David C. Cook Bible-in-Life Curriculum and Noah's Park Children's Church. Colorado Springs, CoIo.: Cook Communications Ministries. See www.cookministries.com.
The Bible-in-Life Curriculum has much to recommend it. It is easy to use, biblically focused, and, particularly for younger children, developmentally appropriate. Unfortunately, many Anglicans will find its overriding concern with individual salvation too theologically narrow.
The teachers' guides are attractive, well laid out, and suggest a variety of age-appropriate activities, crafts, stories, and games. The teacher is encouraged to choose from among many options when preparing for a class. In addition, material is provided for the instructor's personal devotions and meditation. As those of us who search for church school teachers are well aware, the teacher's guide must be easy for the teacher to use. These are. They are, in fact, so easy, that they provide answers for almost all of the questions that one might ask the students. This is a mixed blessing. For teachers who are comfortable teaching, but uncomfortable with their mastery of the biblical material, the scripted answers provide a "security blanket," so that the teacher can expand ideas, and welcome the child's unexpected answer. For the teacher who is not comfortable with teaching, the scripted answers may cut off conversation. The teacher now has the "right answer" in hand, and can, in turn, hand it to the students without allowing enough exploratory conversation.
Lessons are arranged thematically, around such themes as humility, concern, and hope. The Bible lesson each week reflects the theme in some way. Thus, the narrative flow of some of Scripture is sacrificed for the illustration of themes. At Christmas and Easter, the birth and resurrection narratives are used, however. Throughout the entire curriculum, the ultimate concern is the child's personal salvation. The teachers' guides demonstrate this priority by using the inside back covers to provide a list of steps by which one can lead a child or youth to Christ.
The essential theology of salvation is penal substitutionary atonement (inside back cover of any teachers guide), with an emphasis on an individual's salvation and ultimate journey to heaven. The high school materials for December 2002-February 2003 contain a unit on the book of Revelation. The theme of this unit is hope, and the hope presented is the hope that we can, through faith in Jesus, go to heaven at the time of the final judgment. …