Bible: The Need For Reform

It seems like we don’t value the Bible much in Christian practice.  It’s lost its place as the source of what we do and become a reference book that we refer to when we’re done.  Our Bible curriculum in schools reflects this and the way we teach in churches reflects this.

The Bible curriculum in schools is being influenced by the mindset of starting with the child instead of God.  We also start with ideas that the child should know.  Bible curriculum starts with brainstorming sessions where a publishing group will decide what values the children should be taught, or what topics might be interesting or novel.  It is truly novel today to find a Bible curriculum that goes to the Bible and lets it communicate the message that God originally communicated using the words on the page.

Firstly, the King James Only crowd find themselves with a Bible that no-one before twelfth grade can understand and no-one after twelfth grade cares to understand.  When writing a Bible curriculum with the King James too little of the Bible is included for it to truly be a Bible study.  Age appropriate Bibles are needed in putting together a curriculum which encourages children to get into the text.  The NIV is at an eighth grade reading level and we use that for kindergarten.  Choosing a simplified translation like the NIrV for third grade allows the children to get into the text.  However, even when we have an age apropriate translation, the children do not look at the text and draw the meaning from (FROM!) the Bible.  In other words, Bible curriculum does not teach kids to reverence their Bibles and use them properly.

As I stated above, the writers of curriculum often start with topics and ideas.  This bypasses the proper use of the Bible as a standard of development.  The Bible verses are added later so that the use of the Bible is more like a dictionary or encyclopedia rather than as the narrative/historical/poetical book it is.  Kids might learn a verse, but they do not learn the concepts behind the verses because that only comes with context.  Or they read a story and it has an alien main idea because the writer of the curriculum started their thought process with the idea rather than the Biblical text. Memory verses are notoriously in conflict with the message that is being taught.  Sometimes they are chosen from a random place in the Bible because they have a vague reference to the idea or word that the writer is trying to get across.

In summary, the Bible curriculum that is written today starts with the mind of the writer and not with the mind of God.  If we believe that the text is inspired we should get the kids into dynamic Bible study where THEY draw the meaning from the TEXT.  We as teachers can then validate their perceptions as to whether they conform with what the original author was really trying to say to the original audience. 

What do you think?

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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4 Responses to Bible: The Need For Reform

  1. This is an interesting idea. I have only been a Christian for about 3 1/2 years now, but I have been thinking about this kind of thing for a while now. When I finally submitted to God, and decided to follow His calling me into youth ministry, I began to think of how the Bible is taught today and if it is really the right way. I thought of how I saw a lot of people plan Bible studies, devotionals, and even sermons occasionally, and I was stunned. The way most people I had seen plan them out was pretty much the way I wrote extemporaneous speeches for competitions. You form an idea or opinion, write out the course of that idea, and then find sources to match what you wrote. I was taught to write my extemp speeches this way to save time, because you have very little time when doing those competitions. For a preacher or teacher to use this same sort of technique, seems, to me, to detract from the true meaning of the text, and is a great disservice to the listener. I am glad that I am not alone in this line of thinking.

  2. Wow, someone actually voiced that! (thanks!) It seems that the idea of “teaching kids, not lessons”, which is great for other fields of education, would not apply to the Bible. It is afterall, a text whose ultimate origin is not of this realm. Also, to go off of what RedRossesAreBlue commented, it is not our place to use the Holy word of the Creator for our own purposes. Scripture was not given to aid our personal agendas; it was given bring glory to God through haveing a huge influence on our agendas.

  3. rookie1987 says:

    I would have to agree with a Bible needing to be the primary source in a Bible curriculum. To me it shouldn’t take much thought but alas it seems to have passed many people’s grasps. In teaching children or anyone for that matter if you teach above their comprehension it normally does not facilitate learning but frusteration. This in turn makes it so the Bible is daunting to many people and dry and not comprehended. Taking a concept and then going to the Bible and drawing support from text and making the text fit what you want is extremely dangerous. A good example of taking Scripture out of context because it sounds good and so use it would be Rev. 3:20 for use in evangelism. The problem is that this is taken out of context since that verse was written to a specific church and thus a group of believers, yet it is widely used by many as a Salvation verse. God’s own word says that it is profitable for teaching. Why is it that we ignore the very thing we are trying to teach, God’s word to us, and think that we can do better…… It would be far more valuable to teach these kids about the Bible in language they can understand. Also more importantly to teach them how to discover the nuggets of truth in the Bible. How they themselves learn from it and are not needing someone else to baby them along or make them study and learn from it. Teach the children how to study the Bible and to love and desire to. To me that makes a little bit more sense then the way current things are.
    Salt and Light

  4. I agree completely with what you said here “In summary, the Bible curriculum that is written today starts with the mind of the writer and not with the mind of God. If we believe that the text is inspired we should get the kids into dynamic Bible study where THEY draw the meaning from the TEXT. We as teachers can then validate their perceptions as to whether they conform with what the original author was really trying to say to the original audience.”I have been struggling with what you brought up for awhile and glad that I got the change to look back at this question. I grew up in a youth group where we mostly studied a curriculum or played a lot of games. I asked my youth pastor a few months ago had you taught the bible to kids and teens from Genesis-Revelation bible just using the bible. The person’s response was that there are many good curriculums out there. I do not want a curriculum to follow; I want to follow God’s word. It is God’s word that has the power to transform and change lives, not a manmade curriculum. Like me however I do not know how to start. How do you take a group of youth through the bible in a year or of you have them for four years then how do you work with the next group that comes in and the previous one to help them both grow and know the bible as a whole and then what each individual book says about life back then and how if applies to their lives today! This is my main question that I have not learned in my education so far and I am making sure that I know before I leave. Many youth groups/churches in general think that their members of all ages are learning on there own outside of church and they aren’t. They are not held accountable for reading, studying, memorizing. They see their youth group leaders/whatever they are involved with once a week and never hear from them the rest of the week. Things need to change. People need to be accountable to each other so God’s kingdom will grow. Believers need to be discipled, stretched, learn, challenged, and held accountable to know the word of God so they can take it to others and mentor them as they once were. People need to learn from God’s word and not a man made curriculum that doesn’t put God first. People need to learn how to go back to the basics: God’s word-the bible, a pen, and a notebook to learn. The higher tech we get sometimes the further away we seem to get from studying just God’s word and applying it to our lives.

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