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BEWARE: Don't make this mistake when teaching the Bible

Hey there, children’s ministry leaders!


As we lead our kiddos on their spiritual journey, it’s so important that we handle the Bible with the care and respect it deserves. One common pitfall we need to avoid is proof-texting. Simply put, proof-texting is taking a text out of context to prove your specific point or doctrine. While it might seem harmless, proof-texting can lead to misunderstandings and misapplications of Scripture.


Now, if you’re using a published curriculum, you might be thinking, “But I’m not the writer! I don’t decide how to unpack Scripture.”


To which I would say, “You’re right! But as the leader, you’re the one who chooses the curriculum. So the more you understand the inherent risk of proof-texting, the better you’ll be equipped to make a good choice.”


With that said, let’s dive into why proof-texting can be dangerous and how we can teach our kids a better way to engage with the Bible.


DANGER #1. Misleading Interpretations

When we pull a story or verse out of context, we risk misinterpreting its true meaning. The Bible wasn’t written as a collection of isolated stories or sayings but as a cohesive narrative. Each verse is part of a larger story and must be understood in its context. For example, if you’re teaching on the topic of patience, you might choose to tell the story of Jacob and Esau. You might say, “If only Esau had been patient and not given up his birthright and blessing, he would have received a greater reward from God.” (BTW…this is a real example from a curriculum I used in the past.)


But that would totally be missing the point of the story and you would lose out on the opportunity to teach kids about divine sovereignty and how God’s plans transcend human traditions. Teaching kids the importance of context helps them grasp the Bible’s messages more accurately.


DANGER #2. Simplifying Complex Theology

Proof-texting can oversimplify complex theological concepts. The Bible addresses profound truths about God, humanity, and salvation. When we reduce these truths to catchy slogans, we risk diminishing their depth and richness. For instance, Romans 8:28 is often quoted, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,” to imply that Christians will always have positive outcomes. In reality, this verse is about the ultimate good of being conformed to the image of Christ, which can involve suffering and trials. Helping kids understand the complexity of Scripture fosters a deeper, more resilient faith.


DANGER #3. Promoting a Pick-and-Choose Approach

Proof-texting can encourage a pick-and-choose mentality toward the Bible, where we highlight the parts we like and ignore the rest. This selective reading undermines the authority of Scripture and its ability to challenge and transform us. It’s crucial to teach children that the Bible, in its entirety, is God’s Word, and we must approach it with humility and openness.


There's a better way, though...

Some published curriculum are more prone to proof-texting than others because of their topic or virtue driven approach. Although it’s not impossible to faithfully apply Scripture to a topic or virtue, it’s far more difficult, especially if you’re committed to teaching 4-5 weeks of the same one. For the first couple weeks, you might find stories that genuinely support any given virtue, but by weeks 3 and 4 (and certainly 5), you’d be at risk of bending stories to say what you need them to say.


That’s why I chose to take a chronological approach to Scripture when I developed GO! Curriculum. Not only does a chronological approach allow us to tell individual stories within the greater narrative of the Bible, it also allows us to approach Scripture without an agenda. For each story, I got to prayerfully and open-handedly ask, “Okay God, what are you trying to tell us through this story?”


By avoiding proof-texting and encouraging contextual understanding, we can help kids develop a robust and nuanced faith. Let’s strive to guide our young ones to love and respect the whole counsel of God’s Word, leading them to a deeper, more authentic relationship with Him!




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