Friday, April 24, 2009

Secret Missions

Last Saturday, I was trying to come up with a good way to teach my Sunday School kids about Matthew 28:19-20, the Great Commission:
So you must go and make disciples of all nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And you can be sure that I am always with you, to the very end.
I wanted a good 'hook' to get their attention, and immediately thought of 'Secret Missions'. I thought it would be perfect. I figured all kids know about Secret Missions. I showed a couple of old Inspector Gadget clips to give an illustration of a Secret Mission (most of the kids had never heard of Inspector Gadget...they loved it).

I then posed the question 'What if God gave you a Secret Mission?' They decided that if God gave them a Secret Mission, they would do their best to follow it. That's when I introduced them to the Great Commission. I pointed out that it's not really a 'secret' mission since it's in the Bible and anyone who has a Bible can read it. But it was still a mission from Jesus to those who believe in Him.

Finally, for a craft, I had them make what appeared to be a standard Sunday School craft (a Cross). It looked like a paper cross made nice and pretty with colored paper glued to it. But in reality, it had a hidden panel with their Secret Mission, Matthew 28:19-20 printed inside. The colored paper served not only as a distraction to outside observers, but also helped camoflauge the hidden compartment. Whether or not they wanted to reveal the hidden contents of their craft was totally up to them. All of the kids had a great time with the craft. They loved that there was a secret compartment with their Secret Mission from God. I thought it was the perfect Sunday School lesson.

Until last night...

I got an email from a parent expressing their concern about the word 'secret'. They found the work to be very negative and don't use it in their house. They work as a therapist and mentioned that 'secret' is a word that sex offenders use with kids. They concluded by encouraging me to not use the term 'secret' anymore.

I had never really thought about this before, and spent a lot of last night trying to figure out what I thought of it. Here's what I've come up with so far:

First of all, a secret is basically another word for privileged information. It creates 2 groups: Group A, which has access to the privileged information, and Group B, which does not.

Why create a secret? Because the creator of the secret believes that if people in Group B had access to the privileged information, it could possibly create an undesired (to the creator of the secret) consequence.

In other words, it becomes an issue of trust: Group A is trusted, Group B is not.

Now I don't really believe that the concept of privileged information is bad. Obviously, you have things like passwords, bank account numbers, etc. that should be privileged information. As far as kids go, the idea of privileged information can be used for their protection. 

I think that where things go wrong, like in the example of the sex offender, is when somone forces a child to choose to put their parents into Group B: the group that can not be trusted. So maybe the concept of privileged information is not bad. Maybe what makes a piece of privileged information bad is when a child is forced to break an absolute rule that is put in place for their protection (in this case, the rule being 'Always trust your parents').

To protect against this, perhaps it would be good to emphasize trust in the parent/kid relationship so that if a situation came up where a kid was asked to place their parents into Group B, their education and upbringing would force them to make a good choice and they would recognize why creating certain forms of privilged information is a bad idea.

Now, I'm not a therapist, and there's probably a lot of things that I'm not considering. But like I said, I've never thought of the idea of 'secrets' being something that should be excluded from the upbringing of our childrent and I'm trying to figure it out. The parent is quite passionate about their opinion on this, and I'd really like to find out if it has merit. I'd hate to teach something to my Sunday School kids that could potentially harm them.

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