If discipleship is about learning to ask the right questions, then in teaching and discipleship terms, this means putting solid foundation stones in place right from the start, not fake blocks of polystyrene that wobble when you try to stand on them in a storm.
It means, for example, teaching that prayer is about relationship, not about the great Slot Machine in the sky. Betty Pedley, I think, is firm about the need to tell Bible stories to children in such a way that nothing needs to be untaught later. (Like ‘God always does what we ask him to if we believe enough’, aaargh, aaargh, bring out the guillotine!)
So what could we base a discipleship course on? Key Old Testament and New Testament stories? Festivals of the Church Year? Unpacking key passages in detail like the Lord’s Prayer or (for us Anglicans) the Apostles’ Creed?
We set Christmas and Easter in place as festivals we didn’t want to miss out in a messy way. Then I have to confess we checked out the themes of Alpha and Emmaus to see what they consider are the fundamentals for people to think about when they’re contemplating Christianity. And with a little juggling, I reckon they’ve got it about right for families, too.
We balked somewhat at doing a month on ‘Evil’, but if we swap the order round a bit and put ‘Evil’ in February, we’re into the stories of Jesus’ temptations and Good Friday, where evil plays a prominent role and it becomes more obvious how we might approach it.
Similarly, we hesitated about the session on ‘Healing’, but when you think about it, most children are only too delighted to pray very trustingly that God will make Grandad / Uncle Sid / their gerbil better; and there are plenty of really good healing stories to explore (not to mention a chance to play with bandages and fake blood again).
And the first session of Alpha is ‘What’s so important about Christianity?’ Well, we did decide that that isn’t a question children ask until they’re a little older, so we’ve left that out.