“My college theology professor is teaching progressive creation, but I can see all the problems with his view because our church’s Foundations classes taught us to defend the biblical worldview.”
“My friend said evolution is the reason he doesn’t believe the Bible, but I was able to answer his objections using what I learned in our church’s worldview program.”
“If it weren’t for the special worldview emphasis at home and at church, I think my faith would be falling apart right now in my high school theology class.”
Shyla Allard of Grace Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, hears encouraging comments like this all the time. The church has specialized worldview programs for different age groups. Ninth graders are offered a Christian worldview and doctrine class at church on Sunday nights, which Shyla and ten others teach. For the past four years, it has culminated in a one-week road trip, where the young people apply everything they’ve learned to interpret the professional exhibits at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. For a wholesome contrast, they also visit the Creation Museum near Cincinnati and analyze the differences.
The barrage of evolutionary dogma at the Field Museum can be a bit overwhelming. So Shyla now guides the tour. Shyla and her sister, a schoolteacher, visited the Field Museum ahead of time and then prepared a study guide to the museum’s huge Evolving Planet display. Students use the booklet to record their observations and questions while they tour the museum.
Shyla (far right) discusses an exhibit in the Field Museum with her Foundations students.
In Shyla’s practiced hands, a Field Museum video on radioisotope dating becomes a springboard for young people to identify the undisclosed evolutionary assumptions that drive these mistaken dating techniques. When they come to a video on natural selection, young people first ask themselves where biblical creationists would agree with the video. The point is that observational science can discover wonderful things about living creatures, which we agree upon, but historical science, which attempts to discover the origin of life and how things happened in the past, depends on unproveable assumptions about the unobserved past. By the Creator’s design, creatures can adapt to changing environments, but they don’t change into different kinds of creatures.
A highlight of the 2012 trip was the chance to compare two different interpretations of Lucy, the famous ape and supposed ancestor of humans. After viewing the Creation Museum’s distinctly apelike Lucy, students could easily see how opposing worldviews influenced the Field Museum’s exhibit, where Lucy stands upright and has a human face, hands, and feet.
That evening, students and teachers gathered at the hotel to discuss their visits to the two museums. Although leaders expected a short debriefing so students could quickly adjourn for their social time in the hotel, the hands kept going up to share their thoughts.
Shyla is thrilled to see God grant such understanding. She says, “I was deceived as a young person, and I don’t want to see others deceived; I want them to know the truth.”
What Makes an Effective Training Program?
The success of any church training program depends ultimately upon the Holy Spirit, but successful programs usually share many qualities. The pastoral staff at Grace Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, have incorporated several important elements.
Common Vision—Grace Church has a passion to develop young adults with strong faith. That common vision energizes and directs the youth trainers.
Staged Reinforcement—Grace offers focused worldview and doctrine classes at three strategic stages. In fifth and sixth grade, children are beginning to seriously consider fundamental worldview questions. Ninth-grade class is the first year of high school, when challenges to kids’ faith intensify. High school seniors need an advanced worldview class and refresher, just before they head into the work force or to college.
Incentive—Students who complete the class are rewarded with a field trip.
Joint Hard Work—Pastors and lay people at Grace wrote a curriculum to teach Christian worldview and Bible doctrines. That hard effort needed church members’ dedicated participation. Your church may not write its own curriculum, but effective teaching requires hard work from everyone, not just the pastor.
High Expectations—Students are not given a “free ride.” Worldview classes include exams. The ninth- and twelfth-grade classes are offered Sunday evenings at a time when students must decide whether to invest their free time to attend.
Practical Application—The field trip gives students the opportunity to see opposing worldviews at full strength, safely guided by wise teachers under controlled conditions.
Personal Sacrifice—Grace Church underwrites almost half of the cost of the road trip. Shyla made a special trip to Chicago. Effective training requires sacrifices of time and money to God’s glory.