by Robin Wolfe
What is the purpose of having Bible classes for children? Why is it important? Churches place a high priority on evangelism because sharing the good news of Jesus Christ is our mission, our calling. The Bible class program for the children of the congregation is one of the most evangelistic outreaches that a church can provide. Aren’t our own children worthy of our best efforts to teach the good news of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ?
Bible class is not a babysitting service. And, these children are not just students; they are souls…precious souls who need spiritual guidance and nourishment. Besides, in Bible class you are teaching not only the children in your class, but the people they will influence in the future. You are teaching children how to teach others. Also, consider this: when you teach visitors, your teaching may be the only training that child ever gets! Even if they can’t act on it at the time and come to Bible class regularly, the seed has been planted in their hearts. For many adults, once they mature, or maybe in a time of crisis, they realize they have a need for God, and the only way they know to look for him is to draw on the experience they had when they came to Bible class as a child.
The goal of the Bible class program should be for the students to come to know God and his Son, to respect his Word, and apply it to their lives. There are two schools of thought about how to structure a Bible class program. Some people think Bible skills are not necessary, just a relationship with Christ is all that matters; others put great emphasis on teaching Bible stories and Bible skills but never teach the children how to apply it to their own lives. Neither of these approaches, alone, is correct. It’s not a matter of either Bible skills or relationship. It must be BOTH! How can a child develop a relationship with God if he doesn’t get to know who he is by studying the Bible? How can Bible facts alone be of any value? The most effective Bible school program is balanced.
So, how do you build a successful Bible school program for children? It must begin with "scope and sequence". This is a fundamental technique of school teachers: See the end from the beginning. Scope: What is the goal of the whole Bible school program? What do they need to know by the time they graduate from high school? Sequence: Because learning builds on itself, there needs to be an age-appropriate sequence to the curriculum. Each Bible lesson, each fact, and each application are all building blocks, and they are fundamental to a child’s religious education.
Think about how learning progresses in secular education. When children start to school, they learn their ABCs, then the sounds of the letters. They read words, then they read sentences. Sentences make paragraphs, and then the real learning begins. But, how can a teenager be expected to understand science, history, and literature if they never learned to read? The basic facts that they learn at the beginning are absolutely necessary. They are the building blocks on which higher level thinking occurs. In the same way, we shouldn’t expect teenagers to apply the Word of God to their lives and their problems if they haven’t been taught the basic skills of how to find the answers in their own Bibles!
When a Bible school curriculum is haphazard and unplanned, problems arise. Teachers may put too much emphasis on Bible facts and not application (or vice versa). There is too much coloring/crafts and not enough Bible study (or vice versa). There is too much emphasis on Old Testament and not the New (or vice versa). Lessons are not age-appropriate. It's hard to get teachers; they are overwhelmed with trying to come up with ideas and resources. The worst thing is that the children get bored (wouldn’t you?) and that perception is reinforced every time they come to church! Those children become adults with poor Bible skills; they have a debilitating lack of knowledge, and no ability to teach others the gospel. They know some Bible stories but don’t know how they fit together. They don’t know where to go in the Scriptures for comfort or encouragement. They don’t develop a love for the Word, and a respect for it.
On the other hand, a successful, well-planned curriculum produces teenagers who can navigate the Bible, who know what they believe, and can find book, chapter and verse to back it up. They learn how to apply the Scriptures to their own lives. They learn values. They get to know God as a loving Father. They get to know Jesus as their friend and Savior. They get to know Bible “characters” as real people just like themselves with real problems and real feelings. They develop a habit of going to Bible class and worship. (This is not a bad thing!) They develop a treasury of memorized Scripture in their minds that they will depend on for the rest of their lives.
To create your own curriculum, start with a meeting of elders, teachers, coordinators, and any teaching professionals in your congregation. Determine the scope of what you want the children to learn by the time they graduate; get the big picture first. Brainstorm ideas. Make a basic plan of what to teach for each age group in keeping with their abilities, interests, and attention span. Get organized. Enlist as many willing, creative, enthusiastic people as you can to help develop curriculum for each age level. Appoint coordinators to keep program development on track. Follow through from the big picture all the way to the details of the weekly lesson plans. Even if your congregation chooses to use a “store-bought” curriculum, the same scope and sequence needs to be planned and executed. A resource room well stocked with teaching materials and supplies is critical. Pre-planning is the key. It takes time, but it is well worth it.
When you see one of your former students walk down that aisle to be baptized and commit his life to Christ, it’s the greatest feeling in the world, isn’t it?
Robin Wolfe and her husband Scott are members of the Lewisville Church of Christ. Robin has written an outstanding curriculum for children that is being used by many churches around the country. In addition to coordinating the children's Bible School program at Lewisville, Robin speaks for teachers workshops to help others learn how to be better teachers. She can be reached at RWolfe@haagengineering.com.