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Trevin Wax is the Managing Editor of The Gospel Project, a curriculum developed by LifeWay Christian Resources. He blogs daily at Kingdom People. He is also the author of Holy Subversion (Crossway, 2010) and Counterfeit Gospels (Moody, 2011).
Working on children’s curriculum has been a big shift for me. Once The Gospel Project expanded to include all age groups, I suddenly found myself wading through reams of paper, editing children’s lessons to make sure they focused attention on Jesus Christ and what He has done.
I may not be experienced yet in developing children’s curriculum, but I am a father. And since my wife and I have the responsibility to disciple our kids, we know the message we want to give them at home as well as the message we want to see reinforced at church.
Children’s Curriculum Today
If you are looking for creative, fun-filled, and family-focused approaches to children’s discipleship curriculum, there are plenty of options available. But we’ve heard from a number of children’s pastors who are dissatisfied with what they’ve seen. Though they appreciate these offerings for their creativity and the way they connect to parents seeking to disciple their children, these leaders are concerned that the primary message we are giving our children is simply that they need to “be good.”
What sometimes gets lost in the journey through Bible stories is the good news of what Christ has done to save the lost. In other words, in focusing on behavior, we may be missing the heart-change brought about by the gospel.Even worse, we condition our kids to think that the Bible is all about them.
The Gospel Project for Kids is an attempt to bring a gospel focus back to children’s curriculum. In walking through the Bible stories chronologically, we want children to discover several truths:
Truth #1 - The Bible tells one big story.
When we take Bible stories out of context to glean moral lessons from them, we can leave kids with the impression that the Bible is much like Aesop’s fables—interesting tales with moral application.
But even though the Bible has moral application and does give us some terrific stories, it actually tells one overarching story. These stories fit together. They tell us the story of our world—where we’ve come from and where we are going.
We believe it’s important that children recognize how these Bible stories are connected.
Truth #2 - The Bible is about God.
Once we recognize that the Bible is telling us a great story, we discover that we are not the main characters. The Bible is first and foremost about God. He is the hero.
These stories provide us with moral application, yes. But before we get to application, we ought to ask, “What does this story tell us about God?” What attributes and characteristics of God are on display in this story? If the Bible’s big story is about God’s bringing about redemption of His fallen world, then what picture of God do we see in the smaller stories?
Truth #3 - The Bible points us to Jesus.
A statement I like to make from time to time (for shock value, I admit!) is “Bible study won’t necessarily change your life.” What I mean is this: Just because you know the Bible doesn’t mean the Word will bear fruit in your life. It is possible to know the Scriptures, read the Scriptures, revere the Scriptures, and study the Scriptures and miss the point entirely. Jesus told the Jewish leaders of the day that even though they had meticulous knowledge of the Old Testament, they had missed the truth that the Old Testament is ultimately about Him.
Whenever we study the stories of the Bible, we need to ask how they point us to Christ. The reason God’s Word changes our life is not because of our personal study but because in the Scriptures we are introduced to Jesus, the Author.
Truth #4 - The Bible calls for obedience that is grounded in the gospel and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Now, back to moral principles and application. Does the Bible have them? Absolutely. But biblical behavior should not flow from obligation and compulsion.
God cares about our hearts. Our hearts are not changed by the commands of the Law. Our hearts are changed when they overflow with love for the Savior. As we experience the grace of what God has done for us in Christ, our hearts are free to worship and obey.
It’s important that we take care not to give our children commands without showing them how the Holy Spirit, through the gospel, gives them the strength to obey these commands.
The purpose of our Bible study is to know God and make Him known. The Bible unveils Jesus Christ as the focal point of human history. All creation exists by Him, through Him, to Him, and for Him. Our children’s curriculum should exist for Him too. That’s the only kind of Bible study that will change your life.