually teach our kids to respect everyone’s own beliefs. The saddest moment I’ve experienced as a parent was the day my 6 yr old came home from school crying because his group of best friends told him they couldn’t be friends with him anymore because he was ” going to burn in hell” because he told them he didn’t believe in any religion yet when they asked. Sad day…not the message I think their parents wanted them taking from Sunday school either, but that’s what they took from it. Sad day.



    • Heather on April 20, 2015 at 8:13 AM

      Tim, I am so sorry for your son’s experience. No child should feel rejected, criticized, and put down like that. I agree with you that we need to teach respect to our children. I believe we all need to respect the right of others to have different beliefs, even if we do not agree with or necessarily respect their views. We are accountable to God for what we chose to believe (if I am right that there is a God of the Bible), not to other people. Those other kids were harsh, immature, and it probably stems from the children’s sincere (yet misguided) attempts to live their faith. Oftentimes in our early zeal as Christians to “do the right thing”, we (even adults) can be critical, judgmental, and high-and-mighty. Many times, we have to really come to grips with our own fallenness and with the wonder of God’s amazing and undeserved grace, mercy, love and forgiveness before we really have genuine compassion and love for others. And when we do, we learn to come alongside them, love them as they are, desire the best for them, and LIVE Christ instead of pointing fingers, shaming, and just teaching Christ. May those other kids grow up to be compassionate and may your son encounter Christians who ‘love their neighbors as themselves.’



      • tim on April 20, 2015 at 12:38 PM

        Thank you and
        well said!



  15. Cathy Mattingly on April 20, 2015 at 5:23 AM

    The Gospel Project curriculum is excellent at teaching the big picture of the Bible as it relates to the stories of the Bible. It goes through the whole Bible in 3 years. We are a year and a half through the series. It also includes “discussion starters” that relate the lesson directly to questions they face daily.



  16. Heather on April 20, 2015 at 8:27 AM

    Natasha, insightful post. Not only do we need to be concerned about what is being taught or not taught at Sunday School and about kids walking away from the faith in college, but we need to be very concerned about the increasingly “anti-God” agendas of public schools. More and more stories come out about kids being shamed, punished, or scolded for saying things like ‘God bless America’ or for bringing Bibles or taking a biblical stand on an issue. Schools have become very active in attacking the Christian faith and in letting kids know they are wrong for taking such a ‘narrow, intolerant’ view. Parents need to help their kids learn how to handle these attacks and unbiblical mindsets, not so much by drilling into them what ‘good Christians’ should do and believe but by helping them understand why we can trust God’s word, the reality of the spiritual battle, the fallacy and dangers of the opposing views out there, etc. And this entails a lot more effort and spiritual direction and growing in faith and living it out in our own lives than just sending kids to Sunday School to learn fun Bible stories. Times used to be simpler and more innocent, but it is a much fiercer battle than it was and it is reaching kids at much younger ages. I fear that too many parents have grown comfortable, spiritually weak, and have fallen asleep on the job, failing to contend for the faith and get in the battle themselves. So how can they teach their kids to do this if they are not doing it themselves?



    • Heather on April 20, 2015 at 8:37 AM

      And like Tim said above, we need to remind our kids to respect and love others, even reminding them to respect other’s rights to have their own beliefs. This is what tolerance is – agree to disagree. Which is far different than the ‘you must support and condone my beliefs and never disagree with me’ kind of ‘tolerance’ being taught nowadays. And Christians and non-Christians alike are guilty of this. If we Christians do not genuinely love and respect others as God does, can we really expect them to want to know the God we serve? Are we really reflecting Him accurately to others? Even He allows people to believe what they want to believe. (And we will all answer to Him one day for those beliefs.)



    • MomUv5 on April 28, 2016 at 8:57 AM

      I definitely concur. It seems the schools go out of their way to inhibit any form of expressing Christianity (and Judaism) while bending over backwards to show “acceptance/tolerance” (even outright encouragement) for other faiths. Example: dates written as BC used to be informally used as Before Christ. Now the schools are teaching kids to write those dates BCE – Before Common Era, with AD replaced by CE- Common Era. My son wrote a correct date as BC on a history test and the teacher pointed out why he got it wrong, what his “mistake” was. My son’s reply was, “I know why you counted it wrong, but I didn’t make a mistake. I wrote it that way on purpose. It occurred Before Christ.” The teacher didn’t know what to say and walked away with no response.



  17. Fr. Basil Gikas on April 28, 2015 at 10:42 AM

    Dear Faithful in the Lord:
    How do we reinstate prayer back into our public schools?



    • Heather on April 28, 2015 at 1:09 PM

      Good question. Wish there was an easy or at least realistic answer. I think it is going to have to come down to a grassroots level- faithful believers humbling themselves before the Lord and praying on their own and with other believers. America really needs a nationwide revival like this, too. It is what I have been praying for.



    • Andy Doerksen on March 11, 2018 at 5:32 PM

      With all due respect, Mr. Gikas, I don’t believe Christians should pursue that goal – and in fact it shouldn’t have been done in the first place. All that move did was to institute _false religion_ in the school system: teaching kids the ritual of saying a prayer by rote, detached from genuine heart-faith in the Gospel and submission to Jesus Christ as Lord.

      Mind you, if a Christian teacher wished to pray before first class, that would be different: simply that teacher demonstrating Christian faith and leadership in the classroom. The downside of that approach, though, would be that teachers of other faiths – including atheists – would then likewise have to be allowed to promote _their_ belief-systems in front of the children.

      Aside from this particular discussion, however – my thanks to Natasha for an outstanding article, and to posters here for an outstanding discussion! 🙂



  18. Thom Dick on April 29, 2015 at 3:24 PM

    These are critical times for our kids and so many churches are wasting time on non-essential teaching. When you think about it if a child were to attend Sunday School every Sunday for a year we would still only have 52 hours or less to impact their lives with truth. We simply don’t have time to do “nice” stuff, we need to creatively teach God’s Word with integrity! I am responsible for writing the curriculum framework at our church so I think an awful lot about what is most important. I blogged my thoughts at our church’s site for parent resources. http://therenewedfamily.com/the-bibles-most-important-lesson/

    Great work Natasha! I wish you the best on your upcoming book!



  19. […] 5 Changes Elementary Sunday Schools Need to Make ASAP– How might we better equip our children to engage with the challenges they will face against Christianity? Here are 5 important points for changing Sunday School to set children up for success. […]



  20. Allison Hall on July 5, 2015 at 7:01 PM

    I think the Sunday School lessons should be support or complement some of the public school curriculum (subjects and themes) at the early childhood and primary level. This has resulted in an increase in student attendance. We use the Bible to teach phonics, maths, community workers, science etc, while instilling Christian principles. Children’s ministry curricula must foster life application. Children must realise that the Bible is still applicable in today’s world. See example of what we use, https://www.pinterest.com/allisoncarlhall/bible-phonics/



  21. Liam Doyle on July 9, 2015 at 11:43 PM

    We had embarked on a journey through the Bible, with an emphasis on how everything points to Jesus, as He said on the road to Emmaus.
    We then found the Gospel Project curriculum which takes kids from Genesis to Revelation, with a video each week, a specific Christ-connection for each lesson, and seasonal content for Easter and Christmas. It is a three year programme – or rather there are several programmes that will take 3 years to get through.
    If you can afford this resource, I would recommend it.

    Another resource with a big picture focus I would recommend each parent invests in and watches for themselves and the kids is Phil Vischer’s What’s in the Bible with Buck Denver – it’s a 13 DVD series, covering the contents of Genesis to Revelation – even explaining why Song of Songs is in the Bible, and where the prophets fit in.
    I have been so blessed by this series. I’m really glad my kids are going to have such a better grasp of the contents of the Bible than I ever did at a young age.

    Obviously if there is no budget for these resources, my question would be: can you draw a timeline of Bible history? Have you put together for yourself where what goes?

    This can be done for the kids in a pretty fun way with a crayon and paper – and is invaluable! Figuring out the whole kingdom split thing was such a key to opening up the Old Testament for me – it finally made sense of 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles and all of the Prophets.

    So knowing: Adam and Eve – Noah – Abraham – Isaac – Jacob – Joseph – Moses – Joshua – The Judges (I still don’t know all of them haha) – Saul – David – Solomon – Kingdom split – Northern Kingdom (Israel) destroyed 722 BC (No good kings) – Southern Kingdom (Judah) exiled 586 BC (David’s grandkids, some good kings like Josiah) – Exile – Return – Temple Rebuilt (Ezra) – Walls rebuilt (Nehemiah) – 400 years silence – JESUS! – Acts – the Church – Jesus Return!

    And drawing a timeline also let’s you show the kids the main theme of the Bible: Genesis 3.15-16 God promises a Saviour! Reading as if not knowing – Who is is going to be? Noah looks promising… but gets drunk! David looks amazing! But murders and takes someone else’s wife. Solomon builds THE Temple! But worships other gods. Could it be Joash!? But none of these guys prove to be the deliverer God promised… then comes Malachi, and the serpent’s head hasn’t been bruised yet!

    And then 400 years of silence, and we hear a voice in the desert… “Behold, the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world!”

    At long last, The Saviour is here.

    And Satan WAS defeated on The Cross… we now have to tell everyone about Jesus, who will be coming back to put away sin and death and Satan forever.

    sorry, passionate about this. I have second graders who grasp “Kingdom Split, Exile and Return” now, who can see how the whole Bible is about Jesus.

    Be blessed – the kids CAN know and love God for real and forever – because of God’s grace and mercy. He holds us. Tell the kids about this great God!



  22. Zondagschool: mis deze kans niet! - Overblijfbijbel on September 6, 2015 at 6:24 AM

    […] Oorspronkelijke blog lezen […]



  23. peter on September 7, 2016 at 6:14 AM

    Have you heard of “The Dirksens’ ministry? they have albums called “Questions with Answers”. The series starts with basic questions, like Who is God? Has God ever had a beginning? Are there more gods than one? And then, progresses to the more complex, such as What is meant by Atonement? What is Justification?” songsforsaplings.com



  24. M. J. Ross on June 4, 2018 at 3:30 PM

    We came to the same conclusion about 15 years ago at my church. We set about to make changes. The children were hearing a compilation of different Bible stories with no rhyme or reason. We looked and looked but did not find anything to use to teach the Bible where the children could understand that it all fit together with a purpose. The Biblical Path of Life (http://biblicalpath.com/) was our solution. It is a three year through the Bible program from the beginning to the end. After our children went through this, the parents asked if they could also use this study. This allowed the parents and children to study the same Scriptures each week with the ability to discuss it at home. We are now in the process of going through the Bible for the fifth time. And we always learn something new!
    I really appreciated this article!!