Trouble Seeing Orange

While some Sunday schools still use the old flannel boards most have updated to newer methods and curriculum. One of the most prominent is Think Orange’s curriculum, Orange 252. A large number of churches have started using it across the country. There are some great advantages, ideas, and tools that come along with the curriculum. The Parent queues application is a mobile app that is synchronized with the current place in the curriculum and gives parents ideas regarding things to talk about after church and during the week to help reinforce what is being taught. The curriculum focuses on an application per month so anyone new can come in at any point and not feel like they are missing something because they are not joining in the middle of a story. Finally when you pick up your child they have a handout which goes over what they talked about in Sunday school and which gives ideas for questions to ask your kids around the dinner table Sunday night or some activity you might do during the week.

You may have noticed that the tools focus on encouraging parents to get involved with what their kids are learning. They even encourage the leadership of children’s ministries to invite parents once or twice during the year to a meeting to encourage them to be involved with what their children are learning. These strategy meetings with parents make a good point; parents have much more time with their children. The strategy documents states that Parents have about 3000 hours with their children while the church on average only has about 40 hours. It is true that we have more time with our kids and it is also true many parents may be a little too hands off leaving everything up to their church on Sunday morning. Much can be learned from this but we must be careful to not overstate it. As children grow up they start questioning and look outside the family away from their parents for confirmation of truth and direction. Also children should be attending mid-week youth bible study groups. Parents should also consider summer bible camps which increases the time to over 250 hours. Still much less time than parents have which is why parents still need to be engaged which is rightly pointed out by Think Orange.

Well, I’m not really color blind but I do see some point of concern here with what Orange focuses on. The first thing that I noticed was a focus on application instead of a focus on the bible passages. The orange curriculum does have bible passages and a key verse for each week but the focus is on the application as demonstrated by the curriculum plan in the comparison below. Further you will notice that some of the applications are not necessarily terms you will directly find in the bible though you may find the concept. For example Integrity and Initiative aren’t terms you would find if you ran a search on the bible. But if you want to talk about these topics you can find verses that have something to say about these topics or applications. In a sense you are being given fish but not necessarily learning how to fish or how to read the bible and explore what it is saying and how it applies to you. Also the bible is an iterative story, God reveals Himself progressively through the history of God’s interaction with His people recounted in the bible.

Gospel Project and Orange 252 TOC Comparison

The next thing I noticed was that the “applications” in Orange were basically the same as what I had seen on posters at work or in the halls of public schools. Many of the “applications” you will find in your “Corporate Values” training or our “School Values” posted in public schools. This did give me pause because it reminded me of what Nietzsche had said. After he pronounced that God was dead he understood that there was no longer a transcendent standard, no longer any morals and therefore to keep society from imploding the philosopher and scientist had to “determine the true hierarchy of values”.

God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we, murderers of all murderers, console ourselves? … Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we not ourselves become gods simply to be worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whosoever shall be born after us – for the sake of this deed he shall be part of a higher history than all history hitherto.

All sciences are now under the obligation to prepare the ground for the future task of the philosopher, which is to solve the problem of value, to determine the true hierarchy of values.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

There is a difference between values and morals. Morals define or delineate what must be done or what must not be done. Values simply place importance on a particular characteristic which typically moral or ethical behavior are the more beneficial courses of action that make up that value. For example “Honesty” is a valuable characteristic because it means you are trustworthy. But this does not challenge us like saying “Do not bear false witness”. I can say I’m generally an honest person but have I ever said something untrue to get ahead or to protect myself from consequences, have I ever bore false witness? Well yes, I have, and so I have broken God’s law. Another aspect of “Values” is that they always phrase the characteristic in positive terms whereas in the bible the law often phrases morals in negative terms. For example values will say be “Generous” but the bible will say “do not withhold from your brother” or “bring the full tithe and hold nothing back”.

Romans 7:7 – What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.”

1 Timothy 1:9-10 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine,

The law is necessary; not only for those that believe but for those that do not as well. While we don’t necessarily expect non-believers to follow the law this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t tell them who God is and what His Law requires. Children going to Sunday school as well as the average guy on the street need to know about God’s law and need to be called to repentance. It is part of the gospel because there is no real good news without the bad news of the reality of our sin. Especially in this day and age what is right and wrong is being redefined and people no longer see themselves as sinful. If all we say is “believe in Jesus and you will be saved” the world as it is now just scratches its head and says “saved from what”. We live in a very different time where people do not believe that humanity is inherently sinful.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9  4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Its not wrong to phrase things in a positive manner nor to speak of the benefits of a characteristic but if that’s all we do then we are missing something. We are missing out on God’s command to meditate on His Law presented through His word in the way that He has given it to us. Not only this but the word of God should be at the forefront not just some anecdote to back up some topic we have interest in or have chosen to address. God has told His story so that He can communicate His purpose for the world He created and His purposes for us whom he created. If we just focus on the application then are we not focusing on “what do I get out of it?” on the benefits for ourselves. We loose our focus on the Almighty Loving Creator God and fail to see who He is and what His feelings are.

Our action should flow more from implication than application.  Having a growing understanding of who God is and who we are from accounts in the Bible and considering God’s response. Asking how does God feel about what happened and then how should I feel and respond. The application flows from a love of God and His word. But children and youth also need clear instructional teachings in scripture.  In younger years learning who God is, His creation, commands, covenants (promises) and continuous fulfillment, and the gospel (sin, death, resurrection, repentance, faith and grace). Learning how to navigate the Bible.  In teen years (12+) learning how to interrogate scripture and apologetics.  Also learning core doctrines such as the inerrancy of scripture, original sin and the sin nature, Penal Substitutionary Atonement,  Jesus Exclusivity as the only way, God’s designed complimentary male and female gender distinctions, the conscious eternal torment of hell, and the Pre-eminence of God’s Kingdom over human culture to name a few (Driscoll, The Supremacy of Christ and the Church in a Postmodern World | Desiring God).

I’m not necessarily saying to drop or adopt this or that curriculum for children and youth however whatever curriculum a church goes with they should keep these concerns in mind. With any curriculum there may be blind spots that a church will have to make up for to varying degrees.