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Gospel-Centered Children’s Curriculum – Part 3

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.

Picture of Yancey Arrington
Dr. Yancey C. Arrington is an eighth generation Texan, Acts 29 Network and Houston Church Planting Network fan, and Teaching Pastor at Clear Creek Community Church in the Bay Area of Houston. He is also author of Preaching That Moves People and TAP: Defeating the Sins That Defeat You, and periodically writes for Acts 29 and The Gospel Coalition.

2 thoughts on “Gospel-Centered Children’s Curriculum – Part 3”

  1. Do you think a lot of this just comes down to thoughtless laziness – along the lines of “it’s too much trouble to explain why this matters, so just quit lying, kids.”? I know that it’s easy for me to fall into that. When you’re more focused on coming up with a good way to keep the attention of 40 kids than the lesson itself, and you’re trying to make a totally different cultural experience real to them, you tend to not spend much time dealing with the Why questions. I guess this is where curriculum design comes in… that should get delivered to the individual teachers without them having to come up with a lot of explanation on their own. But there is a lot on the shoulders of individual teachers (and parents) to communicate this clearly and effectively. And i know how easy it is to just focus on actions, rather than relationship.

  2. Mandy – I think the answer to your original question is yes. You and I both know that at times, the lesson you prepare and the teaching style that you choose is more focused on keeping the kids attention than on making sure they understand what is taught.

    Sometimes, it seems like these things are mutually exclusive. One on hand, you can maintain order and keep students attention and maybe they learn something. On the other hand, you can focus on the message and most students quit listening and start fooling around, except for a few well-behaved listeners. It doesn’t have to be this way.

    These things don’t have to be mutually exclusive. I believe that a well constructed plan can be executed so that the kids are captivated but also so that they learn the gospel and see how the moral lessons link to the gospel truth as well.

    As someone who teaches in the pre-school ministry, I’ve always seen my roles as teaching the provided material in the most captivating way. For the curriculum, story topics and lesson bottom lines, I’ve been trusting in the Ministry leadership to select those things and this is why I believe Yancey started this series exhorting the elders and senior staff to be involved in the curriculum of the whole church from adults to babies. And that the choice of curriculum should be gospel based starting from 1 hour old to 100 years old.

    With that said, all folks on the preschool teaching team and the PeeWee leadership should get together and talk about this and how we can absolutely make sure that we deliver a gospel based message and then go over this focus with the rest of the PeeWee team.

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