In recognition that the children before us are either saved or lost, we must aim at bringing the Word of God to them in a manner that seeks both to evangelize and edify. Both of these aims are addressed by bringing Christ to their hearts: Christ who is presented in all the Scriptures. When the Lord taught the disciples after His resurrection, He began at Moses and all the prophets, and “. . . expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). Later, when Philip dealt with the Ethiopian he “preached unto him Jesus” beginning in Isaiah 53 (Acts 8:35.) Therefore, we must deliberately teach the children in our churches the whole counsel of God; it will not happen by accident.
Thus, we must set out to present Christ Jesus as He is presented in all the Scriptures. That aim should include the teaching of the Bible stories and the doctrines of the Word. It has been the typical routine in our churches to include time studying the Word as well as time learning the Catechisms. (We’ll consider the issue of Catechisms in more detail in the next article.) Let me suggest some ABC principles that should govern our teaching of the Scriptures.
Aim for repetition and progression
Over the course of a child’s time in the Sunday School program they should cover the breadth of Scripture: Old Testament history, Psalms and Prophets, gospels and epistles. The Bible contains wonderful stories. Who couldn’t be inspired by the character of Joseph or the courage of David? The tendency might be to cover the same, best-known stories year after year. Good learning requires repetition of information previously studied, but there should also be a desire to cover lesser known parts of Scripture in an age-appropriate manner. Furthermore, as the children get older there should be a determination to develop their knowledge and stretch their ability to study the Scriptures for themselves. It is my conviction that such will not take place without deliberate planning in the form of a curriculum which addresses the full scope of Sabbath School teaching. No curriculum is perfect and there are various models. The Ulster Presbytery developed a curriculum that aimed to quickly overview the whole Bible in the first five years before returning to particular portions and themes for more in-depth study with the older children.
Bring Christ-centered, gospel application
If we say that we believe that Christ is in all the Scriptures, then we should demonstrate that to the children. As we recount the victory of David over Goliath, we should remind the children of David’s greater Son, who ran to fight with Satan and defeated him on Calvary. As the people entered into David’s victory so we enter into Christ’s. We can rejoice in the gospel revealed on Mount Carmel as the fire of God’s wrath consumes Elijah’s sacrifice and not the people. The Old Testament stories reveal God and His character, and they also point us to the Savior. We ought to ask ourselves where we see Christ and then seek to communicate that to the children. As the children learn of Christ, they see their need of Him and see One who is mighty and able to save. It is not enough for us to recount the facts of the Bible stories without applying those facts to the heart and consciences of the hearers.
Consider your hearers
All teachers, whatever their subject, will not be content to faithfully relay information without that information being understood by the hearer. What good is it to explain profound truth while the hearer has no idea what we are talking about? We acknowledge that true understanding is a spiritual matter, but we should aim at our message being understood in form, grammar, and words. Sunday School teachers should consider the age, background, and educational ability of their students. That will govern the volume of content delivered and the words used to explain the content. It might help to ask questions during and after to ensure the students understand the lesson.
These principles are common sense. They serve as a reminder to us all that we must actively plan to succeed in the realm of Sabbath School teaching. If we fail to plan, we plan to fail. The evangelism and edification of our children demands our best efforts, both from church elders and those appointed to serve as teachers. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).
Dr. Stephen Pollock is minister of Malvern FPC, Malvern, PA.