Letter to the Editor: Popular Group Publishing’s Vacation Bible School Curriculums Promoting Contemplative/Emergent Ideas

LTRP Note: Group Publishing has been listed as a contemplative publisher on the LT Research site for many years. Just take a look at this 1999 article in the Group Publishing archives written by contemplative pioneer Mark Yaconelli to see an example of their early efforts. This particular article is one that is discussed in Ray Yungen’s book A Time of Departing.

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Dear Lighthouse Trails:

I have been hearing about a number churches using Group Publishing’s Vacation Bible School curriculums this year, including my own.  The four 2017 Protestant versions are:  Maker Fun Factory, Passport to Peru, Rome, and Campout.  My church will be using Campout.  Thankfully, someone at our church read through the curriculum and noticed there is no mention of sin, which is the reason why we need our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  The discerning individual who noticed the omission is now rewriting some parts of the VBS curriculum in order to teach more sound theology to our church’s children.  The Campout curriculum, instead of focusing on what Jesus did on the cross as the sacrifice for man’s sin, focuses on how “Jesus’ life showed God’s love.”  I have since been researching more about Group Publishing, and I came across a few things.

Group Publishing also makes a Catholic version of its Protestant VBS curriculum(s), and apparently the company has been doing this at least since 2009, according this article:  http://baptistbulletin.org/the-baptist-bulletin-magazine/is-your-vbs-taking-a-vacation-from-the-gospel/ .  Here is a link to the Totally Catholic Maker Fun Factory (2017):  http://vbs.osv.com/totally-catholic-maker-fun-factory and Totally Catholic Shipwrecked (2018):  http://vbs.osv.com/totally-catholic-shipwrecked.

Group Publishing is also hosting two conferences this year, KidMin Children’s Ministry Conference in September and the Future of the Church Summit in October.  Two of the five speakers at KidMin are Max Lucado and Mark Batterson [The Circle Maker author], both of whom promote contemplative spirituality.  Spiritual formation, which is Roman Catholic mysticism based in eastern spiritual practices, will also be a key component of this conference.  A session on  “Spiritual Formation in Families” will be led by Luz Figueroa during the conference, and here is a description of that session:

“Spiritual formation is the process of being transformed into the image of Christ for the sake of others. What does it take for children to experience God and spiritual growth? And what implications and applications does that have on families? Just because we know it’s the responsibility of parents to be the nurturers of their children’s faith doesn’t mean they have the tools for the job. Spiritual formation is a family matter as children respond to the spiritual formation reflected by the adults who influence them. In this session, you’ll deepen your desire to grow in Christ and consent more freely to the love of God infiltrating your home and ministry context. You’ll also learn how to help children and families live in ways that are increasingly attentive to God, oneself, and others.

  • Consider your personal spiritual formation to discover a fresh approach that seeks transformation—not just education.
  • Explore the important roles of spirituality and formation in relation to the home and church.
  • Explore and understand transformative learning.
  • Experience how as we willingly open ourselves to the transformative movement of the love of God, we open ourselves to the world around us.
  • Discover spiritual practices that will help parents move from the goal of good behavior to creating a compelling faith future for their children.
  • Review 12 spiritual practices that can be implemented at church and at home.”

Click on Family Ministry to see the “Spiritual Formation in Families” session description:  https://www.group.com/category/training-and-events/conferences/kidmin-conference/sessions.do

Group Publishing is additionally organizing a Future of the Church Summit in October.  Leaders of World Vision and World Relief will be speaking among others.  Three of seven topics that will be discussed are:
–   “The Future of Disciple-Making – Explore a new paradigm for the church’s work in discipleship—moving from four-week classes to lifestyle transformation.”
–   “Surprising Paths for Growth in the Church – Discover refreshing forms of ministry that work with those who are done with church as we know it.”
–   “The Next Reformation -Some have noted that the church goes through a major transformation every 500 years. This year marks the 500th anniversary of Luther’s Reformation. So, what’s next?”
https://www.group.com/category/training-and-events/training/future-of-the-church-summit.do

Not only is Group Publishing teaching a watered down Gospel and another version of Jesus, they are also promoting Roman Catholic mysticism through conferences and leading discussions on how the church needs to adopt new paradigms, new ministries, new ways of doing things with the stated purpose of being more effective, rich, relevant, and meaningful.  Many, many churches are unknowingly using these VBS curriculums to teach their children about Jesus and the Bible, but the theology of the publishing group and the theology presented in the VBS curriculums are clearly compromised.

M.P.

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