Jack Klumpenhower is the author of Show Them Jesus: Teaching the Gospel to Kids.
His teaching resources can be found at theGospel Teacher
I recently read Jack’s book “Show Them Jesus” I so enjoyed it I asked Jack to guest post on my blog about how to teach the parts of the bible that are difficult. I hope you find it as helpful as I did.
Teaching the Bible’s Disturbing Stories
I’ve spent much of the past Sunday school year teaching through the book of Genesis for a class of elementary kids at my church. Just a few weeks into this class, I had a decision to make. The published curriculum I’m using as a rough guide had given me the expected lessons about creation and the sin of Adam and Eve, but it skipped the story that comes next in the Bible—where Cain murders his brother Abel.
I suspect the violent content had something to do with the publisher’s decision to skip that story. A bloody family killing does not feel kid-friendly.
But should I teach it anyway? On occasion, I too will decide it’s best to spare the youngest children from particularly rough stories or from certain details. I don’t enjoy shocking kids or telling them horrific tales. But usually I’ll go ahead and teach most Bible stories—including the gory or sinful parts. And in the case of Cain and Abel I hardly had to think about it. I knew I wanted to teach that story, and so I did.
During lesson time, I even drew a stick-figure picture of Cain standing over Abel’s body. Then I added some red smears for blood pooling on the ground. I was as gentle as I could be about it, soberly warning the kids that it was ugly and sad, but still I drew that picture. It was important for them to see it.
So why, of all things, would I want kids to see that? I have three main reasons, each of which applies not only to Cain and Abel but also to many other Bible stories.
- It’s good to teach the Bible the way God has given it. If we poke around the Bible looking to use just the cheery parts, we end up skewing its message. We give kids the idea that the Bible is something like Aesop’s fables or after-school cartoons instead of the gritty, soaring, beautifully diverse message from God that it is. We also might miss key themes.
With the Cain and Abel story, I recognized it as part of the Bible’s foundational opening pages and the introduction of a critical theme: the contrast between a bad heart mastered by sin and a good heart devoted to God. I didn’t want to skip over that. I also noticed that the Bible specifically mentions Abel’s blood five times (in four different books). That made the blood a necessary part of my lesson if I was going to be true to the Bible’s own emphasis.
Ego: The Church does not need brilliant personalities but faithful servants of Jesus
Genuine authority knows, however, that all immediacy is disastrous, particularly in matters of authority. Genuine authority knows that it can only exist in the service of the one who alone has authority. Genuine authority knows that it is bound in the strictest sense by the words of Jesus, “you have one teacher, and you are all brothers” (Matt. 23: 8). The community of faith does not need brilliant personalities but faithful servants of Jesus and of one another. It does not lack the former, but the latter. The community of faith will place its confidence only in the simple servant of the word of Jesus, because it knows that it will then be guided not by human wisdom and human conceit, but by the word of the good shepherd.
Keeping our egos in check is so important because it is counter cultural to everything we see and hear. We live in a day where self promotion is rampant. The church sadly is no different. What worries me is kids who are digital natives are growing up and they don’t remember what it was like before the age of the minor Christian celebrity. You have ministers who start a blog and buy followers on twitter before long they are wearing swag and hitting the conference circuit speaking about things they have heard and seen others do but have never done themselves.
This may seem harmless enough but the greatest damage it does is it creates a misunderstanding of where authority comes from and what we as Christians are supposed to do to leverage the authority we have been given. The purpose of our God-given authority is to build the community and serve as faithful servants of Jesus Christ.
(Soap Box: You know what drives me nuts? That God calls people to plant churches in the fastest growing communities in America. Where people are leaving their churches moving into a new community and are looking for a church and we call that church growth.)
Am I anti-twitter, instagram, Facebook? No. Well maybe anti Facebook, I honestly don’t like Facebook. There is the problem when you can be in ministry for 2 years open up a twitter account and not know a thing, you have never built anything and you start to think that you have something to say because few people come to your blog everyday. It’s just far to easy to build a platform before you have payed the price for a message. The reason our message can be so shallow is we do everything we can to protect our ego’s and avoid pain. Pain in ministry refines the call and focuses us on what is eternal.
Our world is in massive need of genuine authority. We have enough egos in Christian ministry we need more servants.
Questions we need to ask ourselves often to keep our ego in check:
1. Do I love people who can do NOTHING for me?
2. If I lost my influence would I be ok with that?
3. Do I use my position to get people to do things for me?
4. Do I say and do things that will get Retweeted or Do I say and do what the Holy Spirit is asking me to say and do. Even if that is unpopular.
5. Do my actions reflect my stated priories.
6. Do the people walk away thinking I am great or did I in my conversation make them feel great.
Experience: Lack of experience is actually a good thing.
One of the things that young leaders have to wrestle with is a lack of experience. It can be very easy as a young leader to push through a lack of experience and lead from a place of insecure confidence. Which sounds like a contradiction of terms but nothing could be further from the truth. I have seen many young leaders make many mistakes because they lack experience and rather than leaning into Christ they act as if they have led for years. The problem occurs when young leaders experience a bit of success and attribute it to the wrong things. It in turn produces a skewed view of leadership. They think that their success has more to do with them than it really does. This is where arrogant insecure leaders are born.
The reason many leaders in church ministry are so insecure is because they never learn the lesson their lack of experience was meant to teach them. They build their own kingdom based on what they have done and then spend their life protecting it from anyone destroying what they built. What insecure, selfish, egocentric leaders never learn is that lacking experience is a blessing and if leveraged properly will create a lifelong dependence on Christ alone. As leaders “We are” as Aristotle says “What we repeatedly do”. If you are a young leader repeatedly place your present, your past and your future in the hands of Christ so that he can form you and shape you into what he has for you.
If you are a young leader the best thing you can do is leverage your lack of experience and build into yourself a life long dependence on Christ.
Here are some practical ways to leverage your inexperience:
1. Listen (I blogged about that here)
2. Seek to build up those around you
3. Be about team
4. Give away the credit take all the blame
5. Remind yourself daily that if you lose everything you still get Jesus
7. Continually ask yourself am I building God##Q##s Kingdom or my résumé
I recently read J.D. Greear’s new book “Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart.” I was drawn to the book because of the confusion the term can sometimes bring when explaining the gospel to kids.
J.D. Does a fantastic job addressing the topic of eternal security in a practical and theologically correct way. His book is a fantastic read for leaders and those wanting to think more about how we live our faith. He covers the sacrifice Christ paid for us, what is belief, what is repentance, once saved always saved, doubt and baptism.
Over the past 10 years that has been a gathering storm of energy behind the idea of family ministry. Reggie Joiner was first and has put powerful imagery behind the idea of ministry to families in the context of the local church and beyond. Reggie helped paint a picture for so many of us through the imagery of Orange. The combination of the influence of family “Red” with the light of the church “Yellow” creating “Orange“.
Orange is more than a curriculum Orange is an idea that needs to take root in our churches. Does every church need to use Orange curriculum? No. (It is great we used it for years) Every church needs however to have a comprehensive practical out working of the idea that getting kids to church is not enough.
Over the course of the past few decades there has been an unhealthy co-dependent relationship that has been created between youth pastors/kids pastors and parents. Kids and Youth pastors ask parents to bring their kids to church so we can “straighten them out” “fix them” “Bring your kids to us we are the professionals”. Parents gladly comply because they want their kids to love Jesus and they either don’t know where to start or they don’t mind having one less thing to do.
Do kids need church? Yes. Will church “save kids“? No. The role of a pastor is not the salvation of children but the equipping of saints to do the work of the ministry. The role of the pastor is to preach to teach in such a way the wonder of the gospel flourishes in our churches. The desire to know God and be satisfied in Him alone becomes a reality.
The most damaging thing we can do in the postmodern culture we find ourselves in, is to build programs and create our own kingdom that both point to God’s kingdom. In doing this we make our churches primarily about us. We CAN NOT AFFORD TO DO THIS. We MUST make our ministries to build the Church through the accurate preaching of gospel. Our kids need pastors who make Jesus beautiful and who equip their parents to be the priests of their own home. Our preaching should drive them to the feet of Jesus and into the community that God has placed them in.
I strongly believe in the idea that what happens at home is more important than what happens at church. We must dig deep and not just agree in principle but seek God talk to our leaders to find out what this looks like in the congregation God has placed you. There is no set formula but there must come a passionate desire that drives us to do more than agree it’s important but to do what we must to make sure that our churches are not co-dependent.