Pastor and Christian Leadership Resources

Concentrate on the essentials

  • 2001 1 Nov
Concentrate on the essentials
This is the first of a two-part series on the need for essentials in Christian education. Next Thursday we will help you pinpoint your church's essentials.

We sometimes become so preoccupied with so many things to teach that we overlook the essentials of the faith. Numerous studies point out that too many people in our churches do not understand the most basic elements of the Christian faith and are either too intimidated to say so or hold skewed beliefs they think are correct. Educators need to understand this condition and strive to make learning effective in the church. Only then will our people understand - and live - the essentials of our faith.

Educators need to understand:

  • Assume nothing. The basics of the faith sometimes seem so elementary to us. Educators are eager to move on to more interesting material while the people need to hear the basics. For example: Salvation is a basic and essential concept of our faith, but it's dangerous to assume that all our children and adults understand salvation. The same holds true for understanding sin, using the Bible, knowing what a relationship with Jesus means, etc. It's fine to offer separate advanced studies for those who've mastered the essentials, but we must always emphasize the basics for the majority. Our children and adults exhibit biblical illiteracy and a shallow faith because we've assumed they know, understand, and apply more than they do. Too many churches offer adult classes on environmentalism, governmental affairs, and denominational history but neglect topics like Introduction to Jesus, Bible Basics, and Applying Your Faith on the Job.

  • Less is more. Too often we try to cram so much into our people's minds that they haven't a clue what's essential and what isn't. The intention is good because there is so much to share and we want our people to have it all. More exposure does not necessarily mean more learning. Simplify what you want your people to know about God and make sure they have a complete understanding of that.

  • Less Bible, more application. It's more important that your children and adults understand and apply biblical truths to their lives than getting a fast tour of text proofs for every point you make. Jesus never rushed His learners, never attempted to pump in more than could be consumed. In fact, He said, I have many more things to say to you, but they are too much for you now (John 16:12). Your goal should be to draw people closer to God and affect the way they live their lives, not prepare them for the Bible version of Jeopardy.

  • Say what's important. Children and adults live in a fast-paced, confusing world. They're bombarded with new information to the point of overdose. One estimate put the average time a faithful Sunday school student spends in education time (after subtracting time for taking attendance, getting organized, etc.) at 17 hours per year. We have no time to waste. It's unfair and unwise to splatter our learners with information, then fail to tell them what's essential. A teacher's job is to help students sift through all the stuff and figure out what is important.

From Why Nobody Learns Much of Anything at Church and How to Fix It by Thom and Joani Schultz, copyright (c) 1993 and 1996. Used by permission of Group Publishing, Inc., 1515 Cascade Ave., Loveland, CO 80539, 1-800-447-1070.

Thom and Joani Schultz write and speak internationally on Christian education, youth ministry, children's ministry, and church leadership. Thom is president and founder of Group Publishing, Inc. Joani is chief creative officer of Group.