Aug 4, 2014

Are We Blurring the Lines Between Fact and Fiction When We Teach Children?

A recent study says that children who attend church have a harder time distinguishing between what is fact and fiction in life.

The study by Cognitive Science was based on research with 5 & 6 year olds who do and do not attend church.  An example - kids who attend church would be more likely to believe a talking animal they see on television is real.

As Children's Ministry leaders, I believe at times, we have blurred the lines between fact and fiction.  How?

Not clarifying that the stories in the Bible are not fictional stories, but actual events that happened.  It's important to teach kids that the pages of the Bible contain real events that were experienced by real people.

Don't assume they know this.  Tell them as you teach.

Not teaching age-appropriate apologetics.
It's important to teach kids why we believe what we believe.  If we do not, when they are faced with the onslaught of humanism, they will have a difficult time.

People won't continue believing what they discover is fiction...but they will die for what they know is fact.  Just ask the disciples.

Relying too heavily on secular media for illustrations.
I have used clips from secular movies to illustrate Biblical truth for most of my ministry.  Looking back, I may have relied on it too heavily at times.

If we're showing a clip from a Disney movie followed by a clip from an illustrated Bible video...could the lines get blurred?

Taking too much creative liberty.
I recently watched the movie Noah.  I knew ahead of time from the reviews that lots of creative liberty had been taken.  I was able to discern the difference because I had a base to do so.

But with kids, who are very impressionable and may not have enough maturity and understanding, it's important that we distinguish the truth from creative liberty.  If we don't, the line between fact and fiction can become blurred.

Using common descriptions.
This is a hot topic.  Many children's ministry leaders do not believe you should use words like "story" when referencing Bible events.  The thinking is the word is also used to describe fiction and thus blurs the line.

While I have not taken this position, I do think it is a valid point.  We do have to be careful to use language that distinguishes between the two.

What do you think?  Are we blurring the lines?  What should change?  Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.


From where I sit the problem is not so much "blurring the lines" because in real life the lines are blurred. How much is a good historical biography fiction and how much is fact? What about a good fictional biography of the same historical figure? etc.

The deeper problem is teaching children not to question and examine evidence. By treating the Bible simplistically, the Bible says it, it is so. We teach them to believe anything any "authority" says. Videos are such an authority...

As well as children in church I teach Seminarians and sometimes Christian students becoming counselors or teachers. It shocks me how few can use the Scriptures effectively beyond grabbing a "verse" which seems to say what they want. Less than 1 in 10 can explain sensibly why Pauls advice that women should cover their heads when speaking or praying in church (1 Cor 11) does not mean that all Christian women today should wear hats to church. And almost none can go on to show me or their friends how that Scripture passage applies today!

If we don't teach children to think critically about Scripture we set them up to reject Scripture.

Tim thank you for sharing. You raise some very valid points. Faith with no solid foundation based on Scripture won't stand.

Yes, indeed, and solid foundations need to be dug deep and to be strong. If they are not tested they could fail when the storms come.

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