Elementary School of Morals

Kara Powell | Oct 27, 2010

One of the books Im re-reading in preparation for the Princeton Emerging Adults Conference next week is Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults by Christian Smith with Patricia Snell. Christian and I are the two general session speakers at the Princeton Conference and were on a panel together, so I thought it would be good to freshen up on his work.

As Christian has studied emerging adults, their description of the churches of their youth and childhood has led him to label churches as elementary schools of morals. I couldnt agree more. Often our childrens ministries and youth ministries teach Bible stories as a sort of Aesops Fables interesting stories with pithy moral lessons. So our kids know about Moses, Noah, Daniel, and Paul, but dont understand how all of those stories fit into the larger narrative of Gods story. And they certainly dont understand how their own stories fit into that larger narrative.

Our church, and a number of other churches in our Sticky Faith Learning Cohort this year, are experimenting with a childrens ministry curriculum that intentionally connects each weeks lesson with the larger story of Gods work throughout history, as well the ways God is working in and through their stories today. God is framed as the main character in the story, but we are characters in the story too. I applaud any church that moves away from the elementary school of morals and into a bigger view of the gospel and our role in Gods unfolding amazing Kingdom plot.

Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.


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