2014-2015 Family Challenge & Fall Curriculum [Is Christian Education as Important as Secular Education?]

WAIT! I know what you’re thinking.

But before you are overcome with despair over the lengthy text that follows, just know that you don’t even have to read it all. If you only read what I’ve highlighted in bold, you’ll know all you need to know. If you just want to hear the challenge and see the corresponding schedule, just look for the writing in green (and perhaps read the five headings).

***And think of this post as a reference tool–we’ll be coming back to it all year long.***

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1. The Question: Christian education–important? 

It is a question that every Christian household answers everyday with the words that fill the space between the walls of the house itself: Is Christian education as important to us as secular education?

2. The Problem: God is forgettable.

  • God is forgettable. That is the problem. After the Lord saved the people of Israel out of Egypt, he gave them instructions for how to safeguard them from the most dangerous spiritual disease that can creep into even the most godly communities: amnesia. It is forgetting God, which is not like forgetting a phone number but more like forgetting why you chose to marry your spouse, forgetting why you once trusted them with your life.
  • “Take care, lest you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt…if you forget the Lord your God and follow other gods…you shall surely perish” (Dt. 6:12; 8). 

3. The Solution: Love Lots (Drama). Talk Lots (Speech).

  • My uncle Eddie used to always say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!” The solution to the problem of forgetting God is most certainly preventing it from happening in the first place. But for this problem, the solution and the prevention are the same. Quite simply, it is Christian education, which follows conventional commonsense guidelines for all education, the foundation of which is memory. Deuteronomy 6 gives us the (1) prerequisite for and (1) content of Christian Education, the two rockbottom essentials for cultivating Christian memory (“sticky faith”) in our families. Simply this: (1) Love God a lot and (2) Talk about God a lot.

“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength…You shall teach [the instructions of the Lord] again and again to your children. Talk of them when you are at home, and when you are on the road or out for a walk. Talk of them when over dinner and breakfast, morning and night. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates [and on your facebook and twitter feeds]” (Dt. 6:4-6). 

  • The Drama–Love God a lot: concepts are best understood and therefore remembered when they are made concrete (Fred Craddock)–gravity is a falling apple; sin is a stolen apple; love is a wooden cross. Therefore, Christian education begins with the assumption that God’s Word must be taught as the word made flesh (cf. Jn. 1:14) before it is taught as the Word made speech. That is, our lives dramatize what we truly believe about God, so when children grow up watching their parents love God on the stage of the home, they will understand love as love should be understood, as action–as something that is lived–and that otherwise abstract concept will be made concrete, understandable, memorable.
  • The Speech–Talk about God a lot: repetition is the mother of learning (Zig Ziglar)–when our kids begin their journey toward understanding the infinite world of arithmetic, they begin by spending years just counting to ten ten-thousand times, graduate to staring at the same flashcards over and over until they can can be seen with eyes closed, and eventually they will destroy a rain forest worth of scrap paper and #2s calculating areas and volumes, replicating formulas, and figuring equations. It is not only math, however; we value a number of subjects so much that everyone is required to spend countless hours committing their principle rules and raw materials to memory, so that we can eventually apply them critically and practically in our day-to-day lives and careers. The instructions in Deuteronomy 6 simply assume that God’s Word can be applied critically and practically in our day-to-day lives and careers–it also assumes that we share that assumption. If our kids are going to make any progress on their journey toward understanding the infinite world of God’s Word, then it is up to parents to apply the first principle of learning in the homes–repetition–which is only achieved when the whole family can talk about God and to God so freely and so frequently that God seems as practical as potatoes, as important as politics. When God is spoken of and to freely and frequently in the home kids begin to assume that God really is relevant in their day-to-day lives. Indeed, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Lk. 6:45).

4. The Challenge: Getting Parents and Kids on the “Same Page” to Cultivate “Table Talk”

  • The entire 2014-2015 school year will be devoted to a series through Luke and Acts, two books meant to be read as one story–of how God entered the human story (the Gospel of Luke) so that we humans could enter the God story (the Acts of the Apostles). That said, below I am listing the (very manageable sized) sections we’ll be covering each week in the Gospel of Luke (September-December; spring outline for Acts forthcoming), according to the LifeChange Series curriculum we’ll be using for both Luke and Acts (which I am making available to students and parents for free upon request, but which is less essential than simply following along in the Bible).

The challenge is simple and frankly not very challenging: that parents would commit to reading the section from the Bible that we will be covering each week in order to continue conversations in the home that we begin at the church week by week (Sun. and Weds.).

  • I’m not even envisioning “family devotions” (though that would be wonderful), but simply allowing for spontaneous talk about God to fill the rooms of the house and mouths at the dinner table–Table Talk–which will come naturally if families have a common biblical reference point each week, allowing them to come together to not only talk about their individual day-to-day lives, but to do so in light of the God who is relevant to their day-to-day lives, continually learning how to talk about their lives with a reference point and a reality much bigger than “my life.” The goal is that it would be totally normal, for example, for Dad to ask Daughter what Jeremy said in one of his long-winded sermons; or just as easy for him to ask what she thought about Paul’s long-winded sermon that put a teenager (Eutychus) to sleep, which led to him falling out a window, plunging to his death, and Paul awkwardly having to stop in the middle of his sermon to go raise him from the dead (Acts 20). For some families, those first conversations may feel a little awkward and uncomfortable, but soon enough they’ll feel like our favorite t-shirt. And at least they’ll never be as awkward as the conversations Paul probably had to have when he explained what happened with Eutychus 🙂
  • I believe that the more continuity we can create between what we talk about at our church and in our homesrepetitionthe less likely our kids will be to succumb to the spiritual disease of amnesia after they leave our church and our homes, and the more likely they will be to never leave The Church and continue to echo those same old stories to their kids around the dinner table, allowing their talk about God they love to fill the space between the walls of the house.

5. The Fall Schedule

This will govern the content of both Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. Sundays will involve more teaching and some discussion, while Wednesdays will involve less teaching and more discussion. Our discussions will look at the text with a view to what it says first about God and then the ‘big five’ human values: 1. Belonging; 2. Relationships; 3. Identity; 4. Trust; 5. Spirituality (Steve Elliott).

The schedule below has been integrated in the Google Calendar and the Event Calendar in the tab above.

Week 1—Sept. 7:        Overview (Lk. 1:1-4)

Week 2—Sept. 14:      From John to Jesus (Lk. 1:5-2:52)

Week 3—Sept. 21:      The Preparation (Lk. 3:1-4:13)

Week 4—Sept. 28:     Galilean Ministry Begins (Lk. 4:14-5:39)

Week 5—Oct. 5:         Luke-Acts Series: Kingdom People (Lk. 6-7)

Week 6—Oct. 12:       From Town to Town (Lk. 8-9)

Week 7—Oct. 19:       With Great Authority (Lk. 10-11)

Week 8—Oct. 26:       On the Alert (Lk. 12:1-13:17)

Week 9—Nov. 2:        Parables and Teachings (Lk. 13:18-16:18)

Week 10—Nov. 9:      The Way to Life (Lk. 16:19-18:34)

Week 11—Nov. 16:    The Son of David (Lk. 18:35-19:44)*

Week 12—Nov. 23:    Questions (Lk. 19:45-21:4)

Week 13—Nov. 30:    The End Approaches (Lk. 21:5-22:38)

Week 14—Dec. 7:       Arrest, Trial, and Death (Lk. 22:39-23:49)

Week 15—Dec. 14:     Resurrection and Ascension (Lk. 23:50-24:53)

 

*Fall Retreat—Theme: Jesus Is Lord

 

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