The Answer Is God!
June 20, 2011
Updated September 6, 2018
7 comments 11 views
Today in church I lead the three and four year olds in the worship center. While reading a book about creation, one of the first pages in the book had this question: “Who named the animals?” Immediately many of the kids responded by saying “God”. Abram had not responded so Jackson, Abram’s older cousin, nudged Abram and told him “Say ‘God’”. Abram dutifully responded by saying “God” confident that he got the answer right. After all, when you’re in church “God” is a pretty safe answer to most questions, right? In this case the answer was “Adam” but I just let it ride and concentrated on pointing out the different animals on the page.
My husband and I laughed about this after church and talked about how kids know that “God” is an answer that, if it isn’t right, at least they get credit for talking about God. Should I have stopped to correct the kids right away? Maybe – although I doubt that many of them will have a warped view of the story of Adam and Eve for their whole lives because I didn’t correct them. But maybe the lesson that I reinforced was actually a better one. As these kids grow and move on in their lives I hope they remember that when they are in doubt, the answer is God. When things aren’t going well, the answer is God. When they are having a great year the answer is still God. This lesson – God is our first and best answer – is probably the most important lesson they might ever learn.
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My wife teaches Sunday school. Today she expressed some frustrations to me about some sunday school material. It seems to be really dumbed down, and at other times relating stories and incidents that are inappropriate. It is dumbed down in its low expectations of the children. It seems to ask for them to learn one single memory verse over six weeks. Yet they have the capacity at much younger ages to easily learn a memory verse every week. She got them to memorize the books of the bible over the course of the semester (grades 4 to 5.) The curriculum which was oriented to grades 6 and 7, seems to ask questions that are too simple and too repetitive, even for 5th graders. This relates a bit to your story about "who named the animals?" While your story was not about sunday school, still your willingness about the wrong answer, to "let it slide", takes away from the learning opportunities for the kids. They have the capacity to understand that God let Adam name the animals. While it is true that God is the answer for our life, this answer alone does not lead them to grow in their response to God. That is exactly why God allowed Adam to name the animals, so that Adam could grow and take on responsibility.
Dumbing down the answers too much can lead to perpetual immaturity, because it becomes an expectation that we have of each other, and of ourselves.... that answers are simple, and that if we are wrong, it doesn't really matter much.
The curriculum (all about making decisions) also seemed to relate stories about the mire and filth of life that my wife felt children of that age should be protected from for awhile. So she tossed some lessons in the garbage, while she used others. She might go to a different curriculum this fall (she seems to be looking forward to teaching the kids again.)
Hi John, You have a good point. We want to make sure our curriculum is appropriately challenging.
Your comments has prompted me to think more about Bible memory so I may write about that soon.
We were talking about this some more last night. She pointed out that the lessons were referring to children using their sword (the Word). Yet, they didn't seem to be learning about the Sword, the Word very much, in order to use it as a sword in their daily lives. She mentioned that every year it seemed that children were starting with learning the creation story, flood, abraham, etc. But it didn't seem to go to the prophets much, or to the new testament gospels enough, or to the epistles. So perhaps there needs to be a better balance on the entire scriptures? Her thoughts, anyway.
Perhaps I shouldn't use the example I am going to give. But I am going to use it anyway. When professional dog trainers talk about their work, they admit that most of their time is spent not in training the dogs, but in training their owners. It is usually the owners that are the problem for problem dogs.
Children are not dogs, obviously. But the same principle often applies. If the parents are not completely involved in what their children are doing in Sunday school; if the parents do not follow up and participate during the week, then the potential for sunday school for children will not be realized. So perhaps half of the sunday school program ought to be oriented towards how to get the parents involved. How do the parents re-inforce the sunday school teaching. How do they enable the memory work. How do they follow up on the lessons, crafts, learnings.
Enlisting the help and direction and guidance of the parents will more than double the value of the sunday school program. It may triple or quadruple the value.
Parent and grand parent involvement is very important part of a child's faith formation. Many Sunday School curriculums include send-home papers, bookmarks, email or other reminders with devotions, Bible Stories, memory work and activities for the kids to do at home with the parents. If these resources were used, the Sunday School lesson would be reinforced. I think much of this is ignored or throw out. Getting parents to look at and follow up on these materials is a really big challenge.
The Nuture blog is another resource that can support parents and grandparents as they raise children of faith.
So, it is a challenge! How do you meet the challenge? Any suggestions?
How about every lesson the teachers think about training (or involving) the parents almost as much as training the children?
What some teachers do, is to talk to the parents directly about what the kids are learning and what the expectations are. They will talk to the parents either at church, or call them at home. This usually helps, and makes a big difference. The kids begin to learn that the teachers are connected to their parents, that they are working together, and are not two separate enclaves.
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