A native of Michigan, Richards entered the world on September 25, 1931, to faith-affirming parents. His father served as an elder in their Presbyterian church, and Richards grew up immersed in religious education classes. However, he lost his interest in religion, later decided to enroll at Antioch College, and lacking any guiding factor in his life, he enlisted in the Navy.
Stationed in New York City, Richards encountered Donald Grey Barnhouse who led him to rededicate his life to the Lord. This forever changed Richards who finished his Navy time and went back to school to receive his bacherlor's degree in philosophy. After getting married, Richards attended Dallas Theological Seminary and was ordained in 1962. Moving to Illinois he worked as an editor for Scripture Press Publications and as an associate pastor. His role of overseeing the church education program and teaching a Bible class concerned him. Richards believed that Christian education, practice, and theory needed to be changed and reevaluated.
While teaching as an Assistant Professor of Christian Education at Wheaton College Graduate School, Richards also applied himself to Ph.D. studies. His dissertation research provided him with the framework for his Sunday School PLUS curriculum, and a summer seminar with Wheaton faculty resulted in a book called A New Face for the Church. The impact of this book led Richards to become a full-time author and speaker at conventions and seminars. A prolific writer, Richards has penned over 200 works with much of his writing having been translated into 24 languages.
With his emphasis on the theory of Christian education, Richards has created many changes in the church environment, but he also has taken some criticism. As a researcher and writer, Richards hasn't put his theories to the test in the church or the classroom as he once did. Some practitioners have disagreed with his ideas based on their troubles implementing them. However, other people have found that Richards has found a way to teach Bible content productively, and his approach to teaching Sunday school is the one most used by curriculum publishers.
A resident of Florida, Richards is active in the Hudson's First United Methodist Church and continues to write and give speeches.
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