Are You Sharing the One Story?

Children have a faith that’s ready to go. So let’s not waste that opportunity by delivering a mere morality tale in Sunday school and children’s church. We need to share the Gospel message and Gospel Truth.

Children’s ministry workers talk a lot about contextualization. How do we share the eternal truth of God in specific locations for people who share a specific experience? But the Gospel does not change. So the message should remain the same, even as we adjust methods for effective communication.

How well do we proclaim the Gospel to children? Are we just relaying a morality tale or important truth? I’m not asking how well we teach Bible stories or the timeless truths of Scripture. Are we contextualizing our Gospel communication for children as well as we are for hipsters in Brooklyn or tribes in Tanzania?

The Bible Goes Far Beyond Morality Tale.

Too often we teach the Bible as one morality tale after another, like Aesop’s Fables. We want children to learn how to live well. So we draw from the Bible stories of people who did the right or wrong thing.

We hope kids get the idea that good is of God, leading to success, and bad is of Satan, leading to failure. If kiddos can then live out a morality tale and retell the story with the right names and main points, we feel as if they have a grasp on the Gospel.

Churches have told children tons of good stories. But have we told them the Story?

It’s easy to tell the stories within the story. Yet a big picture exists too. When we offer a slice of the Gospel as if it’s the whole pie, we miss important points.

I think about it this way. This huge story has basically four major acts: Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration. I teach these at my church, and you might too. But how do you teach them to children?

I’m a father of three daughters. The reality is I don’t want them to know just one part of God’s big story. He’s given us His Word that tells of his grand and awesome plan, from the first verse to the last. I want my kids to know the Truth, not just a morality tale or two.

The Gospel Is About What God Is Doing.

If we just take the Bible in isolated parts, we miss the flow of God. And the flow is important to understanding that the Gospel isn’t just a group of ideas. Rather, it’s a plan that a loving God designed and implemented to save humans.

Ideas aren’t as personal as a plan. The plan runs the length of Scripture. So, for example, we hear Jesus say in 1 Corinthians 11, “This cup is the New Covenant in my blood. Do this as often as you drink it in remembrance of me.”

But we don’t remember that Moses said, “This blood is a symbol of the covenant,” in the Old Testament. We don’t understand why Abraham was called to sacrifice Isaac if we don’t understand what happened as God the Father sends God the Son to be the perfect sacrifice for our sins. This interconnectedness happens all through Scripture.

When we take the Bible as one morality tale after another, we think about 66 books with hundreds, if not thousands, of stories. In actuality, there are not thousands of stories or 66 stories. There aren’t even two, with the Old and New Testament. The Bible has one story, and it’s the story of what God is doing—redemptive history.

The Gospel Is Not a Self-Help Program.

Part of the challenge is that we want to teach morals but don’t want kids to become moralists. Yet that is a facet of the predominant religion of our culture today—moralistic therapeutic deism. Christian Smith coined this phrase.

Moralism is the idea that whatever God is out there wants you to be a good person. It’s also therapeutic. It makes you a better person. It’s actually good for you to have some spirituality in your life. And deism is merely the belief in some God doing something up/out there.

Although many people wouldn’t self-identify as moralistic therapeutic deists, that’s exactly what they are, practically speaking. They often draw their theology from various sources, including the Bible. But they cherry-pick stories that work well with their worldview and adopt the morality tale found in the story. This makes them feel better and pleasing to God. Mission accomplished.

But that isn’t our mission. That’s not our desire.

The Gospel isn’t just a morality tale. It’s the good news that God has saved sinners. He made them part of a family of believers who edify and equip one another to go tell other sinners about the Savior. Scripture tells us how God has been searching for and saving people from the first garden to the Eternal City. We have the privilege of telling that to others, including kids.

Contextualization for Children Is Essential.

I’m not a children’s pastor and don’t have a Ph.D. in educational pedagogy. Yet I can tell that we shouldn’t let the fact that children are still learning how to learn keep us from sharing the whole counsel of God. When Jesus taught about our acceptance of the Gospel, He said we must become like children.

Children were designed to hear about the things of God and have faith in them with few hurdles. So let’s be honest with them about the gospel. It makes more sense if it’s delivered holistically. Plus, it will have a greater effect in their lives.

Definitely contextualize, as you would anywhere to anyone else. But don’t strip the Gospel of its power in your delivery. The Bible goes far beyond a morality tale. God has a Story, and his children are in it.

How can we more effectively teach stories without extracting them from the Story? What have you found as you teach children about the bigger story? What part of the gospel is the most difficult to contextualize for children?

Helpful Resources

Thankfully, many gifted people see the need to teach the whole story of Scripture to children. Loads of great resources are available to teach children about Jesus, the gospel and God’s Word. A few are below.

This article originally appeared here and is reposted by permission.