One of the worst things a preacher can do is moralize from the pulpit. God's Law isn't a list of moral attributes His people ought to display, it's a reflection of His perfection. The way to righteousness isn't a particular moral code, it's surrendered faith in Jesus Christ. If morals were what God expected of us, there really would be many roads to heaven; as it is, Christ is the only way.
That's why we aren't fans of character building programs that emphasize good behavior. Obviously, children should be taught to obey, to do what God commands, and to avoid sin, but more importantly they need to learn to love God. If our hearts belong to God, the rest will follow. Those who claim they can live however they please because they have faith in Jesus don't really know anything about faith or Jesus.
When Jesus indwells us and renews our desires, the more we relinquish to His control, the more we start wanting to do right and the less we want to do wrong. Our kids are no different—if we raise them to think they have to abide by some legalistic standard, they'll likely get frustrated and even fall away from the faith. If we train them to find fulfillment in Christ and to desire Him completely, eventually they'll also learn to follow His example.
Not all character curriculum is created equal. Some are better able to inspire kids to Christlikeness through simply pointing to Him than others, and some do get bogged down in details, but we've managed to select books that get the doctrine of grace right and aren't too focused on outward displays of virtue and obedience.
Again, children should be virtuous, and they should obey. But they never will if they don't first love Christ. Godly character isn't predicated on what others can see, it's predicated on what only God Himself can see: our hearts. In other words, a good character curriculum starts from the inside and works out to the actions and behavior.
Favorites at Exodus Books are the Doorposts materials by Pam Forster, a variety of books and resources designed to steer children on the path of reverence, devotion and faith. Pam's books are both practical and spiritual, and speak as much to parents as to their offspring. Since children learn most about life from their parents, we appreciate this parental emphasis very much.
In the end, a book can't make your children good. The only thing that can make them good is the transformative power of Christ's blood, freely offered through faith in Him. But neither can children learn the Gospel and its demands through osmosis; they must be told the story of God's redemptive acts over and over, and these books will help you do just that, as well as showing them what the life of a Christian ought to look like.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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