My favourite chapter in Creature of the Word by Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson and Eric Geiger is the chapter on children’s work.
My father once said that he spent his life as a pastor trying to un-teach what people had learnt in Sunday school. By this he meant that in Sunday school children are typically taught moralism. He then had to un-teach that moralism and replace it with the gospel. This is a theme powerfully expounded in Creature of the Word:
“Sadly, even in churches where the gospel is heralded as the essential message of the Christian faith form the pulpit, children and students are often pummelled with curriculum designed for behavioural modification rather than gospel transformation. It is foolish to feast on the life-giving gospel in one area of the church while using a placebo in another.” (138)
“If the gospel is taught from the platform to adults, but ‘character building’ is the theme of the kids’ ministry, what are parents to discuss with their children?”
“The gospel is only for children. According to Jesus, only those who receive the kingdom of heaven with the faith of a child with even enter (Matthew 18:3).” (139)
“Perhaps many churches fail to teach the gospel to children because law is more attractive. Law provides children’s ministry leaders and parents with the false assurance that we are doing the right things, that we can check boxes off a spiritual checklist. Some would rather children walk away with lessons on being a better child to Mommy and Daddy. After all, the hand-out about being a better kid appeals to the mother who desperately wants someone else to tell her child to behave. But that hand-out – unless it’s connected to faith in Jesus – reveals our lack of confidence in both the gospel to transform and the sufficiency of Scripture to accomplish what it is says it will accomplish.” (140)
“Every single thing the church does teaches. Cultural is continually being reinforced as leaders are always teaching and people are always learning … If the implicit message communicated via the programs contradicts the explicit message communicate on the teaching environments, then people are left confused and frustrated. For example, if a pastor preaches about investing in the lives of neighbours and co-workers, all while announcing a dozen events on the church calendar this week – things that everyone feels at least a little pressure to attend – the people in the church will have a difficult time applying the message. Which message are the people more likely to believe?” (188)