We all know and appreciate the progression of a child’s ability to read and write. To begin with, it’s an informal process as infants and toddlers listen to the conversations of those around them and begin to pick up bits and pieces of language—words and their meanings. But at the same time, we also understand the need for intentional, age-appropriate teaching. For example, we help young children connect the objects they see with corresponding words. We speak to them at “their level.” Then more formal instruction takes place as we teach them individual letters. We demonstrate how to spell and sound out simple words. Next comes constructing sentences and applying the rules of grammar. On and on, step-by-step, this process slowly progresses. Over time, both the formal and informal instruction serve to produce a vibrant, functional literacy. I think this example illustrates something very important about teaching the Gospel to children. There is a place and necessity for both informal and formal instruction. Children Desiring God curricula would be an example of formal instruction. By design, formal instruction will take a somewhat different (and much slower) approach. It incorporates an age-appropriate, step-by-step progression. But that’s where the misunderstanding and frustration may enter in. Take for example these concerns that are sometimes expressed about our curricula:
- Your beginning preschool curriculum is based on the Old Testament and doesn’t include Jesus and the Gospel. Why is that?
- Why do so many lessons seem to focus on God and not Jesus?
- Why do you talk about sin so much with children?
- Why don’t all of your lessons present the Gospel?
- Won’t lessons that focus on God’s commands lead to moralism?
These kinds of questions come from a sincere and proper desire to highlight the Gospel of Christ in all we teach in the classroom. But they also bring to light a need for clarification regarding the role of an incremental, age-appropriate, formal model in teaching children the Gospel. For example, we believe that one of the first steps in formal Gospel education is teaching children a type of Gospel “alphabet.” This Gospel alphabet includes the biblical truths and concepts necessary for rightly knowing and understanding the Gospel of Jesus. In time, and by God’s grace, our prayer is that this formal teaching, along with the many hours of informal teaching they receive, will serve to produce in them a vibrant faith in Christ. Read The Gospel Alphabet—Teaching the “Antecedents” for more specifics about the Gospel “alphabet.”