This Is Why People Have a Problem With This Year’s Group Publishing VBS

One critic on Twitter, who says he is a linguist, articulated his frustration at the language being referred to as simply a “click language”.

In the modifications to the curriculum, Group refers to the Xhosa language by name and simply has the leaders show the “click language” video without having them add clicks to their names.

Another thing that made the curriculum controversial appears to be a typo. While referring to Africa as a continent a number of times, there is also a reference to Africa calling it a country.

Critics Point to Lack of Diversity Among Curriculum Developers

Several critics were quick to point out the apparent lack of diversity on the staff of Group Publishing, which is based in northern Colorado. Critics speculated the lack of diversity among the developers contributed to the insensitivity displayed in the curriculum. A picture of the staff is circulating on Twitter.

Not Everyone Was Critical of the Curriculum

Some of the comments garnered by Group’s Facebook post announcing they had revised the curriculum indicate not everyone found the content culturally insensitive. One minister wrote:

In our children’s ministry, half of our children are African refugees. They are PUMPED to see parts of “home” and are not offended in the least with the cultural elements presented in Roar. It actually makes them feel special! And I am praying it helps our Caucasian children understand their African friends better.
Thank you Group, for including diversity in your curriculum!

Another person summed up the appreciation many felt for the company’s willingness to change the curriculum:

Humility and listening go a long way! I just got an update that all Hawaii VBS military locations are removing the slavery re-enactment section and the clicking section of the Roar VBS curriculum. Praise the Lord! I am so thankful the leadership listened and responded. If I have learned one thing as a mother to Black children…it is that although I don’t always understand what’s appropriate or offensive in the Black culture, if I am willing to listen to people of color, without being defensive, there is so much I can learn from them. And I am honored that people take the time to teach me. #standupforwhatisright #fightforchange

If there are lessons here for church leaders, one might be that we don’t always get it right. How something looks and appears to one person or group of people may look and appear very different to someone else. Apologizing and seeking to understand first, instead of defending ourselves, is usually a good idea.

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Megan Briggs
Megan Briggs is a writer and editor for ChurchLeaders.com. Her experience in ministry, an extensive amount of which was garnered overseas, gives her a unique perspective on the global church. She has the longsuffering and altruistic nature of foreign friends and missionaries to humbly thank for this experience. Megan is passionate about seeking and proclaiming the truth. When she’s not writing, Megan likes to explore God’s magnificent creation.