Is Sunday School Unbiblical?

"THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD: A Sunday School teacher decided to have her young class memorize one of the most quoted passages in the Bible; Psalm 23. She gave the youngsters a month to learn the chapter. Little Rick was excited about the task — but, he just couldn't remember the Psalm. After much practice, he could barely get past the first line. On the day that the kids were scheduled to recite Psalm 23 in front of the congregation, Ricky was so nervous. When it was his turn, he stepped up to the microphone and said proudly, 'The Lord is my Shepherd, and that's all I need to know.'" (link)

Westminster Abbey

(Taken by Deb)

While the Sunday School quote cited above may be humorous, what is happening today in the body of Christ is no joke! As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, there is another group of helicopter parents on steroids that is wreaking havoc in some corners of Christendom. It has been quite a while since we focused on them, and we believe it is important to update our readers on the latest developments involving this close-knit group.

This domineering clan, which touts homeschooling as the only viable option for educating children, are none other than Doug Phillips (Vision Forum), Scott Brown (National Center for Family Integrated Churches) and their colleagues Voddie Baucham, Ken Ham (Answers in Genesis), Dr. R.C. Spoul, Jr., and Geoffrey Botkin, among others. We plan to spend the next several posts focusing on the shenanigans of this group.

In case you are not familiar with Doug Phillips, he is a HUGE proponent of homeschooling and has built a cottage industry on the backs of homeschooling families. His business enterprise / ministry – Vision Forum – markets books, videos, toys, and other educational materials to homeschoolers via its catalog, website, and homeschooling conferences. VF was launched in 1998. Ironically, I was homeschooling my two daughters during this time and heard Phillips deliver an extremely patriotic talk at the North Carolina Home Educators Convention.  I had no idea at the time that Phillips was a Calvinista and a modern-day patriarch who would in short order cause terrible dissension in the body of Christ. Please consult our archives for previous posts on Phillips and VF.  For the record, I stopped homeschooling a year later.

Did you happen to see the recent Washington Post article entitled “Some Churches Cancel Sunday School – Put Parents in Charge”? (link)

The Post artice begins as follows:

“Don’t look for children’s Sunday school classes at Ridgewood Church in Port Arthur, Texas. And forget about scavenger hunts and water park trips: the youth ministry is no more.

Sound like a dying church?

No, it’s a family-integrated congregation, whose leaders wanted parents — rather than Sunday school teachers and youth ministers — to spiritually train their children. Driven by statistics about youth leaving church after high school, they’ve turned to the Bible as their sole educational text and shunned age-segregated structures.”

In case you haven’t heard of family integrated congregations, we believe this concept may have originated with Scott Brown, director of the National Center for Family Integrated Churches (NCFIC) and his close friends Doug Phillips (founder of Vision Forum), and Voddie Baucham (a Southern Baptist pastor).

The Washington Post article provides the following background information:  “The family-centered movement is part of a broader trend of churches struggling to respond to statistics that claim a youth attrition rate of 40-88 percent."

Some leaders such as Christian Smith, director of the National Study of Youth and Religion, contest this claim, saying there is some cause for concern but that those statistics can sometimes be exaggerated.

Recently, Scott Brown wrote a book called A Weed in the Church, which condemns age-segregated activities such as Sunday School.  Brown states that such activities are UNBIBLICAL.  Brown, who lives close by in Wake Forest, North Carolina, told the Post reporter that there are close to eight hundred churches affiliated with NCFIC that have either canned traditional Sunday school classes or curtailed them.  To further promote this trend, NCFIC recently released a controversial video called Divided, which puts forth their agenda to establish family integrated churches.  I recently watched this divisive video and will be commenting on it in an upcoming post.

The Post article mentions an upcoming conference of D6 – "a movement that explores how churches can encourage parents to spiritually train their youth".  More than two thousand attendees from around seven hundred churches will be attending this conference in Dallas from September 21-23 in Dallas. This movement gets its name from the sixth chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy, which is also cited by the family-centered movement for its admonition to teach children God’s commandments.

Richard Ross, a D6 presenter and professor of student ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, was interviewed by the Post reporter, and here is what he had to say:

“I do believe there is an overbalance of age-segregated programming and that overbalance must be corrected, but it is throwing out the baby with the bath to suggest that those groupings should never happen.”

Daryl Nuss, chief ministries officer of the National Network of Youth Ministries was also interviewed by the Washington Post reporter, who stated that Nuss "thinks the family-centered movement is too strict.  'That may work in a small segment of churches but what about all those students who do not come from a healthy family, do not come from a nuclear family?' he asked."

There is SO MUCH MORE to discuss regarding next week's D6 conference and this patriarchal bunch of helicopter parents on steroids. Stay tuned!


Lydia's Corner:       2 Kings 23:31-25:30     Acts 22:17-23:10     Psalm 2:1-12     Proverbs 18:13


Is Sunday School Unbiblical? — 89 Comments

  1. I would not know a thing about this stuff were it not for your writings. But as soon as I say this, some homeschool parent at church will propose something like this, and I’ll think, “Where in the world do they get this stuff?” Knowing about it ahead of time is helpful.

    Our church will never go in this direction, but we will face these influences.

    I support whatever parents want to do with their families.

    But I do not support those parents telling everyone else what they need to do.

  2. Anonymous,

    Your final statement is the crux of the problem. These people can be tyrannical if you disagree with them.

    So glad our posts are keeping you informed. Three years ago I was just starting to learn some of this stuff.

  3. Unbiblical — not in the bible or authorized there. So books printed on paper and not handwritten on parchment or pressed reeds is UNBIBLICAL. So is every para-church organization! Sheesh. Mixed fiber clothing is anti-biblical!!!! What a crock these people are putting forward if that is the basis for it.

  4. One size fits all – this is the basis of most of the screwy things people want to burden other Christians with. Everyone must do what I have found is best for me. Whether it is “everyone must be an evangelist” – or “everyone must study the Bible” or “everyone must home school” or “no one can see movies or dance or …” it all amounts to the same thing. They don’t understand diversity in the body. That is one reason that denominations are good – they provide diversity for people to find a fit for what God is calling them to do. I think there are very few such dangerous things as when one Christian starts explaining to another one what God wants the other Christian to do. It reminds me of the joke where a guy tells a girl “God told me he wants you to be my girl friend” and she replies “Funny, I was talking to Him just last night and He did not even mention your name.”

  5. We actually faced the issue in a Calvinist church we were in many years ago, whne the then minister wanted to get rid of Sunday School and make all the children stay in church for the service (which I might add was very formal and with no concessions at all for kid-friendliness. Thankfully he got howled down by the rest of the church, especially the parents, who thought that their young children were better off being taught at a level they could understand than growing up with the concept that church was insufferably boring.

    His reasons? The puritans didn’t send their children somewhere else — they had to sit in the adult service and behave like mini-adults (Which seems to be a universal requirement from all these people). Also, when you see the gathered people of God in the OT (e.g. at the foot of Mt Sinai) there was no sending the children somewhere else.

    It is probably worth noting that he wanted to ban all small group bible studies as well, and have everyone meet together on Wednesday nights at the church for a meeting led by him. That went down like a lead balloon too

  6. Well, my goodness! Hmm. I suppose my answer to the above question would have to be, “Sunday School is only Unbiblical (IF) the above mentioned men and their churches have the final word on the Word and the rest of us are REQUIRED to be mindless clones!” So, let’s see (thinking . . . .), that must also mean I have no problem with parents making their own choices as to sending their kids to Sunday School or not.

    Do I here a call coming soon for all men to be circumcised . . . .

    What happened to Galatians 5? What happened to the NT for that matter?

    Is it biblical or, mmm, unbiblical to pick and choose scriptures to make a case that our practices are THE biblical practices?

    . . . . I’ll stop now (sheepish)

  7. The scary part is that these people wrap up these cultish ideas in such happy flowery wrapping… “Family-Integrated Church”… what’s wrong with that? It paints such a happy picture, how could anyone disagree?

    It draws people in, and then when there is disagreement, they pull out the old cult tricks of fear-mongering, afraid for your children’s souls, this is mandated by God in the Bible baloney. Before long people believe a morning in Sunday school will bring curses from God. And God will curse America with hurricanes and earthquakes if it doesn’t stop this horrible pagan practice of Sunday school. And pretty soon my Sunday schooled kids can’t play with John’s Family Integrated kids, because who knows what they will pick up?

    It’s shocking when you realize how much of this same kind of stuff has seeped into mainstream conservative Christian church culture, and how many reasonable, thinking people have blindly followed along.

  8. The only problem with this picture is that children are not developmentally ready to sit still and focus on a message and are coerced to endure something for which they are not developmentally ready via fear of the rod.

    If family integrated involved children in the sanctuary floor on a blanket playing while the grown ups were listening to a message would be fine but the children sitting and behaving like adults scenario does not happen without repeated sessons with the glue stick or wooden spoon.

  9. Deb,

    Thank you for your post. I do not have a problem with the idea of family integrated ministry. Our church’s youth group looks for lots of involvement from parents.

    What is the problem with some of these groups that have to go calling Sunday School unbiblical and make the littles sit through an adult service? I have toddlers and an infant – sorry, but once the worship in song portion of the service is over, they need to go to a class where they are taught in a way that is helpful TO THEM.

    I think pastors who go crazy trying to implement changes like this are immature. They see their hero-leaders recommending something so they feel they HAVE to make a HUGE change immediately in order to really be biblical. Advice to these guys – stop, think about how to love your congregation, think about what the children need (to be introduced to Jesus Christ) and think about how to do that in THE MOST HELPFUL WAY POSSIBLE. Just because you didn’t do everything RC Sproul Jr. said doesn’t mean you aren’t obeying Jesus Christ.


  10. And another thing…

    just because the Puritans did it, doesn’t make it right

    Stocks in the town square anyone, maybe a Scarlet Letter?

  11. We ARE seeing the beginning of the Fundagelical Taliban!!!

    In the first century, children were generally not even considered people until they reached about 12 years of age, when they could be truly useful. They were not counted in the censuses taken in the Roman empire for example.

  12. One of my problems with deleting Sunday School and/or small groups is that that is where we can share with other adults, study the faith, and behave as the priests we are to be to each other. Were it not for the SS classes in several of the churches I have been in, I would have been looking somewhere else. The bible exposition was better in Sunday School most Sundays than the sermon. And I met my wife in Sunday School as an adult.

  13. The first century church was a house church, a small group of people meeting in a home that was likely also a place of work and a business place. It was not hundreds of people listening to one person talking. According to Paul, there were several who would speak, out of the small group!

  14. The entire institutional church is unbiblical. That is why we are having all these discussions about the SBC, SGM, etc and para-church organizations like Bill Gothard’s or PeaceMakers.

    I left the Catholic Church because when I read the Bible for myself, I couldn’t find Pope, Cardinals, Nuns, convents, purgatory, limbo, indulgences, etc etc. Then I go to the Protestant Church and find a different truckload of unbiblical positions and practices.

    Is the Bible insufficient? Do we need to make things up when we come together? And where are there any “parachurch” organizations in the Bible? Did Peter start a “Jews for Jesus” organization? Did Paul start a “Gentiles Crusade for Christ” organization? Do we start structuring the church according to a business model with a president/CEO, managers, and now membership agreements?

    Just my 2 cents.

    Lee Anne

  15. My goodness, Deb, thank you so much for writing about this. Like I mentioned yesterday, this is new-ish to me and am learning so much.

    I was watching a youtube of Voddie last night speaking about how unbiblical SS is and how it started in the 1870s to teach literacy to children, as they were working in the factories instead of going to school. So SS was school on Sunday–using the bible to teach reading. He said people started saying “the Christians will demand it too”–they did, and that’s how it started. Something like that anyway.

    Like anonymous said in the first comment, I do not support people telling you their way is the “biblical and gospel” way. Even worse is when you are on the receiving end of degrading joking about it by a pastor.

  16. Deb,

    Dont wish to wade too deep into this but if I remember,wasn’t Sunday School a 19th Century concept to teach children whose parents were not believers? It was never designed to remove responsibility from parents to teach their own children. If memory serves me right,Sunday School originated in the East End of London,England [my home country] amongst the poor and destitute…

  17. Anonymous

    I am glad that you are in a church that does not jump on the latest trend to “guarantee perfect faith.” I think that, in a healthy fellowship of believers, you will see people walking down many different paths in areas such as education. However, I think there are some people who are so insecure that they need to force people to behave as they do. I know of one situation in which the parents of a particular church believe their kids MUST attend a local classical Christian school. The pressure is so great that parents who buck the system feel excluded. In fact, they are probably excluded because they obviously are not as faithful as the parents who “know” the proper form of education.

  18. Arce
    If you come from the correct theology, read Neo-Calvinism-you know exactly which verses you can disregard !

  19. DB
    Oh, some of these guys enjoy the authority gig. They all love the Puritans and enjoy quoting them. But , theology only means something when applied. So how did that work for kids in the times of the Puritans?

    I assure you that many would sign up for the role of the mean old Puritan guy who walked up and down the aisle with a heavy stick with a knob on the end to smack the heads of children who feel asleep during the ridiculously long sermons. Understanding of growth and development is not only NOT required but held with deep suspicion. Just beat the *hell” out of these little sinners and all will be well.Oh, and if they are a problem, accuse them of being witches and throw them in jail. Problem solved.

  20. Matt
    I am not sure that you have seen FIC fully integrated into a youth program. i have. SGM adheres to this in some of their churches. It is a real drag for kids who are hounded by their parents all week. Then, they must sit in a small group with their parents who “discuss” the Bible with them. In fact, for many of these groups, kid to kid interaction is discouraged. This is not mom and dad helping out in the program-it is mom and dad doing the program and totally focused on their own kid.

  21. Matt
    I just left a comment before this one saying the same thing. I grew up in Salem Massachusetts. We know from Puritans up there. Howz about a nice little witch hunting frenzy to make life exciting? Do you know that kids were accused of being witches as well? And then, of course, all these Reformed Baptists conveniently forget that the Puritans had no love for the Baptists-can we say Roger Williams, who was thrown out of the Puritan colonies. And the witch deal was a cover for a land grab by some of the families as well. So, their theology was intolerant of other Protestant faiths, highly superstitious, and deceptive in some instances. And what is it we are supposed to admire? Oh, they wrote nice prayers.

  22. Diane
    I believe that Jan Comenius started Sunday school to help illiterate children to read so they could understand the Bible. Back then, there were few public schools to teach children.

    Now, Sunday schools exist to teach children about the Bible because it is not done in public schools. However, it is also a place in which children can hear other adults and helpers who preach what these children should be hearing at home. i always looked at those teachers as comrades in arms in exhibiting the church to my children.

    Also, many kids do not have supportive parents and Sunday school is the first place where many of them hear the Gospel. I have always admired the churches that send buses out on Sundays to bring kids to church. This also helps those families who are indigent and have no means of transportation.

  23. Rusty

    Check out the history of Jan Comenius. he wanted to teach kids who were illiterate how to read so they could read the Bible.

  24. You know the Fundagelical Taliban consider all Christian Singles Groups to be dens of iniquity, full of people whose very existence is sin because they have not been blessed by God with the perfect mate without any dating, but via parental approved matching!

  25. Phillips, Ham et al. are a hugely divisive influence in the homeschool world. For the record, we homeschool our 3 children and have found, for our sanity and theirs that we must stay far, far away from the Christian homeschool movement (as Episcopalians, we wouldn’t be acceptable, anyway.) Vision Forum and AIG have hijacked the major homeschool conferences around the country (tho’ recently Ken Ham was disinvited, due to hateful speech) and have appointed themselves spokesmen for the entire movement. The nastiness of the speech coming from the YE and VF crowd is staggering. We have been told we are wrong for homeschooling for educational reasons and not “out of conviction” (which I think means we have to believe that it’s God’s plan for every family). That this attack on Sunday School is coming from this same crowd is no surprise. They believe in control, not in the gracious work of the Holy Spirit to guide and teach and change lives.

  26. My concern is WHAT are they being taught in Sunday School? I personally do not want someone else telling my kids what they think the Bible says or means. That is my and my husband’s responsibility.

    Lee Anne

  27. Jan Comenius was a great influence in his work among children.However I would not refer to this as t the pre-cursor of the modern day Sunday School as we know it. Jan Comenius [influenced by Bacon] did seek to educate children so as to read the Bible but it was done,I think, in educational realm not under auspices of church gatherings… When we talk about Sunday School,we are mainly referring to Church outreach in the 19th Century to children,who would not have influence of Godly parents and while it could be seen to be part of education of such children, it was not primarily the reason for evangelizing such children. Out of this in UK came Barnardos and George Muller orphanages which did what Comenius earlier did but that was part of education. We are talking about an entirely different thing when we refer to modern day Sunday School,which is fairly new in its structure and application..
    The name Sunday School,was deliberately called such as to distinguish it from regular education and was aimed at children who did not go to private school as children of wealthy parents did and who received Religous Instruction as part of their normal education.

  28. Dee,

    My kids are still too young for the youth group experience so I don’t know firsthand how my church is doing it.

    I would say I’m not a fan of the high school model for youth group. High School and youth cultures like them such as youth group feel like such a silly microcosm. Not that you can eliminate them on a biblical basis. This is only my opinion.

    If it (family integrated ministry) can be used to help parents engage who maybe don’t have a great theological vocabulary of their own or who have not built good relationships with their children, I can see it helping. If it’s used as a way to hound kids and beat them with theology rather than cultivating mature, thoughtful interaction with Scripture, the world of ideas and one another then I’m against it.

    Where I’m at in my thinking as of now – it depends on how the format is used.

    Thank you for your blog – very helpful in developing my thinking further along with others whose perspectives are sometimes very different.


  29. Arce,

    Thanks for sharing this:

    “And I met my wife in Sunday School as an adult.”

    What a wonderful testimony!

  30. Matt,

    I worry about what church will be like when your kids are teenagers. There will be much more information in upcoming posts that will hopefully give parents like you a heads up.

  31. Dee,

    Thanks! It was presented in his sermon as a bad thing….which directly led to the bad thing we now have (in his opinion).

  32. Unbiblical, probably not…but unethical definitely gets my vote.

    Noting more than a method for ensuring yet another generation of mindless, guilt driven financial backing and adherence to antiquated superstition…another way to keep the pews full, nothing more.

    Let’s not actually encourage children to learn how to examine religions in general and then make an intelligent, well thought out choice…much better to just feed it to them as pablum so by the time they reach an age where they might actually be able to examine the teachings they are already so numb and used to being spoon fed that they lack the capability.

    (and that people can ask, with a straight face, what’s wrong with religion, only serves to emphasize the point).

  33. Bounded Reality,

    I enjoyed reading your comment – it made me think. Is it (Sunday School or maybe even Christian Parenting) always nothing more than a method for ensuring yet another generation of mindless, guilt driven financial backing and adherence to antiquated superstition?

    I remember having serious doubts as to the validity of Christianity in High School. My parents did not claim to have all the answers but encouraged my thoughtfulness. I worked through my doubts and found satisfying answers.

    My point in response to your comment regarding religion is that parents must rear their children from the vantage point of their own convictions. I would agree with you that parents who avoid their child’s difficult questions, doubts and challenges are foolish.

    No one is objective. No one is neutral. It is impossible to parent a person with the goal of raising a neutral reasoning human being who will objectively reason their way around all the available faith views.

    I agree with you that parents should raise children who can use their reason. But they must do so in a self-aware fashion. We are always reasoning from the position of some underlying ultimate commitment. It is unavoidable.


  34. Arce on Fri, Sep 16 2011 at 11:21 am
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    You know the Fundagelical Taliban consider all Christian Singles Groups to be dens of iniquity, full of people whose very existence is sin because they have not been blessed by God with the perfect mate without any dating, but via parental approved matching!

  35. Bounded Reality —

    your comment spurred some thoughts. I have been uncomfortable with some of the “christian education” my kids have had at church. At times it does seem like feeding them information, and all the fun and enjoyment and sincere relational caring of the leaders toward my kids makes it impossible for them not to automatically accept it as truth. But then again they are probably too young to be able to reason their way through the validity of this kind of information.

    As for me, when I’ve tried to teach my kids something about God, about Jesus, about the Holy Spirit, about living right, I always seek to bring in an explanation as to “why” what I’m chattering on about is valid and worth listening to. I noticed just now that I didn’t say “as to why it is TRUE” — I think because I balk at the thought that my kids (or anyone) would consider something to be “true” simply because someone they feel good about (like even me) said so.

  36. Arce
    The way things are going, the church leadership in some of these groups are the very epitome of iniquity.

  37. Hippimama

    There are some people in my church who sound a lot like you. They have formed their own little group and stay far away from the Hamites. In fact, your comment-homeschooling “out of conviction” is code language for “just like us.” You are not a real Christian unless you do it Ham’s way. What would they say if I sent my kids to the school they attended “out of conviction?” They would reject it because it is not their conviction which is the the only real, Biblical, Gospel, literal conviction. Hang in there. You are doing a good thing.

  38. Elastigirl.

    I think the very natural tendency of kids IS to take what their parents say as true…without giving it any thought at least up to a certain age…then as young teens, they think everything their parents say is NOT true…and not for any better reasons!

    I think the goal should be to encourage them to find their own way…guide their reasoning without passing judgement on their conclusions. At a very young age it is the process that is important, not necessarily the conclusions….sort of like new math 🙂

    If they are encouraged to constantly question even their most cherished beliefs and taught that nothing is “off limits” and everything is open to analysis and subject to change as they learn more…then that’s the best we can hope for, in terms of reasoning.

  39. Rusty
    Thank you for this awesome history. Do you think the rise of secular influence in the public school system, which is where most children of Christians re schooled, has fueled the Sunday school movement? Do you think that some of today’s mega churches have seen youth programs as a recruitment program for the kids parents?

    My kids enjoyed their Sunday school classes until, in the past few years, it became focused on teaching YEC and pushing early marriages. As my son said, when he was 16, “I’m not planning on getting married in the next couple of years, so why the big deal.” My church had people in leadership who thought it would be a marvelous idea for kids to get married before leaving for college. As one “pastor” said “It is my vision to see the married students dorms as the predominant dorms on campus.” Which the means that they need nurseries because this guy was pushing no birth control and lots of children pronto. Oh, and engagements lasting less than 6 months as well.

  40. Matt

    Wait until they hit high school and see how much they want to sit in a little group with mommy and daddy and discuss theology at church. They will be clamoring to be with some friends and some with it youth leaders who say it differently so it sounds a bit cooler. You should see the rooms with these mom and dad groups-very quiet and very solemn and kids looking like they would rather be anywhere but there.

    Smart parents integrate it in their day to day lives when special moments give opportunities for teaching.

    Oh, btw, it was two people who reached out to a dead youth fellowship who started me on my journey to find Christ. It was the first time I felt a part of a group of people. My parents were not church attenders. I still look back to that group with a warm feeling and tried to find such groups for my kids as well.

  41. An “Reformed” (unkown by us) preacher we hired at my old SBC church went on a crusade against childrens classes of any kind. As an example he would have his six kids (ranging in age from 13 to infant), dressed in their Sunday finest, sitting on the front row every week. It used to crack me up because I led the worship team. When we would get up to lead the last song all but the very oldest of his kids would be passed out asleep. Of course all but the very youngest of the congregation would be passed out as well. I guess the kids were on to something.

  42. Jerry
    I bet he has more children by now. This new crowd believes in lots of children as a sign of “trusting” in God. I still remember a former pastor in my old SBC church which was into the Neo-Calvinists (Mahaney, et al). he was young and already had 4 children and was onto having more. He gave a sermon in which he outlined how many years of their marriage his wife had been pregnant (read just about the entire marriage). he then lectured the folks that his wife was blessed! Then went on to encourage everyone else to do the same. The latest trend in Calvinista land is th have as many kids as possible because so that we can evangelize the world with out offspring.

    Now, my guess is the wife of your pastor had probably checked out as well-exhausted from dressing them all so they looked “perfect” for the church as an example. Now, if your pastor was really into the Calvinistas, he could do what the Puritans did. Hire some mean dude to walk up and down the aisles and beat the sleeping kids awake with wooden staffs. Ah, the incredible depth of the Puritans….

  43. Dee,

    Why so strict with their children? I know they don’t view what they are doing as mean, but making little ones sit for an hour in a boring class, or sit for more than an hour in church and requiring them to be still–is it all to make the parents look good? That this way really “works?” They get this affirmation that they are doing the “godly” thing right because of how wonderful their children are perceived by others? No matter if the kids are possibly scared to death of them–and that’s why they behave? How sad for the children born into that…who have no choices. So sad.

  44. Diane

    I have read comments from so many women caught in legalistic ministries. The women at SGM feel there kids must perform for the pastors. The pastors expects a look directly in the eyes and a firm handshake with a Yes, sir, to boot. One mother confessed that she used to spank her shy child when they wouldn’t perform for the pastor.She now feels incredible guilt. My daughter, who was so sick, was painfully shy in her early years. She would hide behind my skirt when i spoke to someone that she didn’t know well. But, she outgrew it, with lots of encouragement from me (I think seeing doctors every week and having to submit to their exams helped).

    So many parents believe that it is all about them. if the kids don’t do it right, the parents are suspect. And then some rotten ministries “degift” pastors if they have a kid who is rebellious. I suppose these pastors believe that God should have ditched us due to our rebellion. Yep- it is about the parent. And said parent want to look oh so godly and in charge.

  45. I don’t understand why it is considered so bad to expect a 5 year old to sit quietly for an hour. Have we gone downhill so bad? Because my mom was playing the piano and there was no children’s church to “entertain” me, I had no choice. I think it was good practice for life. Of course, I was not raised with video games. Iwas not raised fundy at all. It was simply the way it was. And I think kids are better for having to sit quietly and respectfully whether at church, a dinner or play, etc, for an hour.

    One thing that amuses me about the FIC Taliban is personal experience with the youth group at my church. They are the ones on fire. They are the bold witnesses coming out of my church. In fact, as a group, they have prayed and been convicted to reach the immigrant Indians in our community who have come here to work in the computer field. One friend, who has a teen in the group, says that her son shames them as belivers. He has befriended this community by going to them and introducing himself and she has hosted many dinners at her home for them. And in turn has gone to their homes and eaten their native dishes and from all this has begun some very interesting relationships. Her son has witnessed to them and they have many questions. He did not go and recruit them to attend church. And that is key. He went to them to tell them about Jesus Christ and offer to assist them in any way he can in their new city. he is an 18 year old. And they are all like this…whether these people believe or not does not alter the relationhips they have built over the last 4 years when they first started.

    I honestly do not think this would have happened in an FIC atmosphere. The grown ups would have held them back!

    But I do know many mega churches where the youth groups are ridiculous circuses. Michael Spenser wrote about this in his book…his experience with such.

  46. Bounded,

    (with friendly humor of course!) Don’t get me started on what a pile-o’-shit the “feely goody” “fuzzy” new math is. It’s one argument you ain’t gonna win. ==> (smiley face goes here)

  47. Lin
    I had two kids who could sit still quietly for an hour at 5 and one who was a wiggle worm.This was both in church or in adult situations. I agree that practice is good but is church a place for something more, if it can be provided? Some churches do a children’s sermon within the bigger service.

    Most parents I see with kids in church give them coloring books, etc to keep them entertained. It is my perception that most of those kids do not understand one word of the sermon and do not understand wither the prayers or the music. If that is the case, why not put them into an age appropriate group that teaches the Bible and gives messages on their level? Actually, I do not find this an issue one way or another. Most people work it out well in their families. the only thing I protest is a child who is being very loud, crying, and I am unable to hear the sermon cause the kid is sitting right behind me.

  48. Lots of things get labeled as “unbiblical”, but I think the term is often misused. Reminds me of The Princess Bride, when Indigo Montoya says to Vizzini, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”


    In my mind, there are three related, yet distinct, concepts:
    1. Unbiblical – meaning something is not specifically commanded in the Bible in a matter to which the Bible specifically speaks. (Example: Someone says it is a sin for Christians to drink wine, when the Bible speaks about drinking wine and does not call it a sin. Their claim that drinking wine is a sin is unbiblical.)
    2. Anti-biblical – meaning something that is specifically commanded against in the Bible, or a statement that contradicts the Bible. (Examples: idolatry, adultery, denying the deity of Christ.)
    3. Non-biblical – meaning something that is not specifically addressed in the Bible. (Examples: using musical instruments in church, Sunday school, light bulbs, automobiles.)

    Seems to me that a lot of folks use unbiblical when they mean anti-biblical, and much of the time what they are talking about is actually non-biblical.

  49. Dee,

    Since I have lived over here in the US,I have seen repeatedly the arguments about ‘taking religion out of the schools’ and perhaps its an ‘Anglo’ thing but my reaction has been ‘so what’.. Religion is not the responsibility of the Schools any more than the teaching of my children is the primary responsibility of the church. To answer your question about the rise of secularism in the public school fueling the need for Sunday School -not really.. I think public schools are reflecting societal changes in the nation as a whole and this is at the base of such changes.. Its a big subject to air on a blog like this but if you take the family in pre-war England and contrast it with the family today,its unrecognizable.. The acceptance of a different moral standard, a rejection of God and the decline of parental responsibility all has its impact upon the Church. We try to input Christian teaching into 1` hour on Sunday and perhaps a time in midweek to influence our children but its fighting against the tide. As to the use of Mega churches trying to use children to ‘catch’ the parents.. Maybe so Dee, but I come back to the question,what is the prime purpose of our Sunday Schools..? Instead of replacing the non-teaching of the unbelieving parents,we now have Sunday Schools teaching our children what believing parents should be teaching them,because of the need for parents to work in both a 1 parent family and a 2 parent one..
    The rise of the Para Church movement in UK and US has been another means of combating the rise of secularism especially in our colleges…
    I have probably written more than I should and trod on some toes and I ask forgiveness for my views should they be found wanting….

  50. Lin said: I don’t understand why it is considered so bad to expect a 5 year old to sit quietly for an hour.

    I don’t think it’s bad to expect a 5 year old to sit quietly for an hour. I do think it is bad to expect all 5 year olds to do so. Not all of them are wired the same way.

    FIC isn’t necessarily wrong, but expecting and demanding it as “the” one and only biblical way of doing church is, to borrow a word, unbiblical (using my definition above).

  51. Bah Humbug!

    5 year old children should be outside playing with other children, having fun and in the process learning some social skills…NOT sitting in a building for an hour listening to theology in an attempt by their parents to impress other members of the congregation with how well they have raised their God fearing little children.

  52. Junkster

    Now I need you to define the word Biblical. For example the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

  53. Rusty
    You did not tread on my toes and I found your comments insightful. Thank you. In fact, I could not bear to think of putting religion back into the schools with who doing the deciding? The Muslims? The Wiccans? The Hindus?We live in a pluralistic society and we best get used to it.

    But, here is something to consider. It was the postwar family that somehow begat the radicalism of the 1960s. Could it be those families were looking good on the outside but still failing on the inside? You know, James Dean and Rebel Without a cause?

  54. Dee,
    That’s simply. Biblical = anything that agrees with the opinion of the person using the word “biblical”.

  55. Dee,

    It may be over-simplification but in my country,there was a reaction that had its roots in going through 2 World Wars in 25 years..People were questioning life and morals and willing to cast off the old beliefs and practices in search of new experiences. This was expressed in the music of the times etc [Beatles & Stones] and a belief that somehow their parents had made a mess of things…. I lived through it all and saw how powerless the church was to affect changing social attitudes. However,as in all times,God had not forgotten us and the late 60’s and 70’s and right up to the present day,we in UK experienced a radical renewal of the Holy Spirit which brought a much needed reality into our Christian faith. I digress alas from the subject of Sunday School and our need of it but it seems to me that we are in danger of relying on others to do what we are failing to do ourselves..

  56. Biblical schmiblical

    i feel like this “christianity” thing that I am part of (simply because I believe in God/father/son/holy spirit, cross/resurrection, etc.) should more accurately be termed “biblianity”. It’s starting to feel weird, unfamiliar.

  57. Dee,

    Thank you. I understand what you’re saying. I have read some of the comments from those at sgm churches. Those are the people I referred to in my comment–those that must punish in order to have ther children sit still, or greet someone according to some set standard, or whatever. Just trying to understand how it is that they feel they have to please their pastor so much and use innocent children to do it. So twisted.

  58. @ BR: I’m with you on the kids getting some fresh air and having fun!

    fwiw, some “higher” churches will have a childrens’ sermon early on in the service – it’s very participatory, involves the kids getting to ask questions, etc. And it’s brief. The little kids get dismissed to go to the nursery or kindergarten as soon as it’s over; the bigger kids are in Sunday school or doing other activities as part of Sunday school.

    Interestingly, the Jewish kids I grew up with always referred to their own Saturday (during the service) classes as Sunday school. I wouldn’t be surprised if the phrase has even wider currency now.

  59. also fwiw, I have some good (if kind of fragmentary) early memories of Sunday school teachers – one reason they stand out is that they genuinely cared about us (about me).

    Kids constantly encounter adults who will ask them questions but not truly listen to what they have to say. The Sunday school teachers who stand out in my mind are people who were the exact opposite – they treated kids as people who had something to say.

    And… I know some commenters might disagree, but I think it’s a good thing to have young kids in classes with someone-not-their parent teaching them. For one thing, if the teacher is a good one, the kids will likely feel able to ask things that they might never ask their parents about… especially if the teacher is the kind I just described. (I also think that’s an essential part of growing up – in other words, parents need to allow their children to think independently!)

    I guess you could say that nobody in the church where I grew up was overly concerned about indoctrination. I do know that it was normal and accepted for kids to go to Sunday school, and for parents to not feel like they should be running the whole show! (Most likely, more than a few of them were going to adult Sunday school classes anyway.)

    As for sitting through an hour+ of church – for kids – even those who sit politely are more than likely daydreaming and wishing they could be somewhere else. That’s exactly how I felt!

  60. @ Eagle: You got it. And (for those who never get married, or who marry relatively late in life), it gets harder as you get older.

    I often wondered why none of the single folks in That Church were ever invited to be part of some of the family outings and picnics that took place after church on a very regular basis.

    It’s not much fun going home to an empty apartment, though I’m sure a lot of those parents would have gladly traded places for an afternoon or two. 😉

  61. Eagle,

    We home schooled our children with none of the negative effects that you fear. Our children had an excellent education and they are excelling in college. My youngest daughter made the Dean’s list and the President’s list. She was home schooled K-12. She is extremely well mannered and has great social skills.

    Lee Anne

  62. What would you think of a parent who took their young children every week to sit and listen to speeches about existentialism and what effect it had on Marxist philosophy and sociology…maybe as a bonus children could sing each Sunday a cute little song to help them memorize Kant’s categorical imperative.

    Yet we seem to have no problem with subjecting those same children to weekly discourses on soteriology, eschatology and theodicy. Rewarding them for committing to memory passages of the Bible, formulaic prayers and even, on occasion, the apostolic and athenasian creeds!

    In my mind, both are nothing more than brainwashing and a form of abuse. It’s one thing to expose children to a variety of ideas, whether your own or those of others, but it’s quite another to indoctrinate and overwhelm them with “truths” they are ill equipped to understand or analyze.

  63. @ BR: I’ll be honest – I never paid attention to the sermon when I was growing up. The guy who was at our family’s church for aeons was probably one of the worst speakers I have ever heard, bar none. (In my entire life!) I know my folks weren’t thrilled with that aspect of his ministry, either… but he was a decent fellow otherwise, and cared a lot about people – which kind of canceled out his lack of “ept-ness” at preaching.

    the weird thing is that when I was in my early 20s, I heard another Lutheran pastor – who had gone to the same seminary as this guy, at the same time – preach (literally speak) in the exact same manner, right down to tone of voice and inflections. I figure they had the same homiletics professor, though why anyone would want to imitate someone who put people to sleep, I’m not sure… 😉

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but I was bored out of my skull by both of these guys. (Though in the latter case, I knew it had to have come from his seminary training and found him to be an animated and interesting conversationalist – go figure!)

  64. Eagle, you have to differentiate between the VF/AIG type homeschoolers who push YE, courtship etc (my experience is that they’re a loud-mouth minority) and the rest of us who are homeschooling for a variety of reasons, but definitely not so that we can be separated from an evil world. My homeschooling friends are pagan, Muslim, Catholic — and yes, evangelical, but what we all have in common is a belief in the value of our children as individuals and that homeschooling is the best way we know how to honor that. Other families with similar beliefs work hard to be engaged with their children’s school experience to make it work for their children in the same way. I do agree with you that parts of the hs movement is potentially very unhelpful and that if they think they’re somehow guaranteeing their children’s eternal security through systematic indoctrination in the inessentials, then many of them are in for a rude shock.

    I also liked your comment about the idolatry of marriage and family life. You’re spot on. For starters, if the Christians in the last couple of centuries had the same beliefs, there would never have been a missionary movement. I have a couple of older Christian friends who have never married and who have lived rich, faithful lives — it sickens me to think they would be condemned by these folks as somehow less faithful, or “unbiblical”.

  65. These people claim there is nothing in the Bible about non-parents teaching children about God, in a way aimed at the children.
    They should look at Ps. 78 again: Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, telling to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, …. That they may set their hope in God, And may not be like their fathers,
    This is not “we will not hide it from OUR children.” It is: “we will not hide it from THEIR children.” Would they teach, then, in a way that is aimed at the adults? It seems that Asaph (the Psalm writer)’s ilk believe the children could end up better than the parents if only people taught them well.
    So, I’d say non-parents teaching children is certainly mentioned in the Bible.

  66. Retha – here is how another translation reads:

    Psa 78:3 What we have heard and learned —
    that which our ancestors6 have told us —
    Psa 78:4 we will not hide from their descendants.
    We will tell the next generation
    about the Lord’s praiseworthy acts,
    about his strength and the amazing things he has done.

  67. “I don’t understand why so many parents want to home school their kids. In the long term I would suggest that many parents are crippling them for life and possibly a loss of faith.”

    Here are the reasons the people I know do it:

    1. The private schools are either full or too expensive

    2. Our school system still has busing still which means your kid might be on a school bus for 2 hours, and their school across town.

    3. They do not agree with the curriculum as in the socialist bent woven into most subjects.

    4. Very little instruction goes on in public school and most of the time is spent in disciplining all the disruptions from the kids who cannot sit still and listen for 30 minutes….because they have never had to. They have no experience listening quietly to adults :o)

    5. Some have taken their kids out because of bullying. It is getting worse. Not better.

  68. “@ Hippo… yeah neither would Paul or Jesus. Imagine two leaders who were single. Where oh where would they fit into the Focus on Everyone Elses’ Family agenda…””

    There is definitely an idolatry of marriage and family within these movements that ignore certain things in the New Covenant which can be boiled down to this when discussing this issue:

    Old Covenant: Be fruitful and multiply
    New Covenant: Go and make disciples

    Those disciples may be our own children or they might be children or adults in another forsaken land being witnessed to and cared for by SINGLE missionaries.

    These idolators of family ignore certain uncomfortable scriptures such as we find in 1 Corin about being single. Or in Luke 12 which are Jesus’ own words:

    49 “I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished! 51 Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. 52 For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three. 53 Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

    They also ignore the inconvenient Luke 8 where Joanna, a married woman, was not at home with her husband but following Jesus around and supporting Him from her own resources. Quite a scandal in that day!

  69. Paul suggested that it would be better for Christians to remain single, and only to marry if being celibate were not possible for them.

  70. Numo
    I agree with you about Sunday School. It was nice for my kids to hear from teachers other than myself and my husband. They are sometimes more willing to ask about dating and stuff like that. When they hear teachers, who they think are cool, backing up mom and dad, it means something to them. I have found that my kids have learned from me and others. And they often come to me to tell me things when the realize that my thoughts and their teachers’ thoughts are aligned.Sunday school helped my kids but then again, I am also expressive at home as well.

    And I agree about church.. My kids rarely got anything out of the service at young ages. It was more of a survival mode: make it through to the end.

  71. Eagle

    you are right. Many singles, divorced and otherwise have been left out in the cold by those in the church. They fully overlook the fact that Paul was single. i am not sure he would be allowed to be an elder or lead a small group today if he were in some churches.

  72. Eagle

    Speaking as one who has raise her children, I have found that it is a tough balance between raising kids to understand the differences of others and to make sure they are not indoctrinated into the differences of others.

    I still remember when my oldest was in kindergarten in the local elementary school. They were taught about religious celebrations around the world. But, when it came to Christmas, it was not mentioned. I asked the teacher about it and she said they were told to avoid Christian holidays in their curriculum. Now. I know that this is wrong and I could have fought it. However, I had a new baby and another child with a brain tumor. I had no fight in me.

    So, I decided to send her to a Christian school because I needed some stability. Now, Christian school was not a perfect panacea. I was up against very rich Christians who flaunted their wealth and that caused pressure on my kids. I disagree with some of the science they were taught. However, for me, that was my compromise that I supplemented at home. So, like all things, one must choose one’s imperfect solution that works best for his family. No one solution fits all.

  73. Bounded

    We all have our biases. i had a letter to the editor published in which i disagreed with the head of UNC Law school who said that religious beliefs should not be considered when a person votes. A person must vote by considering the secular good. I said to him that we all have biases that affect our decisions. Some of us admit it, others overlook it. So, if you were raised to believe that rich people who run companies are capitalistic pigs, most likely that sentiment will affect your voting habits. Why is a secular economic bias any better than a religious one? We are all biased in some way.

  74. “My kids rarely got anything out of the service at young ages. It was more of a survival mode: make it through to the end”

    I know most of the old hymns, word for word today, because I sat in church as a child. That, right there, makes it worth it to me. So many of them are words right from scripture. But anyway, no one sings them anymore and I am about the last person on the planet that still loves them in my age group! We sing them at home all the time because I want my child to know them.

  75. Dee, I can relate about sending your child to a Christian school. Certainly not perfect at all! For me, it was about choosing the right thing for the right age and what i was willing to take on at the time since we still have busing here. We have one of the largest school districts in the country even though our city is not that large.

    This year, in private school, there are 16 in one class. All elementary of course. The public schools have twice that number in each room. The greatest teachers in the world, have a hard time in that environment. My heart goes out to them.

  76. Dee,

    I’m not what you are referring to. If you are talking about “swaying” a child’s beliefs…I think it is wrong…unless it is for the child’s safety.

    I don’t think it is right to indoctrinate a child in a religion, philosophy, etc. until they have reached an age where they can comprehend the issue and come to their own, informed and well thought out opinions.

    For example, would you indoctrinate a child of 5 or 6 with the beliefs that abortion is wrong, euthanasia is a good thing, and all democrats are fiscally irresponsible? To do so, is to take advantage of the child’s trust and naivete.

    I don’t think it is a parent job to immerse and indoctrinate a child with their parent’s belief system. I think it is a parents job to teach children how to think critically and make their own informed opinions when the time comes.

  77. Lin

    After I became a Christian, I got a hymnal and taught myself all of the hymns that were well known. I can’t sing worth beans but I know the words.

  78. BR
    I believe you indoctrinate whether you think you do or not.It is human nature. And you live your life, even if you don’t say a word. And that life will also testify to your intrinsic beliefs.

  79. Dee,

    Your comment about religious celebrations reminds me of when my daughter was in public kindergarten 2 years ago. The entire kindergarten (about 6 classes) performed a musical about all of the Christmas traditions around the world – including Christianity. So, we had a Mary, Joseph, and baby doll for baby Jesus. My daughters have attended the same public elementary school for 5 years, and fortunately, we’ve been blessed with some wonderful Christian teachers who have expressed their faith to me.

    If there were huge problems in our public school district, I would be open to other options if they were affordable. The problem with private Christian schools in our area is that they aren’t affordable to families like ours. My husband and I aren’t high earners, live very modestly, and have 4 kids to educate (2 preschool boys are right behind our daughters). Even so, my husband isn’t a fan of private Christian schools. He went to private Christian schools in 2 different states until 10th grade. He, too, was up against very wealthy Christian kids who flaunted their wealth. They also bullied him and other kids, then played nice and recited their bible verses on Sunday mornings in their Daddy’s big church. My husband is 45, and homeschooling wasn’t even heard of. My in-laws thought they were doing the right thing by giving him a Christian education, despite the problems. They moved to Las Vegas when my husband was in high school, and he graduated from a very large public high school there. He said public education didn’t introduce him to the evils of the world – private Christian schools had. He said public school was the best thing that had ever happened to him. That said, public schools aren’t perfect, so if we were in a district with significant problems, I would consider homeschooling. I agree that each family must decide what is best for their particular situation and needs.

    As far as SS being unbiblical, the family-integrated church movement, and helicopter parents on steroids, please don’t get me started…. As I wrote to you in an email recently, I don’t even recognize who my brother has become because of his beliefs. I really believed that, once he was out of the seminary bubble and back in the real world, he’d return to normal. But he has immersed himself into these philosophies even more.

  80. Anonymous

    I agree with everything that you said. That is why I am a firm believer that everyone’s situation is different. I also believe that God leads each family into the right environment that will benefit them and their children. There seems to be such animosity be “proponents” for whatever form of education they select. In my close friends circle-I know folks who homeschool, charter school, Christian school, private secular school, public school, Montessori, etc. These kids are all awesome and so are their parents. And I have seen kids turn out bad from each of these groups as well. In fact, I have seen some weird stuff in Christian schools (how I educated my kids) and one day will write a post to demonstrate that there is no perfect solution. I hope i have conveyed that I am not sold on only one form of education.

    As for your brother, this Neo-calvinism stuff is all the current rage. You almost cannot escape it. Eventually, there will be a new phenom-there always is. With the way Driscoll’s stuff is catching on, the next Neo Calvinist thing will likely be full arm tattoos (which, I have learned are called arm sleeves) and plug pierced ears on pastors-so they look “relevant

  81. Lin, Hippiemama, Eagle:

    Many home school parents chose home schooling because, as HM put it so well, we want to honor the individuality of our children: their interests, learning styles, personality type, etc.

    Plus I would like to add it’s so much fun if you’re doing it right! Especially in the elementary years. =) My children and I enjoy each other’s company (though I admit this was not always the case in my daughter’s adolescent years). Learning together seemed (seems) an enjoyable thing to do.

    Like the other home school mom who posted (Elastigirl?) I do NOT belong to a Christian home school support group. We hang out with secular home school groups because religious indoctrination is not WHY we home school.

    I barely have time to get online these days, as I am going to community college full-time this semester, but when I saw WW was posting about home schooling, I made time to pop over. I only got through about half the comments though, so sorry if this post interrupts the flow.

    Oh, and finally, a junior high Sunday school teacher is one of the main contributors to my faith today. God love that man! If family was the only place I ever learned about Jesus, I guarantee I would be an atheist today- not because my single mom wasn’t a Christian, but because she was a horrible person.

    I fear that is true for so many of these FIC parents. To whom else would such paranoid delusions about the dangerous result of letting your children out of your sight one week a month appeal? Nope, I predict more atheist adults out of FIC churches than any other, and that the fundamentalist movement in America will give birth to lower percentages of Christians in the next generation, even though they are breeding like rabbits.

    Jesus never advocated the crazy ideas they have come up with concerning gender roles, dress, education, etc. He came preaching a gospel of inclusion, and literally took his message to the margins of society. He certainly wasn’t holed up at home, procreating and indoctrinating children as a means of godly living.

    I have a bumper sticker on the desk in front of me: “Jesus called. He wants his religion back.” Me, too.

  82. I find many parts of this topic very interesting. I googled Family Integrated Church because we just attended one, and in fact we do homeschool, and adopt, and it was just perfect! We have a highly traumatised daughter that just can’t handle being away from us. The other kids go to Sunday School just fine. But she is just too scared. She has been through too much. At our last church we did worship as a family, then my other kids went to Sunday School and she stayed with us, as did our infant. And then we moved due to military orders. And I can’t find a church that will “accept” our daughter in their sanctuary. Can you believe that!?!?! They pull us aside and won’t let her come in, or my baby sleeping on my shoulder. Why do they not trust us to make the right decision for our family? Do we need to list the disorders she deals with? I mean seriously! My husband was away at military training and just came back. They stopped us, Me with my baby sleeping on my shoulder, and him holding our adopted daughter. They wouldn’t let us in! So he came with me to the cry room. Then 3 different people at different times came in and told us that my husband would have to leave if another woman came in. So where would he go? Alone into church while I sat with both kids? Church is a family time activity! I wish I could find a church where we can worship and learn about Jesus as a family.