It is an exciting time at Westminster Baptist Church. With the new year we have launched a new and exciting mid-service children’s program. One might call Kingdom Cadets our new Children’s Church, though for various reasons we are not the fondest of that term. Kingdom Cadets has been in the making for over a year, but it began to take form just a few weeks ago. While Kingdom Cadets may be inspired by multiple children’s programs, Kingdom Cadets can only be found at our local church. Kingdom Cadets and it’s toddler version Kingdom Toddlers were created in house for our church alone. Kingdom Cadets stems from the vision that each church is unique and even the spiritual needs of children are going to vary substantially not only from region to region but from congregation to congregation.
I have no desire to condemn churches that exclusively purchase outside children’s programs. Many churches lack theologically aware man power or resources to create their own children’s programs and good Gospel centered children’s programs have their benefit to every church that uses them. At WBC we do not have the current ability to create our own Sunday School and thus we are more than thankful for the incredible work of Lifeway’s The Gospel Project, however we are glad to have the ability to tackle our own unique needs and desires with an original curriculum for each of our worship services.
Kingdom Cadets strives to be an especially Gospel-centered program. While Gospel-centered kids curriculums have started to pop up here and there over the past several years, unfortunately most church children’s programs are far more focused on passing on good morals than passing on the saving message of Jesus Christ. As I pursued the future of what we would teach our children during our contemporary worship service, it became apparent that the vast majority of children’s program only really teach about the cross of Christ on their Easter message. The thought of relegating the most central tenant of our faith to a once a year celebration was truly appalling to me. One curriculum brought to my intention even asked the teachers to essentially pass down an ancient heresy known as Pelagianism. This lack of Gospel focus makes the scriptures into a collection of moral stories, one of which being the atonement. These curriculums look for morality lessons from every part of scripture, whether it be teaching the David and Goliath story as a lesson about bravery or Jesus’ parable of the sower and the seeds as a lesson about making good choices. In all honesty there is little distinctively Christian about most church children’s curriculums; one could easily sub out the bible stories with any number of fables and the lessons would essentially be the same.
With Kingdom Cadets we not only attempt to put the Gospel on display with every lesson, we attempt to show how each part of the Bible is first and foremost a page on the story of salvation by King Jesus. Our curriculum is unique and complements The Gospel Project because instead of showing how the Bible stories are about God’s plan of salvation but we show how each book of the Bible tells that story (And yes, that includes Leviticus). We indeed typically try to give kids practical ways to serve King Jesus related to the week’s book, but this is only a response to the wonderful truth of what God has done for us as revealed in all of the Bible. I am aware with our toddler program that few toddlers can handle more than a single take away, so we try to make them see the beauty of Christ far before they can head on a moralistic path.
One could argue if all we sought was a Gospel-minded curriculum, our church could have selected one of the handful or so of other Gospel-minded curriculums one can purchase. While indeed curriculums like Treasuring Christ, Desiring God Children, and Praise Factory are excellent programs and our church would be greatly benefited by using them, the reality is that those curriculums were first and foremost written by certain churches for the children at those churches. Our children are not the children at Bethlehem Baptist Church nor is our church Sovereign Grace Church. Our church like every other one is unique, with its unique concerns, unique children, unique volunteers (with unique strengths I can play to) and to some degree unique theology. As a Family Pastor I am in a position to know the needs and theology of our church far better than a publisher, and as a pastor period I want to comb through anything taught at our church with a fine toothed comb anyway. With our unique curriculum we can minister to WBC kids in a very WBC way and I can emphasize things that our kids are less aware of than perhaps other children. Our church teaches children doctrinally through something we call NorthStar Points (this was taken from a document produced by Sojourn Community Church) and with our unique curriculum we can incorporate these seamlessly. We will be able to teach our children believer’s baptism and other distinctives we hold to but a purchased curriculum may not. We are even able to take advantage of the seasons in northern Maryland by scheduling seasonal permitting activities rather than just the stock crafts.
Like most pastors sometimes I can be more doctrinal than entertaining. To some degree every kids curriculum makes a decision to be either more fun or more informative and our church is able to set the pace that suits us with in house curriculum and I am even able to take advantage of my educator wife who will provide balance and relevance to our curriculum. Every church has to make a decision for themselves about kids curriculums, and I urge churches that are equipped to consider creating your own Gospel-centered curriculum. These local church curriculums may not be as polished as what comes from a publishing company, but it will meet the needs of your children like only you can. For those who teach children but serve under a selected curriculum, follow these same principles and make sure what you are teaching is Biblical as you try to engage your unique audience in a way that is relevant to them. If you find this curriculum is more concerned with children learning good morals than learning the Gospel, make every effort to change that curriculum. When it comes to eternity, what we teach our children is one of the most important decisions a church will ever make. I urge you to prayerfully make that decision with concern for the Gospel over morals and with concern for the children you serve more than children in general.