Are Bible Classes Winnowing Out Young People?

Recently, I began reading a book on secular education that stopped me in my tracks. In the introduction, the author discussed how certain practices in secular education winnowed out kids who had potential to learn, but couldn’t work well with those practices. If you aren’t familiar with winnowing, it is normally used to refer to the process of separating weeds from grain. While I haven’t gotten far enough in the book to know how much the author’s list of winnowing practices happen in Bible classes, I think the basic principle applies more than we care to admit.

There are things present in the way the Bible is taught to young people that winnow out all but the kids and teens who fit a certain mold. This means many, if not most, young people who find it difficult to grow spiritually easily with those practices are winnowed out. They are told or believe not fitting the mold means there is not a place for them in God’s Kingdom. Yet, I believe God has given every single young person the potential to learn what God wants him or her to know, to worship God and to obey Him to the best of his or her ability.

And that’s where we hit our first snag in many ministries. We assume every child should fit the mold we have created for a child who will grow up to be a strong, faithful, productive Christian. We assume children and teens who don’t fit that mold will ultimately fail. We may not admit it, even to ourselves, but those young people are often winnowed out by our preconceived ideas as much as the way we teach the Bible to kids and teens.

There’s a story told by the early Christian historian Eusebius about the Apostle John. I don’t know if it really happened, but it sounds like something John would do. It seems John had met and converted a young man who had been part of a den of thieves – the street gangs of that day. John invested a lot of time teaching and mentoring the young man. For some reason, John had to leave town. He went to the elders of the church and tasked them with continuing to teach and mentor the young man, for John believed he had great potential. For whatever, reason, the elders soon forgot about the young man and he eventually rejoined his old gang.

When John returned, he asked where the young man was and they told him he had rejoined the thieves. John chastised the elders, then set out in search for the young man. As soon as the young man saw John, he took off running. John literally chased him until he caught him!

I love this story so very much! John was not going to let Satan win the battle for this young man’s soul…even if it meant he had to physically chase and catch him to help get him back on the right path! We should be that passionate about each and every young person we teach!

So what are some of the typical Bible school practices that may be winnowing out young people unnecessarily? In our next post, we will list some areas we find concerning that could be contributing to the problem.

Categories Culture, Elementary, Encouragement, Mentoring, Preschool, Special Needs, Teens
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