Where Sunday School Failed Me

God wants us to be good little girls and boys. That’s what I thought. And though it might have been there in the subtext, what wasn’t actually said was: “because Jesus…” Jesus loves us so incredibly deeply, he wants us to follow him and his way, and he wants the very best for us. That’s what’ll make it good.

FaceNatalie Frisk
Clock5 minute read
Blue Circles

When I was a youth pastor, I remember having a young man tell me that he had learned so much in his time with me.

Whew, I was humbled, but curious what was behind him saying that to me, I asked him what it was that prompted him to say that. He told me that in his previous church experience, he had been taught stories from the Bible in a very detached way from his own life, and that sometimes they had a “punch line” of sorts but without any clear application to life, connection to Jesus (when it was from the Old Testament), and they felt like just another story to tell kids.

God's Faithfulness: Moses

The Illuminate+ series ‘God Encounters’ kicks off with six sessions that look at how God’s light, His presence, made a difference in the lives of humans. Each session focuses on a theme which is one way that God revealed Himself in the story we are looking at. In this session the Bible character is Moses and the theme is ‘I will be with you' revealing the faithfulness of God.

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His comment made me consider my own experience of growing up in Sunday school. There was a very clear theme to what I was taught:

Don’t do this. Do this.

Don’t do this. Do this.

Don’t do this. Don’t do this. Don’t do this.

God wants us to be good little girls and boys. That’s what I thought. And though it might have been there in the subtext, what wasn’t actually said was: “because Jesus…” Jesus loves us so incredibly deeply, he wants us to follow him and his way, and he wants the very best for us. That’s what’ll make it good.

He’s the why to the what. And, unfortunately, when I was growing up, the what became the Gospel when the why really was. I learned to do right and not to do wrong. I learned how to behave. I learned to be a moral person. (All good things, but not the best thing.)

But what I didn’t really learn was the clear transformative message of Jesus. Well, perhaps, I did have one part of it: I knew very clearly that Jesus came to save us from sin. And though this is an incredibly important part of what Jesus came to do, it wasn’t the whole Gospel message.

I wish I had learned that he also came to show us God’s love, set up his kingdom, and invite us into this story of his. I wish I had learned that God’s story was one large story that started with the creation of the world, extended throughout the Old and New Testaments, and that we are living in that exact same story today.

I wish I had learned that I am a part of the same church that the people in Acts were a part of, and that as a part of the church and the kingdom of God, that I have a part to play in God’s story. And that when Jesus went back into heaven, he sent the Holy Spirit to come and help us, guide us, and be with us to do big kingdom work.

That’s a lot more exciting than “do this” and “don’t do this.” A lot.

Over the years as our team has developed curriculum, there is something we want our kids and youth to be so very clear on: it’s about Jesus, it’s about Jesus, it’s about Jesus.

God does want them to be good little girls and boys (and so much more!), but it really isn’t about the outcome of their actions. It’s about the Source. For Jesus to be Lord of our lives is to filter everything through a Christ-centred heart.

For us to give our kids and youth the very best opportunity to get to know Jesus and become lifelong disciples, we need to do more than tell them what to do or not do. We need to help them encounter Jesus, get excited about his mission, and see their place in the kingdom.

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