|Long-haired hippie Jesus|
I’ve preached a lot on the subject of “Suffer the Children," in reference to allowing all infants and children in the church service with their parents. Keeping the family together for every service is biblical and commonly known as being "family integrated." Children’s Sunday School classes, junior church, and vacation Bible school may seem harmless, but there are some serious problems with these programs.
Most parents are aware of the risks of letting their young children out of their sight, so they feel better when there is a window on the door and perhaps two adults supervising the class. Some children’s ministries have more of these safeguards in place than others, but do people know what their children are being taught?
One of the problems with having multiple Sunday school classes—even for adults—is that there usually aren’t enough people in a church who are qualified to teach the Bible. My dad taught me to always opt for “the pastor’s class” when visiting a church since the other adult Sunday school teachers might be more liberal. If you’ve attended more than one Sunday school class, you will probably agree with this rule of thumb.
If you think it’s any better in the children’s classes, you’re wrong. There is a popular school of thought that actually encourages churches to give new converts their own ministries as soon as possible in order to keep them attending church faithfully. These newbies may not be knowledgeable enough to impress other adults, so they have them start out teaching children’s classes. Even a mature Christian who has attended a church for decades will not necessarily be in agreement with the pastor doctrinally.
I know what you are thinking. You’re going to tell me that your pastor purchases or writes the Sunday school curriculum and that all Sunday school students are being taught the same lesson—just on a different level, geared toward their own age group. A lot of churches have that policy, and it sounds good in theory, but I’ve heard of too many instances where a teacher goes renegade.
In one church, a vacation Bible school teacher whispered to the students that repenting of sin is necessary for salvation. Obviously, this infiltrator knew that what he was saying was different than what the pastor of the church believed and preached, which is why he was being sneaky. Older kids will sometimes catch stuff like that and tell their parents, but what about a four or five year old?
Even if the deviation from the lesson is not intentional, a lot of female teachers with very little discernment will get ideas for crafts and other supplemental materials from Pinterest. Who knows which denomination or Bible version those craft templates might be coming from?
Recently, a Sunday school teacher at a friend's church handed out a puzzle and had very young children piece together a long-haired “Jesus.” Keep in mind, the official curriculum handout was from an IFB source that would never portray the Lord that way, but the teacher had added something of her own.
“But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” 1 Timothy 2:12
I don’t recommend letting young children out of your sight, but I can understand why people are more torn when it comes to teenagers. They want their kids to have fellowship with and eventually date like-minded believers. The teens seem to mingle more after the service in family integrated churches like ours than they do in a church that has Sunday school, so some parents feel like their son or daughter has to attend the teen Sunday school class for a while just to get to know the other teenagers.
Savvy older children and teenagers will often pick up on false doctrine, hypocrisy, and Pharisaical attitudes from ministry workers. They’ll see right through it and may even tell their parents, but could bad Sunday school teachers and youth leaders be causing your teenager to become disillusioned about church?
People understandably want to fit in and get on board with the programs in their church but at what cost? We need more family integrated churches across America and around the world, so that people aren’t faced with the dilemma of whether or not to drop their children off in a questionable class. Age segregation in churches has so many drawbacks and just isn’t biblical. Ideally, Christian parents should find a pastor worth following, and then let their children sit in and listen to him too.
Here is a sermon on why our church is family-integrated.