Heart bypass surgery is almost routine these days and it’s a life-saving procedure. Blocked arteries are bypassed in order to supply alternative routes for blood to flow to and from the heart.
But when it comes to Bible teaching, bypassing the heart is very dangerous – in fact, it’s eternally life-threatening. It produces a Pharisaic Christianity which focuses on morality and outward appearance, but has no real love for or commitment to Christ. Jesus condemned the Pharisees for this in Mark 7:6-7 saying, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.”’

Sadly many children’s ministries and ministry resources focus on teaching facts about the Bible and calling for a moral response rather than getting to the heart of the matter – a vital, living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. When we engage children in Bible teaching, in whatever context, it’s critical that we engage their hearts and make age-appropriate application that flows from faith in Jesus. Children should be in no doubt about how the truths they are taught apply in their daily life at home, church and school. The aim is not to groom Bible quiz champions, but children transformed by God’s Word and the power of the Holy Spirit. Children who will live out their faith day by day and truly be salt and light in a decaying and very dark world.

Applying the Bible to children is hard work and can only be done with integrity if the teacher has taken the time to prayerfully apply the truth to their own hearts. But many children’s ministry resources require little or no engagement with the material by the teacher in order to prepare a lesson. The lesson plans are often heavily scripted which effectively allows the teacher to defrost and serve up pre-packaged, one-size-fits-all lessons. Like fish fingers, these are bland and not very nutritious. They also tend to bypass the heart of the teacher and the children. Bible teaching which engages the heart requires that teachers become more like penguins – diving deep to catch nutrient-rich fish which they partly digest and then feed to their young in an easily digestible format.

Regardless of the context in which you teach children it’s worth asking whether your next lesson will simply be a few warmed up fish fingers or a wonderful truth about Jesus that has captivated your heart and engaged the hearts of those you teach.