Teaching Children the Whole Counsel of God

A few years ago, we took some time to evaluate the scope and sequence of our curriculum in light of the “big picture.” In other words, we wanted to see if we were including the “whole counsel of God” in our teaching. We made some interesting and helpful discoveries along the way. But our first challenge was understanding what Paul meant in Acts 20:27 where he states:

for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.

We found these words by D. A. Carson, as included in Preach The Word: Essays on Expository Preaching: In Honor of R. Kent Hughesand cited on The Gospel Coalition website to be very helpful:

What he must mean is that he taught the burden of the whole of God’s revelation, the balance of things, leaving nothing out that was of primary importance, never ducking the hard bits, helping believers to grasp the whole counsel of God that they themselves would become better equipped to read their Bibles intelligently, comprehensively. It embraced

  • God’s purposes in the history of redemption (truths to be believed and a God to be worshiped),
  • an unpacking of human origin, fall, redemption, and destiny (a worldview that shapes all human understanding and a Savior without whom there is no hope),
  • the conduct expected of God’s people (commandments to be obeyed and wisdom to be pursued, both in our individual existence and in the community of the people of God), and
  • the pledges of transforming power both in this life and in the life to come (promises to be trusted and hope to be anticipated).  (2007, pages 177-178)

I believe this is a very accurate and helpful definition, and it also serves as a “workable” definition for planning and evaluating the scope of what we teach to our children. But clearly what Dr. Carson suggests is no easy task. It must be carefully thought through and strategically implemented. And this is where we found the inclusion of six basic elements or disciplines to be very helpful. Teaching the whole counsel of God should include…

  1. A story-based chronological overview of the Bible, which introduces children to the main character of the Bible—God—and acquaints them with key people, places, and events.
  2. A biblical theology that focuses on the main storyline of the Bible where God progressively reveals His redemptive purposes, which come to their complete fulfillment in the Person and work of Jesus Christ.
  3. Systematic theology that teaches foundational doctrines, which summarize the Bible’s teaching on various subjects.
  4. Moral instruction—the commands of Scripture, which communicate ethical instruction, guiding us in the righteous ways of God
  5. An explicit presentation of the essential truths of the Gospel leading to a clear understanding of saving faith.
  6. Bible study methods to provide the necessary tools for rightly reading and interpreting Scripture.

These elements may be may be taught at various ages, and many will “overlap” one another. For example, a curriculum that emphasizes biblical theology will likely include elements of systematic theology. But, in looking at the whole of what is taught from preschool to high school, are these elements all included? Are they in good “balance”? Have we ducked any “hard bits”? By the time our students are 18 years old, will they be able to articulate what is of primary importance?

May we, like Paul, be able to say to the children under our care…

for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.

Written by Jill Nelson

Jill Nelson

Jill Nelson is a wife, mother, grandmother, teacher and author. She has taught Sunday School for over 20 years and writes God-centered curriculum for Children Desiring God.

9 Responses to “Teaching Children the Whole Counsel of God”

  1. Bonnie April 26, 2013 at 12:36 pm #

    This is a great reminder for what I should be doing at home, too!

    We use your curriculum in our homeschool!

  2. Doug April 26, 2013 at 3:55 pm #

    Can you give me some suggestions for curriculum that actually works within philosophical framework?

    Thank you

  3. Erica April 27, 2013 at 7:58 am #

    We are thankful for the CDG curriculum!

  4. Borzasi Andras April 27, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

    I am a sport teacher, not a father or a husband yet, however, i am eager to learn about telling children who Jesus is. God bless you all.

  5. Aiza Domingo April 28, 2013 at 3:12 am #

    It has been always a challenge to children ministry workers like me how to teach seemingly difficult scripture or passages to kids without them having the wrong idea about the Bible or about God. But to hide to them the whole truth or counsel of God would proved to be unbeneficial and damaging instead as I learn more about this ministry. I think we are sometimes at fault to belittle the power of Holy Spirit that is at work whenever we teach the kids as well as we belittle their comprehension skills and how they do have the understanding to grasp the truth presented in the Bible.

  6. Ellen Stream April 29, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

    Like most children’s directors I did not go to seminary. I look forward to hearing more on this topic in a couple of days at the Splendor of His Holiness Conference. I am working with our pastor of discipleship to create a framework for our scope and sequence, which we hope will be used from this time forward. We have studied the Westminster Shorter Catechism for guidance of course, but there seems to be so much to cover. Breaking it down into these areas helps me focus. Thanks for helping me think through this.

  7. Beatriz April 30, 2013 at 10:38 pm #

    Acts 20:27 is definitely a huge challenge. As a Sunday school teacher it is easy to place that responsibility solely on the curriculum used. But as a mother i’m finding that curriculum is a supplement to help you teach the whole counsel of God. Day to day live must apply the whole counsel of God.

  8. Christa Smyth May 1, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

    How grateful I am that Bethlehem does not shrink from declaring the whole gospel of God! My kindergartener has learned this year in his Sunday School class that God is righteous, loving, holy, wrathful, zealous, merciful, victorious…a different characteristic for each letter in the alphabet! His view of God is more complete than it has ever been. Praising the Lord for this curriculum, the people who have written it and the teachers who teach it.

  9. Tamara May 1, 2013 at 4:44 pm #

    I’m a single mom raising 2 boys. We homeschool and I also think teaching children the whole counsel of God is very important. Even if you think a child won’t get it the Holy Spirit is there alongside teaching. I love it when I’m reading a bible story out of a book chronologically but also has New Testament scripture to reference of fulfillment in Christ. I just received your book God’s Names can’t wait to start using it.

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