Gospel Light Sadly Misquotes to Defend Sunday School Curricula

Well, there is no doubt that the research conducted by renowned researcher in consumer behavior Britt Beemer of America’s Research Group—and published in our best seller Already Gone—is making an impact.

Britt carefully researched why two-thirds of young people are leaving the church. As part of that research, we found out (inadvertently—as we didn’t set out to discover this; it came as a result of the questions that were asked) that of those who have left the church, if they attended Sunday school regularly as kids, generally they were actually worse off spiritually than those that didn’t attend Sunday school regularly.

We did not advocate dismantling Sunday schools, but suggested some radical changes, including producing relevant curricula that don’t just teach what we call “Bible stories,” but also teaches kids how to connect the Bible to the real world and how to answer skeptical questions of the age—so that they will be able to know why they believe what they do and how to defend the Christian faith. In fact, as a result of this survey, AiG has put together quite a team of apologetics writers and other experts to produce an entire Bible curriculum that will overcome the major deficiencies of most curricula available today.

Well the vice president of Sales and Marketing at Gospel Light recently sent out an e-newsletter in which he rejected outright the results of the research by Britt and which was published in Already Gone. He quoted from other research in his attempt to discredit what Britt’s America’s Research Group had carefully researched and reported on—but in doing so he unfortunately quoted research that had nothing to do with those young adults who had left the church.

The research he cited had to do with those who are still in their denomination (or who changed their denomination) and who went to Sunday school as kids. This is like comparing apples with oranges! In fact, America’s Research Group has done the only study of why young people have left the church—and went to the heart of the problem. That’s why our research is different—no one else has done that. So, other research can’t be compared to our results because their approach is totally different.

Personally I think Gospel Light has made an attempt to defend current curricula—and, if I may, has just put their head in the sand regarding the real problems concerning the coming generation leaving the church—rather than be willing to acknowledge the massive exodus of young people and make changes necessary in their curricula to make an impact in today’s increasingly secularized culture. And the author of this newsletter article seems to imply things are going well in the church in America. As someone who has traveled the country and has seen the general state of the church and culture in America, I would submit that any reasonable person only has to look at this culture today and the current generation of young people (and how they think and act) to realize America is in deep trouble spiritually. The church is not affecting the culture or raising godly generations as it used to. Something is dreadfully wrong.

The reason for the publication of our book Already Gone and the serious research conducted by America’s Research Group was to challenge the church to make some changes in Christian education. And I strongly urge Gospel Light to accept this unique, never-before-conducted research seriously—and make any needed changes for the sake of the coming generations and for the church as a whole in this nation.

Now, I am not fully aware of Gospel Light’s curricula materials. And we are not saying that all Sunday school materials are bad. I have heard of young people getting saved and being discipled through good Sunday school resources. But Britt’s national research was compelling and yielded a surprise—most (not all) Sunday school programs are detrimental to young people. Sometimes it’s untrained teachers that are part of the problem.

As I travel around the nation, I find more and more people (from different denominations) saying, “There is something wrong—Sunday school isn’t working. Our youth ministry is not really accomplishing what it should—we need changes.” And I believe Already Gone outlines some of the very needed changes, including:

  • Introduce relevant, general Bible and creation apologetics into all curricula
  • Teach more from a biblical authority perspective
  • Train people to think presuppositionally—building their thinking on the Bible

It is remarkable to me that Gospel Light doesn’t seem to acknowledge that Britt Beemer of America’s Research Group is a trusted researcher in consumer behavior and is of the highest integrity. He is not going to put his name on something if he could not stand by the research behind the results! And to quote research that deals with something totally different and use this to denigrate Already Gone and Britt’s integrity is unconscionable for a Christian to do.

Here are some excerpts from the Gospel Light newsletter with a few extra comments from me in brackets; as you notice the apples/oranges comparison, also note footnote # 1:

CHILDREN’S MINISTRY e-NEWSLETTER . . . FEBRUARY 2010 . . . According to one alarmist, “Sunday School is actually likely to be detrimental to the spiritual and moral health of our children.”[see reference 1 below] Don’t believe the rumors! They’re hyperbole and there’s a lot the Church—and you—are doing right. [I would encourage people to obtain and read Already Gone and check out the statistical research for themselves and also to ensure it is understood properly. You can obtain a copy of the book from the AiG website—or from many Christian bookstores]

While some have recently declared that the majority of those who attended Sunday School have left the faith . . . [This is simply not what is stated in Already Gone. The basis for the research was phone surveys with 1000 “twentysomethings” who used to attend church (theologically conservative ones) as kids, but have now left the church. Then those within that group who have left the church were divided into sub-groups, such as those who attended Sunday school regularly as kids vs. those who did not attend Sunday school regularly. One only has to read Already Gone to see that Gospel Light’s public accusation is demonstrably untrue.]

. . . research actually demonstrates that 65% of those raised Protestant, who attended Sunday School regularly, are still in their childhood faith.[see reference 2 below] In fact, a July 2009 Barna Group poll showed 76% of adults, still active in their faith, recall attending Sunday School at least 2–3 times per month. While it is true that some people leave the Church and their faith, let’s be encouraged by the fact that the vast majority of those who attended worship services and Sunday School regularly as children remain active in their faith. They have had their hearts imprinted with the Word of God that “will not return to Me empty” (Isaiah 55:11, NASB) . . . The Bible—pure and simple—can be and is being taught. The Church can prevail and reclaim those who have been taken captive. And thanks to committed Children’s pastors and leaders like you, we are continuing to build kids who will last.

Christianity is not dead in America. The Church, and Sunday School in particular, have made and continue to make a difference. There is a high retention of faith for those who attended worship weekly and for those who attended Sunday School and youth groups. When combined with active faith at home, we build a solid foundation for children’s lives on Jesus. And kids built on Jesus are kids who will last! [The Already Gone research dealt with the fact that Barna, Lifeway, and others have shown clearly that at least two-thirds of young people leave the church. The research then concentrates on those who left the church—it doesn’t deal with those who stayed in church. That’s the whole point  Gospel Light has missed in its-newsletter.]

Robert Bever Vice President of Sales & Marketing Gospel Light

1 Ken Ham, Already Gone (Green Forest, AK: Master Books, 2009) p.38
2 “Faith in Flux: Changes in Religious Affiliation in the U.S.”, The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, April 27, 2009, http://pewforum.org/docs/?DocID=409 (page 5 of the Executive Summary document)
3 Elmer Towns, What’s Right with the Church, (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2009) p.14”

Let’s pray Christian publishers will take up the needed challenge to examine their materials—making sure they are reaching today’s generations by acknowledging possible deficiencies. If they don’t, eventually other publishers will provide the necessary resources instead—which is really what is already happening! For instance, AiG’s latest VBS program has even astonished us in the sales this year—more than we ever imagined. People are telling us they recognize they need some real “meaty” curriculum that does reach the kids “where they are at” today—our VBS program does that! And, we have much more in curricula on the way!

The compelling Britt Beemer research found in Already Gone should be a wake-up call to the Christian publishing world. Sunday school material by and large is not working—and some of it is even detrimental to our young people.

Essay Winner to Get Large Scholarship

We’re always pleased to partner with like-minded ministries that have joined us in various ventures in the past. We wanted to let you know that our friends at the national radio program The Christian Worldview are offering a $4,000 scholarship to the Master’s College in California. This fine school, founded by Pastor John MacArthur, teaches Genesis as straightforward history.

The contest involves writing something of an essay on the topic “Write a letter to Charles Darwin explaining why you believe biblical creationism is more plausible and reasonable than Darwin’s theory of evolution.” The deadline is February 26.

Here’s the link with full info.

Find out more about this radio ministry and its host David Wheaton (a former tennis star) here.

Devotion

By the Word of your lips

(Psalm 17:4) Concerning the works of men, by the word of your lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer.

Not through a sterile study, but our protection comes via the Bible from the word of the lips of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,

Ken