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by Natasha Crain
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…
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