More Cowbell Award V


More Cowbell!I don’t normally begin a week with a More Cowbell Award, but I spent most of last week ruminating on the topic, then spoke to someone who totally agreed with the need to give out an award for this. So the award that no one wants to win returns to smiting duties.

For those following the scorecard, the More Cowbell Award is Cerulean Sanctum’s virtual stoning of stupid, vacuous, and over-the-top trends in modern American Christianity. Previous More Cowbell Awards have gone to the Church Growth Movement, children’s choirs in adult CCM, Christian conspiracy theorists, and Christian adware.

What makes this fifth edition of the More Cowbell Award so unusual is that I have nothing funny to say about the award recipients. Truth is, I’m continually appalled by them. Worse yet, I don’t read a lot of Godbloggers blogging about this issue. And unlike some other More Cowbell Awards, I have professional training and experience that may actually qualify me (GASP!) to speak on the subject.

And what would that subject be?

Well, this More Cowbell Award is given to that sound and fury that signifies nothing, yet is remarkably prevalent in our churches on Sunday, and well known throughout the summer. In other words, the fifth installment of the More Cowbell Award is presented to

Children’s Christian Education Programs
(including Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and Summer Camp)

Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Let’s face it: most Christian education programs for kids are little more than babysitting functions wrapped in a Christianized veneer ultimately devoid of the Gospel message.

I don’t know the people designing the curricula used to teach kids about Christ, but all I can say is those folks are doing a horrendous disservice to the parents of those kids and the kids themselves. I used to design curricula for camps and was routinely horrified at the assumptions the curricula designers made about a child’s eternal state.

Somehow we’ve created this sheen about kids that says that all of them are flesh-and-blood Precious Moments figurines. That bedrock assumption fuels almost all learning materials aimed at little kids. But here’s the truth: All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Unless someone is born again, they have no relationship with God. Yet all of the Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and Summer Camp curricula I’ve ever come across overlooked that truth and naturally assumed that somehow every kid got magically saved by little fairy evangelists that hovered around their pillows for ten years and whispered the Gospel in their ears.

Is there anything more tragic than a kid who’s heard every “Bible story” in the world, but never once got a real Gospel presentation aimed at their age group? By the time they’re teens, I suspect most kids can recite the stories of David & Goliath, Moses & The Burning Bush, Joseph & His Coat of Many Colors, and any other “X & Y” story we can give them each Sunday, but they don’t know the Lord and they have no idea how to be saved.

Some reading this will yell, “Well, where are the parents?” and that’s a great point. But on the other hand, the parents are assuming their child is getting a “Christian Education” from “Christian Educators,” only to find out too late that this education never went beyond the crayoned picture their child brought home captioned with the message, “God made a rainbow!” God made a hell, too, and we certainly don’t want anyone to end up there.

Too harsh? I think we parents need to get more harsh. Yes, a child may get the Gospel message at home, but until it sinks in and makes a difference in his or her life, I don’t think we should encourage Christian educators to waste time on “Jesus wants me to be good” stuff that has no effect on an unregenerate soul.

When I worked in Christian Camping I automatically tossed all the curricula the camp gave me and went back to a clear presentation of our sin nature, our separation from God, our eternal destiny, Christ’s atoning work, and our need to die at the cross in order to be born again. Anything else was gravy, but at least the kids got the basis of the Gospel.

While we’re at it, let’s also clarify that “Ashley, did you ask Jesus into your heart?” coupled with little Ashley’s head nod does not equate to knowing that Ashley is born again. In fact, what’s the deal in so many churches with cajoling kids into asking Jesus into their hearts? My Bible doesn’t list that as being the mechanism for salvation. We know what the Bible says about leading a little one astray, don’t we? Well, evidently not.

Is it any wonder that 85% of kids drift away from church between the ages of thirteen and sixteen? They’ve been David & Goliath’ed and Noah’s Ark’ed to death, but they never heard about their own need to die at the cross and be born again. Again, am I being too harsh? Well, I double-dog dare you to find any presentation of the Gospel in this popular VBS program. Evidently, asking teens how they feel about Ashton Kutcher is more important than being saved and growing in knowledge of Jesus Christ.

I’m disgusted by the throwaway junk I see kids coming home with from Sunday School. Makes me sick to see the content of the typical VBS program. And don’t get me going on the stuff they teach kids at camp.

Am I the only one that feels this way? I guess I am, because I see little uproar from parents over the vapid Christian education their kids are getting outside the home.

39 thoughts on “More Cowbell Award V

  1. I can’t get into details publicly, but I will be trying to create a VBS to be used next summer, and have had some of the same thoughts as you. You say that the quality of such events is eternally lacking, and I agree. How would you set up such an event to make it better?

    • Doug,

      I’m in a rush this morning, but here are a few ideas:

      1. Set a different expectation than “We’re gonna have a blast! It’ll be fun, fun, fun!” Too many VBS programs make an idol of fun. Instead say, “we’re going to meet the King of the Universe!” or “Your life will be changed forever” or something along those lines.

      2. So many programs fail to use good visuals to teach. I once created a poster of two men that highlighted the difference spiritually between the old sin nature and the new Spirit-filled nature, using key Scriptures to highlight the differences. Those two posters put the differences in an unmistakable frame of reference. Even adults I worked with wanted copies. Clear visuals can make or break your work.

      3. Ask yourself, “What would I need to know if I were taking this program?” Then write that age-appropriately.

      4. Have a clear goal. So many programs have no “end game,” so to speak. What do you want to accomplish in one week? Then write to that.

      5. Talk to parents beforehand. Set an expectation with them and also listen to their recommendations. They know their kids better than you do. Get them involved.

      6. Always listen to the Holy Spirit. Pray at all times that you’ll be listening to the Spirit at all times. Find times away from the distractions of life so you can concentrate on hearing Him when you’re writing the curriculum.

      7. Don’t overdo the Bible references. For a VBS style teaching, you can only really get one or two Scriptures across to kids under ten. For older kids, no more than four or five. I’m seen teachers load their kids up with Scripture after Scripture and the truth is that the kids can only take one or two Scriptures and integrate them. Over a week of VBS, that amounts to about five to seven they can remember, so make the verses count.

      I’ll try to write some more suggestions later.

  2. Dire Dan, Prophet of Doom: “Too harsh?

    Well, maybe not. But my experience when growing up, all those many, many years ago, was almost the diametrical, polar opposite of what you’re describing. I was evangelized to death, nearly. There was plenty of presentation and preaching of the Gospel to us kids (the whole ten yards of it, our sinfulness, repentance, our need for Christ’s atonement, et al), constantly and incessantly, which was all very good to do. (Praise God for it!) The only trouble was—once the dust was settled and everybody was saved—somebody forgot to explained what was supposed to happen next. Okay, now what? It thus it happened that one was left hanging for a little while, and then you were evangelized again…and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, ad infinitum. Can you imagine the effect all this has on a young xtian to grow up like this? Why is the preacher asking me to question whether I’m saved or not, again and again and again and again and again and again and again. Good Heavens! Couldn’t our Savior, mighty to save, get it right the first time? I hope you understand what I am trying to explain here. Yet it was God’s goodness that got me through it all, with my sanity intact.

    But, as I said earlier to you, I haven’t so much lived a sheltered life as much as I simply have encountered different things than maybe you have.

  3. My pet peeve with the VBS scene: how cute and gimmicky it is. Hey, curriculum-designers, why don’t you just go ahead and say you think God is too boring to be worth studying unless you tack on something about Tasty Treats or Super Cool Underwater Bible Adventures (SCUBA)? Nauseating.

    As far as age-appropriate presentations of the gospel, I’d be interested in hearing more. My Sunday-school teaching time has only included 2 age groups. I did pre-K first. Yes, the 3 and 4 year olds did crayon pictures of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead and such. I hope they came out with some basic understanding that Jesus is the go-to for when life is messed up, scary, sad, and hopeless. But that’s as far as I got with 3 and 4 year olds. Currently I’m doing 6th-8th grade and they’re much easier to talk to. Most of them even have some idea that they aren’t actually little angels and something spooky is going on inside themselves. Which makes them more interested in what God has done about that in Christ.

    • Anne,

      Most kids under the age of eight are in a concrete reasoning stage. They don’t understand abstractions. Sadly, much of what we’re actually teaching in Christianity is abstract, though it doesn’t have to be.

      When we say to adults that “Jesus is the Rock,” they understand. But a child takes that literally. All that does is confuse kids. Is Jesus actually In the rock or are you talking about that He made it? Or is he really a rock? Can we throw Him through a window? That sounds foolish to us, but kids actually think along those lines.

      It astonishes me how much curricula uses inappropriate abstract reasoning with kids still in the concrete reasoning stage. Even worse, most of the songs kids sing in Sunday School and VBS are loaded with abstractions. Just yesterday afternoon, my son was singing songs he learned in Sunday School; those songs were non-stop abstractions. When I tried to unpack with him the meaning in the words he was singing, it was clear to me that he understood none of the abstractions he was mouthing. That’s a total failure.

      Ironically, the more Bible-based a church claims it is, the more likely it is that its Sunday School and VBS programs will be sailing over kid’s heads because of the concrete/abstract issue.

  4. Pastor Bob


    How closely have you really looked at any of these curriculums? If you look a little closer at the cirriculum you linked to, you’ll see there’s a clear gospel presentation in Day 4 of that curriculum. You linked to Day 1 which obviously is going to be more introductory, especially since that curriculum is geared more towards unchurched kids.

    I understand the heart behind your post, but I think your brush may be a bit broad again.


    • Bob,

      Starting off with “Jesus is our friend” flies in the face of good curriculum design. It assumes that everyone is a friend of Jesus, but that clearly isn’t true.

      As far as studying curriculum, I’ve seen tons of curricula over the years. The vast majority of it is not good. It’s too centered on the same kind of message we hear preached in today’s Church Growth Movement-afflicted churches. It’s all about how kids feel about the material and that’s a huge mistake. I don’t believe that kids have to be hammered over the head, but what they tend to get is featherweight.

      I almost never hear anything about the need for kids to come to the cross and die to self. Too adult a concept? I don’t think so. But just as so many churches no longer talk about the cross, so this is reflected in the teaching material we use with kids. The message becomes “Jesus can do all these things for me.” But that’s not the Gospel.

      • Pastor Bob

        You’re reversing the statement, Dan. The curriculum teaches that “Jesus is our friend,” not “we are Jesus’ friend.” The idea that Jesus is a “friend of sinners” is a very biblical concept (Luke 7), how is it harmful to teach that?

      • By the time you get to the middle-school years, the kids can hear that and understand that, about dying in the cross and being raised with Christ. But what about the crumb-cruncher age?

    • Bob,

      One other thing…

      The fault is not always the curricula. Most of the summer camp counselors I worked with over the years were ill-equipped (on a number of levels) to teach kids the Bible. My response to that is a whole ‘nother post in itself.

      Even within churches, the folks leading VBS and Sunday School may be well-intentioned, but they need more support to be as effective as they can be. When the material they get is substandard, it only makes things worse.

      What is the fundamental goal of each grade within the Sunday School program at your church? What is the purpose of VBS? How should each kid be different when he or she comes home from camp?

      Too often, there are no goals. Presenting the material becomes both the means and the ends. Again, it’s like hoping that the material is magic pixie dust that somehow effects a change in our kids. That’s wrong, but all too often that’s the mindset in Children’s Christian Education.

      Nope. It’s not just the curricula that’s the problem.

  5. I can appreciate the frustration with VBS, but I honestly wonder if the problem is the curriculum or if it’s the actual creation of VBS. I grew up going to several VBS experiences in high school and I was amazed at the number of people that showed up for a week and then were never seen again. As far as I could figure out, basically this was a time for me to grab all my unsaved friends and basically we did a seeker-sensitive version of the Gospel couched in entertainment. It’s part of the “marketing” scheme of the church.

    That being said, I think our skepticism should go further, but not without a solution. If we want to reach the unsaved in our community, wouldn’t a summer day care program be better? Let ’em drop the kids off and see how the church loves taking care of them while Single Mom goes to work. It’s about the relationships we build, not how many people pray “the prayer”. Or, my church in high school did open an actual youth center where ladies in the church would cook meals and the teens could come and hang out instead of going out drinking (I was in a small town). There, my sister and other youth workers, listened and cared and thus people came to know Christ.

    Just a thought.

  6. Dan,

    Great post! I was going to post a piece on this very topic later this week, but you beat me to the punch. By the way, this piece sounds very Calvinistic … but I won’t get into that!

    Thank you!

  7. Like I mentioned in my response to Doug, I used to do a summer camp teaching on the differences between the natural and the spiritual man. I taught that to kids 12 and up during a six year span. I used to ask at the end of the two-day session on this whether the kids had heard it before. Of the dozens of kids who heard that message, all responded that it was new to them. Not a single one said they’d heard it previously–and those teens had come from a wide swath of denominational backgrounds.

    To me, that teaching was foundational. If kids don’t know the spiritual realities that separate Christians from unbelievers, they’ll not grasp a whole lot that follows and plays off of that truth.

    What’s great about a teaching like that is that it hits home with both believers and unbelievers. It’s win-win. The Christian kids learn something new about their identity and the change they’ve gone through (plus the dire need for evangelism), and the non-Christian kids wind up getting the big picture about the need for Christ in lieu of the state of their souls.

    The problem here is that Christian teachers are mining the same old story in the same old way. Like Oengus wrote above, you hear the same thing over and over again. That’s not the fault of the Bible, but of the teachers and the curricula.

    Teaching on something like the distinction in natures is new and exciting to teens. I always got a huge response out of that teaching, more so than anything else I’d used previously. But it was tough work for me because I had to create it all myself. To this day, I’ve not seen anything like it. That’s a terrible indictment of the lack of creativity found in most curricula. Curriculum designers spend oodles of time trying to think up new themes and perspectives on activities, songs, and icebreaker questions, but when it comes to the actual Bible teaching, it’s the same stuff they’ve recycled over and over.

  8. Dan,

    I’m curious as to when you think a gospel message intended to save a soul is appropriate? The concept of sin, salvation, redemptions, forgiveness, eternal destiny and all that is over the head of a lot of kids. At a certain point they begin to be able understand it all. When do you see that happening? I think it’s different for every kid, but it’s certainly a rare 4-5 year old that can grasp it. I hear of 7, 8, 9 year olds getting saved and I wonder about that.

    This is something I’m genuinely curious about and don’t have any good answers for. If we assume the ‘all have sinned’ to really apply to all, that makes for some really bad news for parents of infants and toddlers who are lost to some tragedy or disease. Of course, if it doesn’t apply to all humans but to all adults, then when does one cross that line? I think I can make an experiential argument for that happening, but I can’t tell you when it happens and I cannot make a Biblical argument for it. The Bible is silent on this – doesn’t say if ‘all’ is all humans or all people of every age. There is no direct example of conversion of children, only adults, but there is no mention of the idea that children turn into ‘sinners’ at some point.

    It’s all a bit of a head scratcher for me. I tend to lean toward an age of accountability idea, that at some point a child understands good and evil and willfully chooses evil. That is the point they cross that line. When is that? I don’t know, around puberty or earlier maybe, but I suspect it’s different for every kid. Is that true? I don’t really know that either and I’m not sure how to reconcile my observations in my own life, my kids and other kids and the Biblical teaching on salvation.

    My oldest is 11 and her sister is 9 going 15, so these questions are very real for me now. All I can do is keep telling them about Jesus, be real and open about my weaknesses and show them theirs, pray a lot and have faith.

    • Doug,

      This is an exceedingly difficult question as to exactly when a child is considered saved. I’ll try to tackle it this week since I was already thinking about it today before you wrote.

      I think it was Jonathan Edwards who claimed to have been converted at age three. I spoke with someone this last week who claimed his kids were converted at four. Evidence of this? Well, you’d be hardpressed to provide the same kind of “I was a hardcore, drug-using, cigarette-smoking adulterer before I found Christ” showing up as the average testimony of a four year old.

      I wonder if the real answer there is shocking to us, breaking down some of the hallowed theology we’ve built up over time.

      • I’m looking forward to that post, Dan. On the saved 3 & 4 year olds, I would also go as far as saying that most kids under 8 or even 10 don’t understand the concepts good & evil or sin & righteousness. They get rules and punishment, good and bad behavior, but not ‘goodness’ and ‘badness’. That being the case, does it make sense that God would judge them on a concept they can’t grasp? I understand that God isn’t obliged to follow my sense of fairness, but I have a hard time seeing a ‘just’ god sending a 4 year old to hell just because they had the unfortunate ‘luck’ to be in a drunk driver’s way and they hadn’t matured enough to be saved yet.

        I think that there is perhaps mystery here on purpose. Just as we cannot see into an adult’s heart and know their destiny, God has made this transition from innocence to lost deliberately vague. Both force us to dig deeper, love them more, seek to know them more intimately, trust Him more, have greater faith and seek Him desperately because we can’t really know.

        I wonder if the real answer there is shocking to us, breaking down some of the hallowed theology we’ve built up over time.

        I would almost be shocked if it didn’t!

  9. James

    In a post by Steve Camp at, talking about worship, he quoted the growth expert George Barna as having this to say. “Busters do not believe in absolute truth. This means that they, for the most part, reject the Bible as having any real answers. Thus, proposing Jesus Christ as the solution to a person’s sin problem is not likely to make any significant impression. I’m just wondering if VBS as well as Sunday school is just an extension of churches trying to appeal to the masses for sake of growth.

    I don’t believe this is the case in all churches, but there is no doubt that the Gospel of Christ, the need for a personal relationship with Him and a dying to ones self has become watered down to the point of being completely ineffective.

    I have not looked into VBS programs from this angle, so I am not qualified to expound upon the subject. I will say that if these programs are an extension of much of the same diluted theology being spewed from the pulpits of Americas churches then it is no wonder the younger generations are turning out the way they are.

    • james,

      I find Camp positively quoting Barna’s polling to be humorous, given that Camp would never agree with anything else Barna says or writes. 😉

      I think a lot of churches begrudgingly run VBS programs. Seriously. They do it because they have to, not because they have a vision for reaching kids. That’s the wrong motivation.

  10. a few years ago we jettisoned our typical packaged SS kids curriculum for the grade school ages and replaced it with a 6 year through the Bible system developed at CC Costa Mesa. In my 3rd and 4th grade class i lead an inductive study with, on average, a dozen 9 and 10 year olds. this was the 6th year since we started so i was teaching from the minor epistles and revelation this year. there is not getting away from hell there. it was clear that there is only one way to get to heaven, with frequent opportunities to embark on that way for those who hadn’t in my class. it was really great. it was boring at times for the kids, but they got solid food for sure.

  11. Well, I have a few comments…

    First – as a songwriter for many well-known VBS projects, I know that I strive to be as true to scriptrue as possible, while, at the same time, creating songs that are MEMORABLE so that kids will RETAIN the essence of God’s Word. Is every song “the gospel?” No. Just like how every book of the Bible is not “the gospel.”

    Second – As I have read thru the “arguments” in this post and in the comments, it strikes me that we are missing something… one of the reasons we have CCM infiltrating our corporate worship gatherings is because “that brings in the younger worshipers…” I agree. I don’t think CCM is the ONLY way to worship – but it is A way to worship – and it pleases the Lord when people can be brought into a place where they can clearly HEAR and COMPREHEND God’s Word in ways that actually communicate to the recipient. The very same concept applies here… why NOT make learning about God “fun” for KIDS?? Why can’t we bring LIFE to those typically boring lessons? Yeah, sometimes we go too far… JUST LIKE IN “BIG CHURCH” when the pastor feels he needs to be David Letterman in order to retain his audience… I think a little less finger pointing is in order here… None of the VBS / SS publishers who I know (and I know ALL of them) are teaching herecy are they? If so, let’s SHUT THEM DOWN and be DONE with them.

    Third – I would love to see those who complain on this thread about current VBS or SS curriculum offerings design YOUR version of what SHOULD be used. Let’s see the RIGHT way to do it. I have found in life that it is far easier to point out the MISTAKES others are making, rather than actually getting off our Christian rear ends and doing the work ourselves…

    Sorry if I sound too mean – but this sort of high-brow complaining about companies that ARE making a difference for the Kingdom tends to ruffle my already ruffled feathers…

    Dan McGowan
    Proud Partner with Group, Gospel Light, Standard, LifeWay and other fine Christian publishers and producers who have a passion to reach children for Christ.

    • Dan,

      1 – Like I mentioned above, my not-yet-six-year-old son comes home singing kids songs he learned at church, but he doesn’t understand them because they use highly abstract concepts that he in his concrete stage of reasoning cannot understand. That’s a swing and a miss by both the song writers and the teachers.

      2 – You’ve brought up the great debate. Personally, I think there’s too much of the culture infiltrating the church and not the other way around. Relevancy is important, but relevancy should never have become the idol we’ve made it.

      3 – Well, some people have. I did. Billy Graham once said that the reason we’re losing young people is we’re giving them no challenge. I always write curriculum that is a step farther down the road than what kids are getting because it’s more challenging. Kids will rise to that challenge. But so much of what’s out there, even in adult curricula, is simply braindead in its approach because it’s devoid of all challenges.

      • I’m not really hoping to stir up a fight… all I am saying is that it is possible that some of your broad strokes here may not be accurate… All I know is that I don’t sit down to write songs that are so above kids heads that they cannot “get” the message… I’m also not new at this songwriting thing – no need to toss out all the credits – I am only suggesting that YOUR take on the weaknesses in Sunday School or VBS may simply be that – YOUR take… and that does not mean these companies go out of their way to dumb down the gospel. Again, all I can say is that I have worked very closely with a lot of the biggies out there and I know employees, etc. and their passion is to ensure that children come to a knowledge of what the Bible teaches. And, just to dig a bit deeper here – I still don’t hear any alternative BETTER plan being offered… is that coming? (wink wink).

    • Dan,

      One last thought.

      Sheer statistics (a la Barna) show we are NOT making a difference in our young peoples’ lives. In fact, they’re showing that most kids don’t make it out of college with their faith intact. Who’s at fault? Well, perhaps everyone in that chain of Christian education is, including the Sunday Schools, the VBSs, and summer camps.

  12. Paul Maeder

    Dan, I’m not much in touch these days with either Sunday School or VBS, but back in the 50’s I was exposed to Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF). My great aunt, Mary Fant, was a leader then in bringing CEF to Oklahoma City. It was (and still may be) a wonderful Christian program for kids, and I guarantee you heard the gospel message! I can’t vouch for CEF today, but you might be interested in checking them out:

    I can only tell you that the CEF (and my wonderful Aunt Mary, the finest Christian I’ve ever known) gave me a foundation that stood me in great stead when the Lord finally called me out of a life of sin.

    By the way, thank you for your blog. Sanity in Christ is such a pleasing thing to find.

  13. Chuck

    About a year ago, my pastor and several other students from the Baptist college in town and myself had a meeting to talk about ministry in general, and the topic of VBS came up. We asked, “What’s the purpose? Is it evangelistic? Discipleship oriented? Borh? Neither?” His response was interesting. He basically said that VBS as we know it is essentially a useless affair, and his goal was to help lead the church in a direction that would axe the typical VBS scheme in the long run. He called it the ‘SBC Sacred Cow’ and said that some people would equate the elimination of VBS with the coming of Antichrist.

  14. Chuck, I loved your comment here – because that same reaction can be applied to so many “sacred cows” in the church… sometimes I wonder if God is just waiting for us all to DECIDE to GET ALONG – and then, WHEN that happens, Jesus will return to His church…

    I can see how some might view some “clever” packaged curric. as a scheme – – certainly, some of them thru the years have been more scheme-atic than others… at the same time, and I say this again in love, I can complain all I want as to what a crummy job Plummer does as a Denver Broncos QB – – but until I go out onto the field and actually PLAY the game, I really should keep my mouth shut. As I said before, ANY of us can point our fingers and complain or criticize what OTHERS are doing… but until WE go out and do it, we really have no business criticizing those efforts.

    Case in point. A few years back, I had the privledge of working on a childrens’ video/TV show. It was broadcast on Christian TV and it was distributed on home video. It was not the most amazing piece of work ever created – it had flaws. But it also captivated children and we know of at least 12 people who came to know Christ because of it. Okay, not a big number – but it’s bigger than “zero.” Anyway, I gave the video to my sister to watch. She popped it in and she, and my parents, watched the video. All the way through the viewing, my sister pointed out all the flaws… “This is wrong, that was weak… etc.” When the video was over, my dad casually said to her, “Let’s put YOUR video on, now…” It was a subtle way of reminding her that while she might have some legit complaints or criticisms about my video, until SHE does one, it might be better to simply be quiet on the matter…

    We can complain all we want about all the “stuff” that is produced and created in the Christian market. Granted – some of it sucks. But let’s remember that until WE actually go out and DO THAT OURSELVES, we are really doing nothing more than creating division in the Kingdom when we point the fingers of criticism at those who are following the call of God on their lives to reach others for Christ.

    • ANY of us can point our fingers and complain or criticize what OTHERS are doing… but until WE go out and do it, we really have no business criticizing those efforts.


      You’re right in saying that some people can be critical while not thinking critically about an issue. Yes, there’s a difference there.

      However, while it can be said that volunteers can be held to a lesser standard, professional people have a responsibility to deliver the goods. If I’m being paid to do something (and curriculum designers ARE paid), then I need to deliver. If I don’t, I can’t use the excuse, “Well, smartypants, YOU try it.” I need to do my job right.

      The “well, you try it” thing doesn’t work when the surgeon amputates your left leg instead of removing your inflamed appendix. We hold doctors to an incredibly high standard for a reason. We should hold the people who are educating the next generation of Christians to equally high standards because the Bible does:

      Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.
      —James 3:1 ESV

      Clearly, people make spurious complaints. But not all complaints are misguided. Some really hurt because they’re exactly on target. Whether we listen to those complaints or not determines whether we maintain the status quo or improve.

      I wrote curricula professionally. God blessed that work because I never received any complaints about it. But I work today as a freelance commercial writer and I know that even my best work requires tweaks. I receive kudos all the time from customers and I’ve never had a client ever tell me the work was poorly written. But almost every client has some input on my initial drafts. If I ignore that input, my clients will take their work to someone who listens.

      I’ve made changes I really hated to work I’ve submitted to clients, but the customer is right because I have no job if they go elsewhere. If I ignore criticism, then I’m out of business.

      Dealing with criticism is critical. If Christian curriculum designers are dumbing down the Gospel or failing to present all of it, then they need to be held accountable. If volunteers are doing the work, I can excuse some issues. But professionals are called that for a reason, and they need to not only deliver, but accept criticism humbly.

  15. Hi Dan,

    There are those who “complain” about contemporary praise and worship music, trying to build a case that it does not belong in church nor honor God. They come up with all sorts of lofty sounding reasons and arguments to prove their point.

    The only problem is – they don’t HAVE a point.

    There is not one shred of teaching or support from the BIBLE (which is our source of truth, correct?) that anyone can turn to in order to PROVE that contemporary praise and worship music does NOT glorify, honor, or bring joy to the Lord. What it comes down to is an OPINION. Certainly, we can all maintain and offer our opinions on products and resources that are designed to enhance our Christian walk. But that is all they are – opinions. UNLESS (and this is the key) those products in question can be PROVEN to honestly and actually go AGAINST what the Bible teaches. And when that is true, YES, get rid of the junk!

    I have an opinion that some contemporary praise music is a bit weak. But that does not mean it cannot be used to glorify God. It only means that, IN MY OPINION, there is a BETTER CHOICE. But the music in question is not UNGodly, or UNholy.

    I admire the call to clarity and responsibility. But, again, as I have stated now three times – until ANYONE on this list comes up with BETTER curriculum, I proclaim that all we are doing, in reality, is helping to divide the Kingdom – not build it up.

    Again, I want to make sure I am CLEAR… if a product or resource is NOT IN LINE with Scripture, we need to lose it. A few years back, there was a video series for kids called “Noah’s Park.” The concept was cute – Noah, after ending up on dry land, creates a PARK where all the animals live and play. It was fun. It was clever. It was creative. AND – it had NOTHING to do with scripture. I would never have allowed that in my church because I did not want kids thinking that this REALLY happened. But this sort of twisting of God’s Word is RARE if you really stop and STUDY the VBS or SS Curric that is available for use in our churches.

    This is probably one of those “my side, your side” things. I know I’m not changing my mind on it (LOL) and I have a feeling a few on this thread ain’t changing their minds… but, isn’t it great to know that God, who is ALWAYS in control of EVERYTHING – – can STILL get His message to those who have ears to hear and eyes to see? Hallelujah!

  16. Dan,

    Well, after many months of reading many of your posts that I agree with, you finally wrote one that I think you’re really off base on. While I do share some of the concerns you have (watered down Gospel message ect.) I think your way off base in criticizing the one you specifically linked to.

    This past week my home church held their VBS program, and used the very curriculum you link to and criticized in your post. I have 4 kids, 3 of whom would be eligible to attended the program (ages 4 to 6th grade). So I volunteered to help out and got assigned a group of age 4 preschoolers… 8 kids in all. I was a crew leader that helped get all 8 kids area to area. First stop was the craft area ( to make some throw away junk I suppose), next stop was Bible story time, where yes, the teacher opened a Bible at the beginning of every Bible story, and explained the story in an age appropriate manner to my group of 4 year olds, just like the curriculum suggests the teacher should do.

    Our church had over 300 kids come out to VBS this week and I eagerly anticipate our pastor’s recap of this week and I hope and pray that it will include a report on the fruit it bore, a young child’s first exposure to Jesus and the Gospel message, and decisions for Jesus.

    Offerings were collected and will be given to help the kids at the Christian school of deaf in Eden, Jamaica and left over materials from the VBS program are being collected and given to a local church that does not have our budget, so they also can have a quality VBS program.

    Maybe you should go get involved in a program this summer, try to set aside your criticism of the program, and see what you can do to make it better. I am sure your son would love to see you involved in a program he is attending, maybe get assigned to the craft area, so you can see there is much more involved than creating a piece of throw away junk.


  17. NOTE: It is getting confusing here with the two “Dans” – LOL… this post is from DAN McGOWAN, a VISITOR to this blog. This is DAN the HOST. Just wanted to make that distinction…

    I try to be a man of integrity. Sometimes I really do well at this, other times I kind of suck. But I have found that the more I desire to be a man of integrity, if I’m not careful, I can tiptoe into the realms of judgmentalism… where we are desiring so strongly to be people of integrity that we being pointing our fingers and finding tons of fault with “stuff” out there. Some of our findings are, of course, valid. But as I said in an earlier post – there are many strong, passionate, God-driven believers out there trying to do their best to create products that help others nurture or strengthen their walk with the Lord. And, as I also said, until WE actually sit in the pilot seat and DEVELOP products that are “better” then I am not sure we have the right to be dismantling what others are creating UNLESS (and this is a huge key for me) the products in question are TOTALLY misrepresenting God or things of the Kingdom.

    Bottom line – I believe, having read so many posts on this blog, that DAN the HOST is a man of integrity who is motivated to ensure that our Lord is represented and taught about in as close to 100% accuracy as is possible. At the same time, I also think this recent criticism of VBS and SS materials was a tad over the line…

    And – EVERYONE has, and is entitled to, their opinions…

  18. SFBaptist

    Dan McGowan said: “Is every song “the gospel? No. Just like how every book of the Bible is not “the gospel.

    Have to disagree with you there, friend. Every book of the Bible is in fact replete with Gospel messages if a person knows where to look; the problem is that most VBS material is either the David-Goliath/Noah/Jonah variety, or it’s “spiritual goosebumps”, “dive in to God’s presence” pseudo-charismatic nonsense. I have never been to a VBS program where the Gospel was presented without there having been serious violence done to the theme of the VBS and its materials.

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