Teaching Children in the Church

As you may know, Roy and Lois Hartzler and The Old Fool traveled from Goshen, Indiana to Akron, Pensylvania to attend the memorial service of Paul J.Lehman, our brother-in-law. This required two full days of travel in the close confinement of a  car.  The confinement proved useful. Obviously, we had ample opportunity to discuss many subjects on which we had common interest and became a mini think tank.  

Children learning

Roy is a retired science teacher, Lois is a retired elementary public school teacher, and I am a retired pastor and conference administrator.  We found that we shared a common concern for the future of the  church and its children. The Bible, we believe, should  be taught in a way that is consistent with an informed faith and ongoing scientific enquiry.  Our interest centered on the teaching of Genesis 1 & 2 to children.

We agreed that portraying Genesis 1 & 2 as literal events may ultimately destroy faith,  but that it would be more helpful to retell the old stories as early myths created by some (tribal)  people who tried to teach their children how they and the universe came to be.

Roy Hartzler

We agreed that children should be told that scientists have been collecting evidence that they believe will replace the myths of Genesis 1 & 2 with what actually is taking place in the long development of the universe. Children should be assured that in school they will learn much more about this unfinished research.

Lois Hartzler

The Old Fool is posting this consensus with the consent of Roy and Lois.  It is for testing and comment in the hope that it will be helpful to those who teach and preach in the church. (Could this be a template for Bible study: relating what was believed then with what is known and not known now?)


The Old Fool hopes this post will be received as a love letter to the teachers of children.  Click to subscribe or unsubscribe



About Martin Lehman

I was born 92 years ago, the son of a Mennonite pastor and organic gardener in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. At age 10 I was baptized as a member of the Marion Mennonite Church. I own the "Old Fool" moniker because I want to walk the Jesus Way even though the world and much of the church takes me as a fool for doing so. In my life I have moved from being a young conservative to an elderly radical. I tell that story in My Faith Journey posted on my website.
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1 Response to Teaching Children in the Church

  1. Miriam Showalter says:

    Add me to your consensus. It is fascinating to me how much _we_ seem to need children to believe certain stories. It reminds me very much of the way many teach that Santa Claus is a real and living character.

    When I am elementary students about literature and the difference between fiction and nonfiction, I find that many of them are very confused when they compare Santa, the experiences of their Jewish friends, fantasy literature from Hans Christian Anderson, et al, their families’ faith stories, and the criteria for distinguishing fiction from nonfiction. It has been explained to me that children need to believe in fantasy, but I confess that I do not grasp this concept as it applies to _teaching_ children what to believe. It seems to me that we can allow very young children to believe whatever they like, but then it becomes our job to give them tools for analyzing their world more critically, certainly not our job to attempt to maintain their beliefs longer than they would normally do so on their own.

    The same is true for me regarding stories from our sacred texts. It seems ever so much less destructive to teach children that stories can “be true” (as in, holding great truths) without having verifiable events. Otherwise, their are stuck forever with choosing between (and defending) equally unverifiable and competing belief systems.

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