What Do We Want Them To Learn?

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Today I heard from a church leader who is looking for some benchmarks to help guide the programming at her church. What should fifth grade children know about the Bible and about God? What values should Christians embody by the time they reach adulthood? These are interesting questions without easy answers.

In 1997 a group of RCA church leaders came together to discuss desired learning outcomes for church education. What they developed was a series of desired learning outcomes for each age level as part of their Learning for Life initiative that offered best practices for congregations to consider.

Today we focus less on knowing and more on doing. Church education is more about formation than information. Still, it’s interesting to read these desired learning outcomes and consider what our hopes are for the children, teens, and adults in our congregation. What do we hope they will learn, value, and do? What experiences do we want them to have at different seasons of life? Check out the RCA’s Learning for Life document [PDF] and scroll down to page 21 for the desired learning outcomes. Are they in line with your hopes? What would you add or subtract? How have your goals helped shaped your Sunday school program?

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Thanks for this article.   I think we often underestimate the capacity of children to learn.  They actually learn much faster than adults, with the right motivation and expectations.  So learning is very important, because doing without learning, often leads to "doing" for its own sake, rather than for the Lord's sake.   Any robot can do things without learning.   It is easily possible for grade five students to memorize the 66 books of the bible, for example.  Even grade one students have the capacity to memorize an entire chapter of the gospel, for example, Luke 2, with enough coaching and perseverance.   Learning how to apply the scriptures to life is one of the most valuable things any child can "do", so learning and doing are inseparable.   In our church education programs, we should probably remember that our "doing" needs to reinforce and not replace our "learning".