Beginning at Moses
In the June and July issues, this department win feature various aspects of summer camp work with children.
Should a Sunday school have a curriculum? No one doubts that a day school should, but common practice indicates that many assembly Sunday schools prefer to get along without one. Is this good or bad?
First of all, what is a curriculum? In Latin, the word referred to a course over which races were run, and this is suggestive of a plan, a sense of direction, determination, and a goal to be achieved — essential features often conspicuously lacking in the teaching done in Sunday schools which operate without a curriculum.
In our language, a curriculum is a course of study; i.e., a plan whereby the study of a subject may be carried out with a sense of direction. In other words, a curriculum is simply a plan of study, indicating the order in which the various parts of the subject are to be studied.
The Lord’s Plan
After His resurrection, Jesus used a planned arrangement of material to convince His doubting disciples that He Himself was the ultimate fulfilment of the Old Testament Scriptures.
“Beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself … all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning Me” (Luke 24:27,44).
It is particularly important to note that He covered the whole of the Scriptures in this exposition, for the Sunday school which uses a curriculum will find that its greatest value lies in its almost certain guarantee that all of the Bible will be taught to all of the children in the school.
The Spirit’s Work
A comprehensive acquaintance with the full range of divine truth was promised His disciples when Jesus told them about the coming Holy Spirit (John 16:13). Endued with the Spirit’s power, they were to teach others to observe all things that the Lord had commanded them (Matt. 28:20).
And although he was not there to receive the great commission in person, Paul could claim without contradiction that he had carried out the Lord’s instructions, having “not shunned to declare … all the counsel of God” to all men wherever he went (Acts 19:10; 20:27)
Obviously then, the nature and extent of the Spirit’s work, as well as the examples set by the Lord and His apostles, make it quite clear that the major objectives of Sunday school effort must include a comprehensive coverage of the whole Bible (See also “Why Sunday Schools?” Food for the Flock, September 1959, page 173; “Let Us Sow More Seed,” June 1958, page 113).
Once this objective is accepted, the problem then becomes this: how are we going to make sure that all of the Bible will be taught to all of the children?
Perfect coverage for every child is obviously impossible. But this limitation cannot legitimately be used as an excuse for not doing a great deal better than we are at present. Evidence abounds that children passing through many of our Sunday schools today are being exposed to only a limited range of Bible books and teaching. If we choose to dodge the question of method in seeking a solution to this problem, then either we have failed to recognize the seriousness of the situation or we are simply too lazy and indifferent to bother doing anything about it.
Spiritual problems require spiritual solutions, and these can be attained only in the light of God’s Word and in fellowship with the Holy Spirit. Human solutions, however imaginative or clever, are quite inadequate to deliver us from our current situation. Previous articles in this current series have underlined the same point repeatedly.
Only spiritually qualified teachers, devoted to the study and the teaching of God’s Word, are competent to tackle the problem facing assembly Sunday schools today. The Bible is being taught neither as completely, nor as clearly, nor as carefully as it should be, and unless the Spirit of God gives us fresh insights into His own divine desire that all men should come to know all of God’s truth, we shall continue to flounder in the spiritual morass of partial, confused, and inadequate Bible knowledge.
Steps to Recovery
Only a recognition and confession of our failure can get us started on the right road. Then the elders of the assembly and the teachers of the school must seek the face of the Lord in the greatest earnestness, that He might be pleased to reveal the detailed, practical steps which are necessary in the case of each particular assembly.
The spiritual wisdom which is bound to come to those who ask aright (Jas. 1:5) will inevitably result in the adoption of a more spiritual and a more effective approach to the problem of teaching the Bible to children in such a way that coverage will be more comprehensive, and more productive of spiritual results.
With the proper spiritual tone prevailing amongst the elders and Sunday school teachers, it is likely that even without adopting a deliberately planned curriculum for the school as a whole, a greater proportion of the Bible will be taught; and without any doubt whatsoever, the parts that are taught will be impressed upon young minds with far greater effectiveness than ever before.
At the same time, careful consideration should be given to the possibility of seeking, with the Lord’s help and guidance, a plan of action whereby the teaching at various levels in particular classes might be co-ordinated. Although purely man-made plans are of no avail, we cannot arbitrarily decide that the Spirit of God is unable to provide His people with divinely conceived and spiritually adequate plans for carrying out His intention that all of the Bible be taught to as many people as possible.
While human planning may be carnal, unspiritual, and displeasing to God, Christian planning is not necessarily so in every instance. Spiritually guided assemblies plan their weekly schedules of meetings. Spiritual Bible teachers plan their movements, their series of meetings, the contents of individual messages. And while all of these plans may be laid without the Spirit’s guidance, it is just as possible for them to be made in full accordance with His guidance.
Why then limit the Spirit’s ability to guide a group of elders and Sunday school teachers in the adoption of a Bible curriculum which will provide for the teaching of all the Scriptures to all the children?
That the Spirit will provide different answers and different plans for different situations is undoubtedly true. For some schools, the answer may be that no planned curriculum whatever should be adopted. For others, one of various possible curricula may be put to use.
If a school decides against a curriculum, there are two possible dangers which must be considered. For one thing, there is a danger that rejection of the idea of using a curriculum has been based on an implicit fear that there might be more work for the teaching staff. The possibility of great effort being required cannot be denied, but this surely cannot be regarded as a sound, scriptural basis for rejecting the idea.
The other danger is that, despite the best of intentions the whole Bible may not in fact be adequately covered; individual teachers may still go on covering only the limited range of topics and books with which they are best acquainted; from grade to grade, there may be a great deal of unprofitable overlapping; and consequently, the over-all result of the school’s work will be little better than what is already too prevalent.
In other words, the school which decides against the use of a planned curriculum, will be hard pressed to find a satisfactory substitute that will guarantee anything approaching a complete coverage of the Bible throughout a pupil’s years in the school. The fact of the matter is that teaching without a curriculum has already been tried on a very wide scale in a broad variety of situations — with very little in the way of convincing spiritual results to show for the effort.
For the school which decides to adopt a curriculum which will provide a planned course of study for the whole school, there are a number of possibilities.
For one thing, the school must decide on whether to use its own plan, or the plan of others. In either case, the decisions must be made in the light of all pertinent spiritual considerations, and the Lord’s answer must be sought with care.
There are numerous planned curricula available from various publishers; the merits of each must be assessed by each individual staff.
These curricula may be categorized in two main groups; namely, uniform and graded. The uniform type provides the same subject matter for all classes throughout the school for a given Sunday. The graded type provides different subject matter, suited to the various ages in the school. Both types are designed to cover the entire Bible in a given number of years, but some are of the opinion that the graded type usually does a more thorough job in this respect. This is because the uniform type involves the difficulty of making certain portions of the Bible intelligible to every grade in the school; whereas the graded type suits the subject matter to the student’s level.
But whatever might be our approach to the solution of this pressing problem, no one can do better than follow the Lord’s example, who, beginning at Moses, expounded unto His disciples in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself (Luke 24:27).