Children’s ministry: Are we failing our kids?

Though a vast number of children’s ministry resources are available today, many of those products may not receive “passing” marks. Listen to the insights of John H. Walton, PhD, professor at Wheaton College and former professor at Moody Bible Institute for 20 years: “It has been my practice over the years to work with the Children’s education program in my church to evaluate curriculum and train teachers for the pre-school through elementary grades. What I find in curricula is consistently shocking from a hermeneutical standpoint. I should hasten to say that curricula are often excellent from an educational standpoint—for that is the expertise of those producing curriculum. In the area of hermeneutics, however, the violations of sound method are frequent and obvious.”1

Scholars, like Walton, who study Biblical hermeneutics are concerned about correct and consistent Bible interpretation. Principles of hermeneutics help us know how to interpret, understand, and properly apply the Bible. Removing Bible verses from their cultural context leads to all kinds of misunderstanding. That is why sound Biblical hermeneutics is essential.

What are our children learning?

In his book, Revolutionary Parenting, Christian researcher George Barna states that:

  • Most of our children are biblically illiterate.
  • Less than one out of five kids believes that sharing her faith is important; and
  • Less than half believe that their faith is important to their lives; and
  • More than half believe Jesus sinned just like us while he was on earth.
  • One quarter of our children do not believe there is a God; and
  • Just over half believe that God is all-knowing, all powerful, and rules over creation.2

The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself. When we tell children Bible stories, our primary aim should be to direct children to God—who He is and what He is like. Instead, children often hear more about the Bible characters than they learn about God, Himself.

What truths are we transferring?

Psalm 78 reminds us why the next generation must hear about God’s marvelous works:

“We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands. They would not be like their forefathers—a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to him” (Psalm 78:4-8 NIV).

So that you may know the certainty…

Luke did extensive research on the events surrounding Christ’s life. He penned the third Gospel: “… so you can know beyond the shadow of a doubt the reliability of what you were taught” (Luke 1:4, The Message). The word translated “taught” refers to a systematic approach of learning about the Christian faith. The early Church developed a process for instructing children and new converts in the essential Christian beliefs. In other words, “taught” describes the New Testament discipleship process.

Contrary to popular belief, discipleship is not an option. Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). The main action in the Great Commission is to “make disciples.” The other three verbs (go, baptize and teach) describe how we are to accomplish this.

The entire ministry of the Church should be structured around the ongoing process of discipleship. Dietrich Bonhoeffer stated it well; “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.”3 Like the apostle Paul, we must work wholeheartedly to help children become spiritually mature. Disciples must be equipped to pass on their faith. Our work is not done until new believers are able to make disciples of others (Ephesians 4:12-13).

Let us be ever mindful of this powerful verse: “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). To keep the sword sharp, we desperately need to use sound Biblical hermeneutics when we teach our children!

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  1. Walton, John H. “Hermeneutics and Children’s Curriculum.” Web. 19 Oct. 2011.
  2. Barna, George. “Revolutionary Parenting.” File:
  3. Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. “The Cost of Discipleship.” Page 44. Touchstone. 1995.
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One Response

  1. Jeffrey Rathbone October 25, 2011

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