Morality-based curriculum is generally different from gospel-centered curriculum in several ways (some of these characteristics will be fleshed-out later):
As noted in the last row, a gospel-centered Bible story will seek to demonstrate how it ties into the bigger story of Redemption in Jesus. This means the teacher seeks to go “up” from the smaller, individual Bible story into the “Big Story”.
Discontent with giving another moral lesson for children, gospel-centered curriculum understands the Bible ultimately reveals one story – the story of redemption in Jesus. It seeks to help the learner understand how the specific Bible story contributes to God’s plan of salvation through Christ. How does this story “move the ball down the field” for the gospel? Do we see any types or prefigures of Jesus in this story? Does this story set up a scenario that Christ fulfills to a greater degree? Etc. A question I like to ask myself before I preach would also help here: Why did Jesus have to die for today’s message? Am I going to give the congregation simply a moral exhortation or does Jesus’ sacrifice bring something to bear on the subject? If the entire Bible ultimately points to Jesus and his work at the Cross then surely my Sunday message, or what is going to be taught to hundreds of children that same day, should make that connection clear. We should seek to be gospel-centered by going “up” with the story.
To be fair, this can happen in all kinds of ways and it doesn’t mean we never teach any semblance of morality to our children. The New Testament is replete with moral exhortations in the name of personal holiness. Our task is to show how those exhortations link to the gospel. For example, in Ephesians 5, Paul calls on husbands to love their wives (a moral exhortation). But notice how he puts that call in the context of the gospel in Eph. 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” This helps us see that we can and should give moral exhortation when the text calls for it. However, we should always attempt to put that exhortation within the frame of the gospel. For example, how does the gospel inform my seeking to be truthful? Well, for starters, people often lie because they want others to accept them. But, through the work of the cross, I should realize that I have been made acceptable to God. Thus, in continuing to trust the gospel, I can be freed from the desire to find acceptance in human approval. As a result, my desire to lie to others weakens. Therefore, gospel-centered curriculum isn’t anti-moral exhortation, it is anti-moralism.