Sunday, May 18, 2014

Dumbing Down the Truth for Kids?

Photo Credit: J. Mark Bertrand via Compfight cc

Our church went through a season several years ago where we tried to do coordinated curriculum -  the same stories and same Bible truths across the board for all ages.  I know some people who love this, but we were never able to make it work.  Probably a lot of the difficulty came from the fact that we didn't really have the staff to write original curriculum, and coordinated curriculum (at least done right) takes a ton of work. 
A Great Question
But the best part of the whole experiment was a question that came up in a curriculum planning meeting with my team.  We had the Bible truth and the story that we were supposed to translate into the kid world, and one of my teammates asked, "How are we going to dumb this down for preschool?"
I don't even know if they really meant it or if it was one of those things that just came out wrong, but either way, that question really fired me up.  When did we get in the business of dumbing things down?  My teammate's comment kick-started a fantastic conversation about how exactly we approach teaching the Bible to kids.  
Dumbing Down?
The phrase "dumbing down" implies that kids aren't bright enough to comprehend the basic truths of Scripture.  Yet, most of us who love and spend a lot of time with kids know that's not the case.  Actually most of the big truths of the Bible are really simple.  My five-year-old gets it. 
Love your neighbor as yourself.  Pretty simple, right?  The deep part is actually doing it.   You can spend your whole life living that out. 
I've heard other people refer to "watering down" kids' teaching.  Again, I think this is a totally mistaken way of thinking.  Watering something down means you dilute it.  It loses it's essence.  It becomes less of what it once was.  My wife used to water down our two-year-old's fruit juice all the time.  Tastes blah to me.  Watered down kids' teaching is the same.
No, I think what I'm getting at it is that the best kids' teaching is a matter of distilling the truth.  When you distill something, you boil it down to it's essence.  A substance that's been distilled is in its most potent form.  When distilling, you've cooked away everything that is not the main thing.   
In churches that distill their kids' teaching, they creatively communicate the heart of what the Bible says to kids.  No fluff allowed.  Fun yes, but no fluff.  Every word of the lesson counts and pushes kids to connect with the very words of God.  Kids clearly hear from God in a relevant way and know what to do about what He just said.
Kids can do that.  They CAN get the deep stuff.  Deep doesn't mean complicated.  The Pharisees made it complicated but never went deep. 
Distilled teaching inspires kids to sacrificially live out their faith in ways that even us "mature" adults aren't doing.  That's the kind of teaching that can and does change the world.

How about you?  Most weekends do you feel like you're dumbing down the truth, diluting it or distilling it?

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