Russell Moore on the Importance of Children Going to Sunday School

A friend of mine, an amazingly effective Bible teacher, once told me that he was turned down by his church to teach children’s Sunday school. The reason, he said, wasn’t that the church didn’t think he was gifted to teach but that he was too gifted. They wanted him to teach adult discipleship classes, so they didn’t want to “waste” him on children’s Sunday school.

That statement was one of the saddest and most self-destructive things I’ve ever heard from a church.

How Sunday School Transformed Me

I’ve often said that I wouldn’t want to have to choose between my seminary education and my childhood years in Sunday school, but if forced I would choose Sunday school each time. Now that’s saying something since I believe so strongly in seminary education, and gave most of my ministry to it. I’d never want to give that up. But as important as theological education was for me, Sunday school was more so.

There was nothing about my Sunday school experience that would be commended by a seminar on children’s development or Bible teaching. My teachers weren’t theologically trained, and probably not one of them could have explained the hypostatic union or the Pauline doctrine of election. They also weren’t pedagogically equipped. Some just had us go around the room taking turns reading, monotone, from the curriculum shipped from the denominational publishing house. Sometimes the biblical text was incomprehensible to us, since we were, at the time, a King James Version-only church (not out of some theological conviction but because we didn’t know about other translations).

And yet, Sunday school transformed my life.

What I needed was the slow repetition, over years and years, of the Word of God. What I sometimes find among Christians is knowledge of systematic theology in one tribe or of biblical moral principles in another—without knowing the narrative of the text itself. Some Christians know how to argue their view of whether Romans 7 describes pre- or post-conversion experience but don’t know the difference between Rehoboam and Jeroboam, between Abigail and Michal. We would all—as gospel Christians—affirm the entirety of the Bible as necessary and profitable, but still might, if we’re honest, think that knowledge of the text’s details—rather than the theology or life principles arising from it—is more about Bible trivia than the Christian life. If so, we are wrong.

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