I grew up in a conservative home and an equally conservative Southern Baptist church. I was indoctrinated with Biblical principles from a very young age. I thank the Lord that he allowed me such an upbringing and love how my seemingly mundane testimony (grew up in the church, saved at an early age, baptized soon after, etc.) puts God's faithfulness on display. Like many of my friends, I learned oodles of Bible stories in church. If I was lucky, my Sunday School teacher would bring the aesthetically pleasing flannelgraph, circa 1994, to visually display such stories. The point of these stories was typically morality or, if the teacher was going super spiritual, to learn a specific facet of God's character. I knew that God sent Jesus to die for my sins on the cross and then Jesus rose on the 3rd day so that I could live with Jesus in heaven forever, but that was just another flannelgraph reserved for Easter, not a weekly concept that was visited. The Gospel provoked a one-time decision, not a lifestyle.
Enter how in the world this relates to anything...
Over the summer, I interned at the Summit with Route 56, a really unique transitional ministry for 5th and 6th graders. Fifth and sixth graders are probably the most awkward, most awesome, mature, yet simultaneously immature, group of people on the planet. I love them. I'll save why I chose to work with Route 56 for a later time, but will highlight an interesting dynamic I and the other R56 leaders have noticed.
Unlike how I and many other people my age grew up in the church, kids today, especially in Gospel-centered, urban churches like the one I go to are indoctrinated with the Gospel every time they walk through the doors. They can clearly articulate the Gospel. They know there is nothing they can do to earn salvation. They know that nothing they have done in the past and nothing they will do in the future can make God love them less or more. They know that the Gospel is the impetus behind good deeds. They know the Gospel brings them back into right relationship with God. And while it is awesome that they know the Gospel, it seems to be just head knowledge. It doesn't really change how they live. It's not heart knowledge.
I know that it's not my responsibility to make head knowledge of the Gospel seep into the precious hearts of 5th and 6th graders. That's the Holy Spirit's job, thank goodness, and something that even if I wanted to, I couldn't do. But it is my job to be a catalyst for the transition from head knowledge to heart knowledge.
Don't get me wrong, the Gospel is undoubtedly the most important thing we could ever teach or convey to younger children and students. If we expect students to simply retain the Gospel as a string of facts, we might as well use a flannelgraph. If we desire for facts to become the ultimate source of life and salvation, our lives must boast the Gospel as much as our mouths.