What is our kids theology and worldview today? Christian Smith, prolific author and sociology professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, coined the term “moralistic therapeutic deism” to describe it. The creed of this “religion” looks something like this in today’s kids’ theology and worldview.
- A god who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth.
- God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
- The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
- God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
- Good people go to heaven when they die.
I [Becky Fischer] have to say from my experience with kids, this is pretty accurate. And the problem is, it’s not just the worldly kids theology from unsaved homes who believe this way. It’s OUR kids from many of our born again families. This has to concern those of us who truly care about establishing the kingdom of God on earth and discipling people in the faith of Jesus Christ.
An Anemic View of God
There are probably many causes for this weak and anemic view of God and religion in our children. But let’s examine just one. This has to do with the typical spiritual “diet” we have given kids in our children’s ministries over the last twenty to thirty years. Go into any bookstore in the world, and you will see basically the same menu of topics for our children: the same basic 52 Bible stories, the Ten Commandments, the Armor of God, the fruits of the Spirit, obedience to parents, topics like fear, sharing, and other character building issues, Christmas, Easter, why we don’t do Halloween, and thankfully salvation. Of course, these are great things to teach kids. They are important parts to the spiritual education process.
However, if this is all we teach our kids, are we perhaps underestimating their ability to comprehend and embrace deeper doctrinal truths? Have we been guilty of feeding our children spiritual milk seldom presenting them with real meat they can sink their spiritual teeth into?
According to George Barna the average 13 year old who has gone through our Sunday Schools feels he knows everything there is to know about God and has no further reason for going to church. Anyone who truly knows how to dig into the word of God cannot possibly come away with this attitude. So we have to look at this diet we have been feeding them and ask ourselves, “Was it enough to cause them to grow spiritually?” Is this result of feeding them nothing put milk for the first twelve years of their lives? Thus we are left with a moralistic therapeutic deism doctrine.
Watch Out for Controversy
In some circles we have been careful not to give our kids anything too controversial, or anything that could be deemed “over their heads” spiritually. As a result we have given them a lifetime of diet of spiritual pabulum. They are weak and spiritually malnourished, and few adults seem to notice because this is considered “normal.” We don’t typically put real high expectations on our kids for spiritual maturity and engagement. If adults do notice, they honestly do not know what to do about it. So our children graduate from our children’s ministries and Sunday Schools with little interest in God or His Word.
One of the interesting things about the traditional curriculums most churches use in their Sunday Schools and children’s churches is understanding the dilemma publishers find themselves in. As much as they love children and have their best interests at heart, they are first of all in business to make money. If they don’t make money they will go out of business. It’s just that simple. To make money they have to sell as many curriculums as possible. To sell as many curriculums as possible, they have to write topics that reach across denominational lines. In other words, they have to be the Christian version of “politically correct.”
This means they have to avoid real meaty issues like water baptism, for example. Do we dunk or do we sprinkle? If you want both mindsets to buy your curriculum, you will just have to avoid the issue. How about Jesus coming back to earth again? Pre-trib? Mid-trib? Post-trib? There is such a wide variety of beliefs about this on, it would almost be impossible to teach on this subject and keep anybody happy. But it should be taught.
Are You Pentecostal or Charismatic?
How about issues about the baptism in the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues? Talk about a hot topic! If you want traditional evangelicals to buy your curriculum, you won’t touch that one with a ten foot pole! How about topics like healing the sick? Miracles? Signs and wonders? If you a part of the Pentecostal or Charismatic persuasion, like we are in this ministry, those are hard core doctrines that have defined who we are and how we live out our Christian walk.
But even the Pentecostal and Charismatic denominations avoid too much of this, because they do not want to chase off any unbelievers or new people who come to their churches. So, their own children are never taught their very own doctrinal beliefs. We have so-called Pentecostal kids being raised in churches who have no idea what that means.
Once you remove all of the controversial topics and doctrines, you are pretty much back to the basic 52 Bible stories and the fruits of the Spirit.
The Least Biblically Literate Generation
But somehow, we must gather our wits and address these issues. Researchers have told us this generation is the least biblically literate of any generation in American history. How can one come out of our Sunday Schools and youth ministries for twelve to eighteen years and be biblically illiterate? Think about that for a moment. What are the implications for our children, churches, families, and culture if this doesn’t change? What this means is our kids don’t know enough about the Bible to be able to make choices and life decisions based on the word of God. Without the Word we are standing on sinking sand.
We cannot afford to ignore the issue any longer.
For help or more information, see “What to Teach Children and Why.” Click here.
Kids in Ministry International
PO Box 549 * 111 Collins Avenue
Mandan, ND 58554