How Sunday Schools Are Raising the Subsequent Generation of Secular Humanists


How Sunday Schools Are Raising the Next Generation of Secular Humanists

Final year, for many causes, our family members had the chance to attend a couple of unique churches. Each and every time, we debriefed on what occurred in Sunday college and what the youngsters discovered. As they recounted their experiences, I was struck by how equivalent they have been to the stories I’ve heard from so numerous parents in the final couple of years even though speaking at churches and conferences.

Parents who take the discipleship of their youngsters seriously are commonly disappointed by the high-quality of their kids’ Sunday college system.

For instance, I asked people today on my blog’s Facebook web page a couple of weeks ago how they felt about the kids’ system at their church. The standard response was, “It’s OK. Normal stuff. Bible stories. Snack. Some songs. Perhaps a video. Practically nothing quite deep.”

It is nicely identified that at least 60% of youngsters are leaving Christianity by their early 20s currently, most turning to a secular worldview. There are a lot of components that go into that, but currently I want to speak about how Sunday college applications fail to be far more influential. Additional especially, I want to speak about how their failure to be far more influential outcomes in youngsters becoming a specific sort of secularist: the secular humanist (secular humanists are these who reject a belief in God but think they have a duty to be “good” people today).

To fully grasp why this takes place, we have to 1st fully grasp the function of culture in influencing our kids’ beliefs.

Cultural Influence is Stronger Than You Feel

I not too long ago study Dr. John Marriott’s new book, A Recipe for Disaster: 4 Techniques Churches and Parents Prepare Folks to Shed Their Faith and How they Can Instill a Faith That Endures. Marriott has spent a significant portion of his academic profession researching components behind deconversions from Christianity to atheism. In his book, he describes how churches and parents inadvertently set youngsters up for faith crises by “over-preparing, beneath-preparing, ill-preparing, and painfully-preparing” them for the planet.

Marriott’s chapter on beneath-preparation and how churches and parents normally fail to appreciate the energy of culture is particularly strong. It sheds a great deal light on why the church practical experience is so essential for kids—and why it so normally does not have the influence it need to. I can not do complete justice to Marriott’s perform and insights right here, but I want to highlight a crucial point from that chapter as it relates to my existing subject.

Marriott defines culture as “a extensive, shared set of largely subconscious assumptions and values of a group that are the solution of each history and institutions, and which constitutes for them a social ‘reality.’ It is the space in which we reside and move and have our becoming. As such, it has unbelievable energy to shape the sort of people today we are and what we accept as affordable and moral” (emphasis mine).

We usually assume that what we think is basically what is most rational, as determined by our cognitive skills. As Marriott points out, even so, that is only component of the story. He explains, “Ideas do not originate, look affordable, and discover acceptance in a vacuum they do so inside social settings and circumstances that make them look either plausible or not. But, and this is vital, the function of culture in influencing claims as plausible or rational is subversive. By that, I imply that the plausibility and rationality of claims is felt, not apprehended cognitively. Culture does its formative perform at the affective level of the gut, not the intellectual level of the head” (emphasis mine—more on these words in a minute).

What’s the implication right here? When a society buys into a offered interpretation of the planet, it legitimizes that interpretation, and it does so at the deepest gut level, regardless of what your personal considering may perhaps otherwise inform you. Take into consideration Europe in the middle ages, for instance. Almost every person held a Christian worldview. The church played a function in just about every component of life and just about every level of society, like the financial, social, intellectual, and cultural lives of all Europeans. The prevalence of the Christian worldview in culture reinforced its rationality. If the medieval church didn’t do a superior job of explaining to people today why they need to think Christianity is accurate, it wasn’t as important for justifying their beliefs—those beliefs have been currently legitimized by culture.

These days, even so, it is secularism that is legitimized by culture. Belief in the supernatural—that something beyond the all-natural planet exists—can no longer lean on society’s acceptance for its plausibility. Culture now shapes our kids’ gut-level reaction to God in a unfavorable way.

It is up to the church and parents to provide an even stronger response.

Exactly where Sunday Schools Go Incorrect

If you are familiar with my writing at all, you know that I’m continuously beating the drum of how parents have the key duty for their kids’ discipleship. None of this is to recommend I now feel that falls to the church.

But the church has a tremendous chance to come alongside parents and be an option culture that reshapes our kids’ gut-level reaction to a supernatural worldview in a optimistic way.

As I mentioned at the starting of the post, study demonstrates this is not taking place. Sunday schools are performing quite small to provide a powerful response to counter the culture narrative, and what they are performing is actively contributing to youngsters walking away to secular humanism.

Though a great deal could be mentioned as to how that takes place, I want to concentrate on 4 problematic themes I’ve personally observed in churches, and that I’ve inferred from my conversations with other parents about the Sunday college applications in their churches. Of course, this is a generalization. There are absolutely Sunday schools out there that do not match this profile, or only do so to a mild degree. But I’ve discovered these to be widespread difficulties.

1. Lessons concentrate on character improvement with out thoughtful ties to theism (a belief in God).

The predominant message youngsters get in numerous Sunday schools is that they need to be superior people today. They need to enjoy other individuals. They need to forgive. They need to share. They need to give to other individuals.

That is good. I want my youngsters to do all these points.

But there are critically essential concerns, offered the competing secular narrative, that are seldom discussed, like:

  • Why is it that we can get in touch with something superior? If God didn’t exist, there would be no objective basis for calling something superior or terrible. Anything would be a matter of opinion mainly because there would be no greater-than-human moral authority.
  • Why need to we be superior people today? If God didn’t exist, there would be no objective cause why any individual need to reside in any specific way. The word need to implies a moral obligation that can not logically exist in an atheistic planet.
  • What proof is there that God even exists?

No, these are not philosophical concerns youngsters can not fully grasp. In Speaking with Your Children about God, I give conversation guides for these and numerous associated subjects that are becoming employed with youngsters as young as 1st grade. It is not that it is not attainable it is that the church hasn’t woken up to the necessity. It is much easier to teach a lesson on becoming a beneficial buddy.

Lots of of these church youngsters will develop up to keep the worth of becoming “good,” but not fully grasp how the existence of God is required to define that (nor fully grasp why there’s superior cause to think He exists).


two. There’s not sufficient emphasis on understanding the identity of Jesus and why it matters.

Secular humanists normally appreciate Jesus as a “good moral teacher” in a way that irreligious people today with out a Christian background do not. And if you listen to the typical Sunday college lesson, you couldn’t be blamed for considering that was the standard church message as nicely. But whether or not Jesus was God tends to make all the distinction in the planet.

With the culture saying He was only a superior moral teacher, Sunday schools need to be responding by assisting youngsters answer concerns like:

  • Did Jesus definitely claim to be God?
  • Who did the disciples feel Jesus was?
  • Why did people today about Jesus conclude He wasn’t “just” a superior moral teacher, as so numerous people today think currently?
  • What distinction does it make if Jesus was God incarnate or just a superior moral teacher?

By not addressing these deeper concerns, Sunday schools prepare youngsters to appreciate Jesus’s moral teachings but also to drop their vague belief in his divinity as soon as the culture becomes the stronger narrative. After once more, we finish up with secular humanism.

three. Bible teaching is restricted to what’s in the Bible, and seldom addresses concerns about the Bible.

Children hear all about remarkable biblical miracles in church, then go into a planet that says these miracles are not attainable.


What are they to take from that intellectual tug-of-war?

If the Bible is going to be taken seriously, Sunday schools can not just retain retelling stories. They have to address why there’s cause to think these stories are basically accurate. In a planet that says the Bible is a book of fairy tales, Sunday schools need to proactively be answering concerns like:

  • How have been the books of the Bible chosen?
  • Why have been books left out of the Bible?
  • How do we know we can trust the Bible’s authors?
  • How do we know the Bible we have currently says what the authors initially wrote?
  • Does the Bible have errors and contradictions?

(If you are not positive how to answer these, they are all chapters in Maintaining Your Children on God’s Side.)

With out this information, youngsters can find out to appreciate secular humanist values like courage via David, leadership via Moses, or self-sacrifice via Jesus, but they will not have any cause to conclude the Bible is a accurate telling of reality that is authoritative for their lives. The stories they hear each and every week will develop into just 1 far more supply of literary moral inspiration for a secular humanist.

four. Churches are not supporting parents sufficient in discipleship, so parents finish up focusing on raising “nice” youngsters.

Some thing I regularly hear from parents is that the youngsters in their child’s Sunday college can be just as unfavorable of an influence as youngsters outdoors the church. I’m not speaking about points that would be all-natural for all youngsters to struggle with (basic sinfulness), but points that you may possibly count on to be unique with church-going households. For instance, it is widespread that youngsters in Sunday college are now telling other individuals in class that the Bible is not accurate or that believing in God is stupid.

In numerous instances, this is mainly because parents—even these with deep faith themselves—don’t know how to equip their personal youngsters for today’s planet. The culture has currently performed its perform at the gut level, the parents send their youngsters to Sunday college hoping to counter that, the Sunday college is not up to the job (for causes currently discussed), and the church ends up searching like the outdoors culture—a spot filled with youngsters who adhere to a secular worldview, consciously or not.

It is a vicious cycle. And couple of churches are functioning to equip parents with the understanding they have to have to respond faithfully to culture at household. Meanwhile, parents do what’s much easier and concentrate on raising youngsters with the sorts of “good values” any secular humanist would be proud of. These youngsters at some point discard Christianity in favor of basically becoming “good with out God.”

The church and parents shed the culture war with each other.

Final year, a group and I began a ministry to transform that: Grassroots Apologetics for Parents (GAP). GAP performs with neighborhood churches to launch and host chapters that equip parents with a deeper understanding of the Christian worldview and apologetics. Chapters comprehensive two 10- to 12-week research each and every year. Dozens of pilot chapters launched in the fall or are launching this Spring. Click right here to find out far more about bringing GAP to your church—we would enjoy to have you component of this movement.

It is going to take a lot for the church to catch up to the influence of culture. But it can be performed. Just as parents and the church can shed the culture war with each other, we can win the culture war with each other. It begins with the realization that the battle is taking place whether or not we want to fight or not. The option is then ours: Prepare and engage, or retain providing youngsters goldfish and playing games each and every Sunday.

If you are interested in curricula developed to take youngsters to this deeper level in churches and private schools, verify out Foundation Worldview Curriculum and Deep Roots Bible Curriculum.


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