I want to begin by saying that I am very pleased with LifeWay. Southern Baptists are blessed to be served by such a great organization. For the most part I believe that you are successful in your mission to be “the best provider of relevant, high quality, high value Christian products and services.”
I am writing you today to discuss one area of curriculum that I believe is lacking; namely, the gospel presentation for VBS. For as long as I can remember LifeWay has used the ABC’s as a gospel presentation. And every year there is a song encouraging kids to admit, believe, and confess.
As the parent of a little boy (5) and little girl (2) I deeply appreciate the simplicity of this gospel presentation. Such a gospel presentation is helpful for my son. The Lord is working on His little heart, and he largely understands the gospel message, but at times he is tripped up on the “what must I do to be saved” part. The ABC’s answer that question.
The ABC’s are a fair and biblical response to the question, “Brothers, what must I do to be saved”. For those asking this question it is helpful for them to even have a memorable song that lays out for them how someone becomes a Christian.
However, I believe the ABC’s by themselves are an inadequate whole gospel presentation. I understand that the "admitting” and “believing” attempts to help children see that they are sinners and that belief in Jesus is necessary. I appreciate this, but it seems forced and minimalistic.
When I share the gospel with children I front load it with gospel proclamation (i.e. God-Man-Christ or Creation-Fall-Redemption). I want children to know who God is, what He requires of us, what sin is and its consequences, and how Christ frees us from sin and restores us to God. That is the good news of the gospel. Admit, believe, and confess is not the gospel. It is the only fitting response to the gospel but is not the gospel itself. When people understand the gospel and are then asking “what do I do to be saved” that is when I would share with them something like the ABC’s.
It seems that about every year the ABC’s lesson is during the middle of the week. It is assumed that in the material the gospel story will be presented throughout the week in the teaching segments. That is good. However, it reads as if everything is driving towards the response. This should be done. But only if the gospel message has been emphasized.
As it stands, only one part of the gospel—our necessary response—is presented as the gospel. When children and teachers think about the gospel message in VBS they naturally think of the ABC’s. That is what stands out in the VBS material. In my opinion that is backwards. Explaining to people the necessary response to the gospel isn’t the gospel and doesn’t have the promises of gospel power (Romans 1:16) attached to it.
My suggestion is that instead of emphasizing the ABC’s as presentation emphasize the gospel story and train leaders how to use the ABC’s to answer the response question. In other words transfer a Gospel Project method to your VBS literature.
I look forward to seeing how God continues to use LifeWay material for the furtherance of His kingdom.
A good chunk of this letter is a tweak from this article.