Growing up on a farm, the carpentry tools we used most often were a hammer and large nails with which we pounded together two by four’s to contain energetic young cattle trying to escape from box stalls. If you didn’t construct the stalls, gates, or fences well, the cattle inevitably would break through the barrier into places you didn’t want them to be. I have been told that this habit that I formed in my growing up years is demonstrated in my general fix-it carpentry around the house – I tend to pound nails too hard or over-tighten things down. My wife sometimes uses this analogy to gently remind me in my conversations that I don’t have to “pound the nail through the wood!”
Moralizing to kids in our care, and particularly to kids around faith matters, can be very detrimental in the same ways that over-pounding a nail or over-tightening a bolt can be. When we wrap up each Bible story neatly with the words “and so kids, don’t be like (fill in the blank)” we diminish what God is saying through the story and reduce Him to a formula. I recommend that you read this recent post on the Calvin Institute of Worship site about the problems of moralism versus faith formation. Although it is written for a church education context, I believe that there is much that applies to Christian day school education as well. Let’s allow room for the Spirit to touch hearts with the stories without needing to give a neat moral wrap-up.