Monday, November 22, 2010

Enlightened Sunday School: New Post Series

It's a common thing for blogs to have a collection of posts revolving around a theme. I wanted to get in on it.

Here's an interesting experiment to try. Go to an average evangelical church and listen to the theological conversations of the various members of the congregation. Now go to Fuller Seminary and listen to the theological conversations of the students. Or how about this: Go listen to a sermon on Mark and then listen to a lecture on Mark. They come off as pretty different. The stuff you hear in church often feels overly simplistic and (I hate to use this expression) dumbed-down. It has been deep fried and wrapped up in a to go bag to be easily consumed. The problem is that I have trouble criticizing churches for doing this. You can't expect everyone to go to seminary or to afford tuition at a Christian liberal arts college. Churches go for mass appeal because they have an important message to share with everyone. This gets to the heart of the new subject I'm going for. I know that a sermon and a lecture are two different things with different goals, but you would think that cutting edge research and philosophy should inform a sermon. My goal is to incorporate research and good philosophy into Sunday school teaching. That is, I want to be informed by the types of things people discuss in Bible lectures and philosophy of religion to be reflected in lessons I teach children.

This creates some problems for me that I am trying to work out and want to do posts on my experience dealing with them.

1. When I am honest about what I feel I know, what I believe on faith and what I'm not sure about I display less confidence and that can undermine the integrity of my lessons with the students. I need to be able to teach kids without pretending I have all the answers and for them to be okay with that.

2. Many churches are afraid of the types of things that get discussed in seminaries like Fuller. Often times they feel that studying the Bible like you would a historical text undermines the faith. Personally I think it helps us understand the Bible better and, if the Bible really is the word of God, helps us understand God better. I need to teach kids informed lessons in a way that convinces my superiors I'm strengthening their faith.

3. Kids may have trouble grasping complex ideas. I heard a story once that Stephen Hawking's publisher told him about A Brief History of Time "For every equation you put in your book you will lose half your audience." A similar thing could be said for adult sermons let alone Sunday school. "For every exegetical statement you make at church, half your congregation will fall asleep." I need to find a way to make this stuff exciting for kids.

My next Enlightened Sunday School post will deal with my unit on Job.

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