VBS at Main Post Chapel at Ft. Stewart, GAPhoto credit: Staff Sgt. Christopher Blakeslee (US Army)
VBS at Main Post Chapel at Ft. Stewart, GA
Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Christopher Blakeslee (US Army)

I read a disturbing article in the Louisville Courier-Journal.  Several area churches are aligning their Vacation Bible School (VBS) curriculum with Common Core.  There are a number of disturbing aspects to this story.

What’s the purpose of VBS again?

Silly me, but when I was a youth pastor with children’s ministry as part of my responsibilities, we saw VBS primarily as an evangelistic tool.  We wanted to reach pre-K through 6th grade kids with the simple Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Regardless of what theme we had or what curriculum we used if it did not teach kids that Jesus loves them, died for their sins because God loves them, rose from the grave and they can have a relationship with him (obviously explaining that in age appropriate ways) it wasn’t worth doing.

A secondary purpose for us was discipleship for kids who were already a part of the church.  They would be engaged with Bible stories, memorize Bible verses, worship and connect with adults in our church.

The purpose of VBS is not “college and career readiness,” not that Common Core does a bang-up job of that.

The purpose of VBS is not helping kids with the “summer slide” either.  Allison Ross of the Courier-Journal reports:

Jefferson County Public Schools has begun offering Common Core training to interested Vacation Bible School providers, enlisting the religious groups to help combat the “summer slide.”

Again the purpose is disciple-making, not turning VBS into some sort of summer programing aiding the local public schools.  I’m obviously not opposed to serving public schools.  I did it all of the time as a part of my ministry.  I helped monitor the lunchroom, dance chaperone, substitute teacher, served on a crisis-response team and I’ve even deejayed a junior high dance.  My church provided substitute teachers when a student at our local school died so teachers could attend the funeral.  We did servant evangelism, we did school supply drives, and we looked for ways to appreciate teachers.

My current church also reaches out to two elementary schools closest to our building.

We don’t just talk about the love of Jesus, we show it.

We did that because that was part of our larger mission.  The purpose of Common Core does not dovetail with that and we certainly would not bring the school’s purpose into the church. Which brings me to my next point.

The church should influence the school district, not the other way around.

Look at the fact the local school district in Louisville is intentionally reaching out to churches. Ross continues her article…

More than 30 Louisville-area church officials, including Hanley, showed up for a 2 1/2-hour training last month. Each attendee was given tips on how to align their instruction with Common Core as well as a set of grade- and age-appropriate books for their libraries, said John Marshall, chief equity officer at JCPS.

He said the district offered training to Vacation Bible School providers last summer as well, although the turnout was smaller. JCPS last month also offered a similar training for church school leaders and teachers.

Why in the world would any church leader deem it appropriate to attend a local school training whose sole purpose is to show you how they implement their teaching methods into your curriculum?

The churches were also given “grade-and-age-appropriate books for their libraries.”  I highly doubt those books were about Jesus.  How does one align their curriculum to Common Core?

Do they teach a fuzzy Gospel with extra steps to having a relationship with Christ, much like kids have to approach math in a convoluted way?  Do they make the early elementary curriculum developmentally inappropriate?

Also I have to ask have the the public school trainers had any Biblical training?

Do they want kids to hate VBS?

We later learn the purpose of this training is not only to get churches on board to address the “summer slide,” but to shovel propaganda down their throats.

Lawrence Wilbon, a youth pastor at Kingdom Fellowship on Poplar Level Road, said he liked that JCPS helped him understand how to take what he was doing in Vacation Bible School and align it with some Common Core expectations.

He also said he was surprised that some things emphasized in Common Core — such as critical thinking and recognizing central themes — were already things that many Vacation Bible School teachers were seeking.

“The biggest thing for me was how the alignment of the curriculum of the Common Core took some of the fear out of Common Core,” he said. “It took out a lot of the academic learning and really got to the nuts and bolts of the work.”

It took the fear out of Common Core.  First those of us who oppose it don’t fear it, we just think it sucks. But it is obvious they hyped-up the Common Core. Secondly, “critical thinking” sounds great, but good VBS curriculum publishers should already include discussion questions starting with observation questions, interpretation question and application question.  Unlike the Common Core developers they also understand that some of the things Common Core wants to do is not necessarily possible for early elementary-aged children who are not thinking abstractly yet (one of those pesky child development things David Coleman, et al ignored). They know this so the curriculum is designed appropriately.

Common Core has led many kids to hate school.  Do we want to bring that to the church?

Hanley, of Midwest Church of Christ, said students can learn math and English skills along with their Bible studies.

For instance, as young students learn about Noah and his Ark, Vacation Bible School instructors asked students to describe the character of Noah and explain how his actions contributed to the sequence of events — things that are part of the Common Core’s third-grade English language arts standards.

Or math could be incorporated as well, she said. “If Noah’s going to be putting two of all animals on the Ark, when he got to 40 animals, how many sets did he have?” Hanley said. “How do you divide 40 by 2?”

Oh. my. goodness.  SERIOUSLY!!!!! The story of Noah is a great way to teach kids about sin, the consequences of sin, God’s holiness, faithfulness to God, and how God keeps his promise among other things.  Again, point number one… this isn’t the purpose of VBS!

You know what, turnaround is fair play, since the local schools want to inject Common Core into the churches, let’s inject the Gospel into the schools.  Actually faithful pastors should already be equipping their members to do just that through serving, building relationships and sharing Christ when given an opportunity.

1 comment
  1. Excellent, Shane! You nailed it! I also think it is the church pretending that they can ignore the indoctrination of Common Core rather than addressing it in the public square.

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