What Most Sunday School Curriculum Gets Wrong

In a recent study they found that “religious” kids were much less generous than those who weren’t. Initially this comes as a shock because doesn’t the church teach us to behave better than that? Aren’t the lessons of Scripture about loving others and loving Jesus?

How do we go from what what Scripture teaches to what we see in these study results?

I think it’s the “law of the Pharisees”. (I made that term up, by the way!)

We’ve gotten really good at communicating facts and figures in Sunday School. Most kids leave their early Sunday School years knowing who Noah, Moses, Joseph, Paul, and Peter are. Yet they never act like them. Fewer and fewer kids are “daring to be a Daniel”.

That is the “law of the Pharisees”….knowing Scripture really well and still missing the point.

The Pharisees knew the rules and the Scriptures better than most people, but they were terrible at living it out. In fact Jesus was harder on them than almost anyone else in Scripture.

Knowing the Bible doesn’t equal living it out. Or to say it a different way, “knowledge puffs up, love builds up”


We’ve gotten really good at puffing kids up with Bible knowledge. So why are we surprised when they act like Pharisees once they leave the building?

This is why I think we need to reevaluate what we look for in Sunday School curriculum. If the goal of teaching kids is to drill facts and stories into their heads than traditional curriculum approaches work. But if the goal is life change and transformation we need to change our focus a bit, because according to research studies, like the one linked to above, our approaches have not been, on the whole very effective. Kids are growing up knowing all the facts of the Bible, but still missing the point.

I think Jesus said it best when he was asked to sum up all of the law and the commandments. He basically answered with one word…love.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “Live the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.”

Matthew 22:36-38

If we aren’t careful we are going to train kids that the point of church is to learn more about the Bible. The truth is the point of church should be to learn more about the Saviour. When kids are pointed to the Savior they stop acting “religious” and they start loving like Jesus.

This topic is much more nuanced than one pithy blog post can ever cover. But I wanted to “poke” a bit at the current system to see if we can continue to evaluate how to train kids up to love like Jesus.

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