In Sunday school we're doing a series about kings and prophets. The series includes the stories of King Joash and King Josiah. As told in the lesson book, the stories are very similar:
- Becomes king at age 7 (Joash) / age 8 (Josiah).
- When he grows up, renovates the temple (Joash) / renovates the temple and finds God's law (Josiah).
- Basically, he's an all-round good guy who follows God and does what he says.
The aims for the second are that you can seek God when you are young, and he can change your life.
Despite many differences, the basic plots of the stories are soooo similar that they could easily be confused, and really end up rather boring.
But there are two things missed out of Joash's story - and adding them would make a huge difference.
First - Joash lived the first 7 years of his life in hiding because the evil queen (his gran) wanted to kill him. That's too exciting to miss out!
And second - after his uncle died, Joash completely turned his back on God, abandoned the temple, worshipped idols and had his cousin killed when he pointed out he was doing wrong. Maybe not such a good guy after all?
And when you include that bit, the aim of the lesson changes, too. Not just that the children need adults to teach them to follow God (although that's true). But that that isn't enough.
Joash followed God when he had the influence of a godly father figure. But you get the impression his faith depended on his uncle. And that's not what we want for the children.
All of the kids in my class have Christian families. They come to Sunday School and church, and we try to make it a positive experience where they can learn about God and what Jesus has done. We sing great songs that get the Bible firmly in their heads. That's great. But that isn't enough.
As I never stop telling them - it's not what your mum and dad believe that matters - it's what you believe. It doesn't matter if your mum or dad love God - do you love God?
And, however well we teach the children, only God can do that bit.