This year, our junior high Sunday School class is learning about each of the five promises they'll be making at their confirmation:
- To live among God's faithful people.
- To hear the word of God and share in the Lord's Supper.
- To share the good news in word and deed.
- To serve, following the example of Jesus.
- To strive for justice and peace in all the earth.
To explore the first promise they'll make – to live among God's faithful people – we've been examining the stories of the “faithful people” listed in the hall of faith in Hebrews 11. In so doing, we hope to paint a picture of what faithfulness looks like so that teens, in turn, can wrestle with what it means to actually “live among God's faithful people.”
The people listed in Hebrews 11 are a mix of well-known Bible heroes like Noah, Abraham, and Moses as well as more obscure examples of faithfulness like Enoch and Barak. Initially, as I outlined this series, I planned to bypass the well-known Bible heroes. After all, I figure that by the time a student reaches 7th grade, they've heard the stories of Noah, Abraham, and Moses once a year in Sunday School for the past seven years.
But then I noticed that Hebrews 11 is actually divided into various character's stories. Wanting to follow that general structure, I opted to include even the three most well-known Bible heroes in our Sunday school lessons this year.
I'm glad we did.
The week they discussed Noah, my husband – who's one of the teachers for the junior high class – walked in the door, rather incredulous, and said, “We had kids who had never heard this story before.”
I was shocked.
Now, maybe these are families who have not traditionally attended Sunday school.
Maybe they started going to church later in their childhood.
Maybe they were absent the week each year Noah was taught.
Or maybe this example points to a greater truth.
Maybe today's teens are simply not as Biblically literate as they once were.
If that's true, we can no longer assume that teens know the basic stories of their Christian faith – the ones you and I likely grew up hearing.
We can't assume they know Noah, Abraham, or Moses.
Instead, we need to go back to the basics.
As parents, church workers, Sunday school teachers, and adult leaders, we've got to teach even the stories of our faith that we assume are well-known.
Stories like Noah, Abraham, Moses, and most importantly, Jesus.
These stories matter.
After all, our entire faith is built upon Jesus.
Beyond that, the other stories matter, too.
The stories of Noah, Abraham, and Moses teach us about who we are, where we've come from, and how our own, individual stories are connected to a much larger, grander story. They also give us examples of faithfulness – something teens need to have if they are to figure out what it means to follow Jesus faithfully.
That's why I'll continue to include the stories of well-known Bible heroes in our curriculum, year after year.
Such stories may be well-known to our leaders.
But the truth is, they're new to at least some of our teens.