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Psalm 78
. . . we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. .
so the next generation would know them . . . and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.

Monday, January 11, 2010

KIDMO Critique

Recently I've been asked about my objections to KIDMO, a church children's curriculum that I've criticized before in my book review of Perspectives on Children's Spiritual Formation. KIDMO is a media-driven, DVD-based children's curriculum that offers churches a complete-in-the-box curriculum centered on DVD instruction with high-energy media (songs, video, competitive quizzing). The program also includes lesson plans for a small-group time that follows the large-group instruction time.

More details about KIDMO can be found on their website here. What follows are some of my objections to their company philosophy statement, mission statement and scope and sequence.

Regarding the Philosophy Statement
From the Kidmo_Philosophy.pdf (see KIDMO's download page):
"KIDMO initiates personal, social and cultural transformation by connecting kids with a biblical worldview. In order for transformation to be realized, kids must be needed, valued and engaged in mentoring relationships. What's more, their church experience must be relevant to their daily lives. Kids have energy, availability and enthusiasm to accomplish great things. By teaching kids to develop a biblical worldview, we can impact their everyday choices and actions. We can ignite an awakening that will impact generations to come."

"We believe kids are world changers and their spiritual foundation is set before the age of 12. By fostering a biblical worldview within them, we are initiating global transformation for years to come."
The aim of KIDMO's stated philosophy is to develop a "biblical worldview." What is a biblical worldview, anyway? It is perceiving how Scripture influences how you should interpret what is happening in the world around you. Scriptural principles help us to recognize truth and falsehoods in everything we hear. This seems a worthy goal. Why shouldn't this be a philosophy worth embracing?

1. It ignores the Gospel. The philosophy states that "in order for transformation to realized, kids must be needed, valued and engaged in mentoring relationships," but this is a false statement. Where does transformation come from? From Jesus Christ. The Bible teaches us that the gospel is this: "Christ died for our sins..." (I Corinthians 15:3) and it is this Gospel that is of "first importance" (I Cor. 15:3). It is "the which you are being saved" (I Cor. 15:2). The Gospel message is not that we are needed and valued as individuals! It is that we are sinners in desperate need of a Savior who can reconcile us to God. In preparing their hearts for receiving the Gospel we need to introduce children to the One Holy God and let them see, like Isaiah (in Isaiah 6) that they are unholy and unpleasing to God. Authors Sally Michael, Jill Nelson, and Bud Burk put it this way: "We need to impress children over and over again with the holiness of God and the perfect obedience that God demands, and confront children with their inability to meet the law's demands--they need to see that their state is hopeless." (Michael, Nelson, and Burk, Helping Children to Understand the Gospel, Children Desiring God, 2009)

2. It ignores the Holy Spirit's role in revealing truth. The KIDMO philosophy aims to equip children with the tools of a biblical worldview and turn them out as transformed children able to make good choices and change the world. Is this what Jesus teaches about understanding the Kingdom of God? He tells us that "Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God" (John 8:4). And about the Holy Spirit Jesus says, "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you." (John 17:8-9, 13-14).

3. It ignores the fact that a biblical worldview cannot be imparted to someone who is not already a believer in Christ. KIDMO mistakenly asserts that connecting kids to a biblical worldview will accomplish "personal, social, and cultural transformation." This is contrary to what the Bible teaches, but is especially misleading because having a biblical worldview, and learning to think biblically, is a very important goal. It cannot, however, be accomplished apart from the Holy Spirit's power. As I said in point 2, Jesus is very clear that the things of the Kingdom cannot be understood by non-believers. Paul writes, "For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe" (I Cor. 1:21). "He [God] is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption" (I Cor 1:30).

4. It is centered on kids, a concept that (ironically) is not consistent with a biblical worldview. The philosophy statement reveals that KIDMO is centered on kids, not on God. An effective, Biblical children's curriculum should direct the eyes, hearts, and minds of children to God. It should be centered on what God has accomplished through His plan of redemption. When KIDMO says, "Kids have energy, availability, and enthusiasm to accomplish great things," it suggests that KIDMO fails to see that nothing great or good can be accomplished apart from God. KIDMO, in selling their product, is bent on convincing the potential buyer that they value children, but it would be better to demonstrate a passion for God's glory and an understanding that children desperately need Jesus.

5. It assumes that knowledge alone can "impact everyday choices and actions." What is the goal of KIDMO's teaching? That children would make good choices and change the world. What is the proper goal of spiritual teaching? That children would know God.*

KIDMO aims to teach children to make proper (good) moral choices. At its core, this aim promises to affect change on the behavior of children. While godly parenting must discipline and correct behavior, the aim of spiritual training in a church setting should not be to simply teach morality. The Bible is not a moral textbook. It presents the standard of God's morality to convict us of our sin that we might turn to Christ. The Bible teaches that we cannot be moral creatures (Rom 3:23) apart from the righteousness of God given to us--credited to us--through faith in Christ's work on the cross. Instead, morality should be taught to children in this context: the unsaved child must see God's standard and their own inability to meet it so that they see their need for Christ and come to repentance. It is important that children learn God's commands to prepare their hearts for salvation. The saved child must see that in the power of the Holy Spirit he can begin to be sanctified and become more like Jesus. We don't just want well behaved children who make good choices, we want saved children who are becoming like Jesus.

6. It assumes that church is not relevant to a child's daily life unless media-driven, energetic methods are employed. KIDMO gets this wrong. The assumption of KIDMO that previous methods of "doing" church or Sunday School are irrelevant to modern children is intimidating, but ultimately false. In fact, the philosophy document goes on to say, "Inevitably, classrooms are filled with well-intentioned volunteers that struggle to breathe life into even the most trusted curriculum resources." And, "Kids are so entrenched in today's technological culture, they instantly identify with video communication." This is a myth and lacks confidence in the power of God's Word. The Bible teaches us that there is nothing new under the sun. The problems that today's children face are not too great for the Gospel. When kids are struggling to make sense of the godless teaching they hear in public school five days a week, watching a high-energy video that claims to give a Biblical worldview is bringing a wet noodle to a sword fight. Kids have big troubles--parents who fight, fathers who are missing, bullies who hurt, television that desensitizes them to sin, and a culture that pretends God doesn't exist. They need adult believers who are willing to study their Scriptures, prepare a lesson, listen to questions, and demonstrate by example the power of the Gospel. Eye-catching programming is available at every turn. Where can kids find real answers to their suffering?

*KIDMO's K5 Call to Action does list "Know God" as the "K" in KIDMO. The other letters include "Integrate a Biblical Worldview," "Discover Truth," "Make Christ Known," and "Offer Themselves in Service." This call to action sounds much better than the philosophy and mission of the company as stated on their website. It is difficult to discern from their scope and sequence if the K5 Call to Action is carried out in the lessons.

The KIDMO document "Our Mission" includes the following statement of belief:
What We Believe
We Believe Kids are World Changers!
We believe Jesus, God's only Son, is the ultimate world changer bringing forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and a purpose for living to all who believe and trust in Him.
We believe the Bible is the true and inspired word of God.
We believe kids have an amazing ability to understand Biblical truth and apply it to their lives.
We believe God uses kids to reach their sphere of influence."
The same document includes a "Koncept KIDMO":
"KIDMO is not about information, but transformation.
Not just biblical stories, but a biblical worldview.
We strive to teach God's truth in ways that impact a child's choices and actions. Creativity and imagination are precious resources for penetrating their language and culture. Kids must be needed, valued, and connected. Their church experience must be relevant to their daily lives. Kids have time, availability, and enthusiasm to accomplish great things for His Kingdom. A kid's day-to-day existence is not side tracked by many of the complications that distract their adult counterparts. By teaching them to develop a biblical worldview, we can ignite an awakening that will impact generations to come. For the same reason that Jesus gave his attention to kids, we believe kids grow best when nurtured by loving mentors and teachers."

The KIDMO statement of belief includes five points, three of which have to do with their beliefs about children, two are about God. In their second point (second!) they confess that Jesus is the ultimate world changer, and list some tenets of Christian belief. (Notice that kids are capital-W, capital-C World Changers, but Jesus is the lower-case "ultimate world changer.")Later in the document under "The Local Church" they explain their recognition of the diversity of churches and doctrinal beliefs. Naturally, KIDMO is a company that must reach as many customers as possible and holding firm to a specific theology limits their customer base. It surprises me somewhat they they are unwilling to even embrace the central tenets of evangelical Christianity, but in spite of their belief that "kids have an amazing ability to understand Biblical truth," their own documentation seems to obscure what exactly that truth is. I also object to the weight given to emphasizing their belief about kids, taking up three of five belief statements points. Where are the traditional declarations of doctrine that church elders and staff need to evaluate the theology of a curriculum? KIDMO does not list basic Christian doctrines of the depravity of man, the Trinity, the virgin birth, and the doctrine of salvation. We are left to wonder what they teach about baptism, the Holy Spirit, salvation by grace, repentance, and other critical doctrinal issues.

KIDMO says, "Not just biblical stories, but a biblical worldview." Do they not see that biblical stories are never "just" stories, but are given to us so that we can understand better God's redemption? Every "story" in Scripture points to Christ. I'm guessing KIDMO is reacting to the idea that kids have been taught empty Bible stories that lack impact, and they hope to be deeper and more transformative than your past experience. I want a children's curriculum that does not apologize for Bible stories but unwraps the message of Christ that is proclaimed in each one.

As an aside, I find the statement "A kid's day-to-day existence is not side tracked by many of the complications that distract their adult counterparts," odd. This is contrary to my experience. Kids are bombarded daily with false-teaching from friends, neighbors, school teachers, and television, side-tracking them from the truth of Christ. They lead complicated lives, many in broken families. They need a Good Shepherd, not an entertainment program.

The Scope and Sequence
The KIDMO scope and sequence (accessed 1/11/10) as found on the company's download page shows 32 thematic lessons, with five episodes each. Four more seasonally-themed lessons (Christmas and Easter) are offered with few episodes. It is not clear to me if the company intends for these to be given in a particular order or not. It is difficult to judge what the lessons might contain (although one sample lesson plan is available).

What do I recommend? Children Desiring God. I've explained why in this post entitled "Children Desiring God."


Laura at By the Bushel said...

In a daily devotional book I'm using this year, the entry today includes this sentence, 'The most powerful motive force in the world is a deeply felt appreciation for the forgiveness God mercifully makes available to us in His Son.' the title of the entry is 'Why we don't Seek.' The upshot of the entry, we don't see our hopeless state, the hideousness of our sin, so we don't see the magnificence of Christ.

The term idea of teach a 'Christian worldview' is one that seems to broaden a persons view, But as you have so well put, it may exclude the very essence & fundamental Fact, Detail, Focal Point - Christ. I believe wholeheartedly that I am a 'christian worldview believer' having an extensive wealth of knowledge about Christ. Lest I seem to critical, or self-effacing, I would say the scale leans this way: I am guilty of not seeing my self as I am, a 'convicted sinner in need of a Savior.' But the scale must not just lean, it must slam to the surface below, with conviction....
I can't thank you enough for posting a detailed critique/comparisons of these 2 curriculums. For as I seek to homeschool my children, it is imperative to seek that which will be the best for them.
I look forward to re-reading this, and considering both mission statements and/or philosophies, to compare it to my own.

Mrs. Edwards said...

I hope my critique was clear enough that I do think it is vital to think with a biblical worldview. My objection is that KIDMO seems to use the buzzword without holding fast to the reason a biblical worldview matters, which is Jesus. It puts the cart before the horse.

"Slam to the surface below, with conviction..." Amen.

Laura at By the Bushel said...

Mrs. E- yes, your critiqe was clear, & I probably mis-represented your thought in my comment. Forgive my lack of clarity in my response. I too think that a biblical worldview is of great importance. Agreed. Your objection was well put, to the use of it as a buzzword without the substance.
I'm not familar with either of the curriculums, but will be looking at them, as well as considering our mission in our efforts. Thanks again for these reviews.
I have an additional question, -- did at one point you have a link in your sidebar that mentioned 'women in ministry' perhaps something that would be a negative? I would be very interested in the link again if you know of that? If it was in the positive, either way, I thought I saw it on your blog-
Best always- Laura

Sharon said...

Thanks for this critique Amy. It is clear and detailed, and hits home. It also provides a model for similar questions others might ask about the programs used in their churches. Well done.

Jeff is preaching from the Sermon on the Mount this Sunday evening, on "Blessed are the poor in spirit..." Some of the things he has been talking about with me align with what you have written here. We need to recognise our own sin and need for a saviour. A biblical world view with regards to evolution, or ethics, or anything else will not help us in this necessarily. It will be the Holy Spirit moving in our hearts and those of our children. I am so thankful that He has done this for me and continues to do it!

~ Sharon

Mrs. Edwards said...

Regarding your question about women in ministry, the closest blog post I can recall on this topic was the one in which I quoted from Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Here is the link:

I don't think it is negative about women in ministry, but I posted it in the context of Mother's Day and thinking about the proper role of women. Perhaps I had a link to this on my sidebar for a time? Maybe this isn't what you're remembering.

When you're here we'll have to visit about this sort of thing. I'm curious if the media-driven, programatic/entertainment based trend in Sunday School curriculum is all the rage in Australia as it is here.

Laura at By the Bushel said...

Many thanks- always appreciative of your scholastic & spiritual insights. Also, so glad to hear about your anticipation of the newest Edwards- glad things continue to progress normally! Best & blessings for the days to come!

Laura at By the Bushel said...

Just as I finished that comment, I saw what I was thinking of in your side bar under books your reading. Titled- Evangelical Feminism- A New Path to Liberalism?
that was what I was thinking of.
I taught a class tonight which addressed women in ministry roles. it was a girls highschool class, 10 strong. :) Limited discussion, but good attention.

Mrs. Edwards said...

I forgot about that book! It is a good one, too, that you could read in a day or two. In a broader sense, it helped me understand the two camps of complementarianism and egalitarianism. As a young college grad I held the latter view, but didn't know the label. Now I feel Scripture calls for the former view. In the book Grudem argues, with evidence, the egalitarians tend to lean toward a liberal view of Scripture and inerrancy.

Sharon said...


You said, "When you're here we'll have to visit about this sort of thing."

That is such an American way of putting it! I would say "we'll have to discuss that," or "we'll have to talk about that," or even "we'll have to chat about it." (Chat being the most casual, discuss the most formal.)

In Australian vocab, "visit" is only ever used with the meaning of "spending time together." So when I first read what you said, it was a bit like reading, "When you come to spend time with us, we'll have to spend time together." Funny, huh?

Having got all that out, I would love to chat about this when we visit. We have a decent curriculum for the next term, but I shall be examining it closely as we use it (provided I get the Children's Ministry job) to see if we want to stick with it long term or swap to something else ASAP

It isn't a multimedia curriculum, but I would say it is strongly influenced by the "coloured thinking hats" or "multi-sensory" approaches to teaching everything from a million directions at once. Which I find interesting when our theological convictions tell us that the Word of God is God's primary means of revelation to His people (at least for those who have access to it - I know God is not limited to this and frequently uses other means of calling people in countries where access to the Bible is almost impossible.) Surely given the primacy of the Bible in the matter of revealing God's nature and His plan of salvation, we should be focussing our efforts on enabling kids to read the Bible and understand it themselves? Just a thought.

Separate from theological concerns, is CDG noticeably American in its presentation?

Mrs. Edwards said...

So true about the Word of God being the powerful communication from God Himself. I think one thing that bothers me most is that curricula that lean toward multi-sensory approaches heavily, or are all-out media driven, seem down-right apologetic about Scripture. Not in the sense of defending it, but it is as if they are embarrassed by it.

I do not think CDG is noticeably American, although it is possible I might not pick up on it. When I was at the CDG conference, there were international attendees there from Asia and Africa, so it must be used somewhat across cultures.

CDG does have some weak points, but we (at my church) have found easy ways to strengthen it because the weaknesses are not central to it. For instance, we use Bible flashcard art work from Pensicola Christian College's Abeka so that we have nicely drawn (not cartoony) illustrations of the Bible stories. Also, CDG comes with workbooks that are pencil/crayon activities and some of our preschool classes mix that up a bit with gluing glitter, cotton balls, etc. However, we don't have crafts for the sake of crafts!

CDG does include attention-getting illustrations in the teaching material, but I find that rather than being gimmicks they support the lesson well. Last week when I taught about the golden calf and the consequence of the Israelites' disobedience, I dumped some gold glitter into a clear glass of water to picture Moses grinding the calf into powder for the people to drink. That makes an impression on nine-year-olds!

These CDG comments should probably go with my CDG post...oh well!

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