In 1996, an independent evangelical church in northern California
completed an extensive review of three of Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo’s
Growing Families International (GFI) curricula: Preparation for
Parenting, Preparation for the Toddler Years, and Growing Kids God’s
The review was undertaken when concerns about the curricula were raised
by members of the congregation and brought to the pastoral staff and
Upon receiving these concerns, the elders and pastoral staff decided
that an evaluation of the materials was prudent and necessary. A plan
to carefully review these materials was initiated, and nearly four
months was dedicated to the task of gathering information about and
opinions of the curricula from many sources: churches who had used or
were then using GFI curricula, individuals in the church who felt their
family had benefited from Ezzos’ parenting materials, individuals in the
church who were concerned about the curricula’s content, various
Christian organizations who had formed opinions about these curricula,
as well as the pastoral staff and elder board’s own review of these
three GFI texts and their accompanying audio tapes.
The curricula were felt to speak from a singular authority with a narrow
approach to every subject which they addressed (philosophy, psychology,
pediatrics, and the like). A lack of connection with the historical
Church, its teachings and its teachers was also noted.
The curricula were felt to de-emphasize the singular ability of God
alone to regenerate hearts, so much so that this critical truth appeared
to be greatly lacking. Rather, the impression is given in the curricula
that correctly applied Biblical principles can, in themselves, change
behavior. This impression diminishes the great cost of our redemption.
Moreover, the Church must acknowledge that rebellion in children is
possible, even when they are given the best training. Heartfelt concern
was expressed for any parents who might (as a result of this expectation
forged in the curricula) place unwarranted blame on themselves should
their child, in fact, reject Christ.
The curricula were felt to diminish the contributions and input of those
within the medical community. This, too, was deemed a departure from
the historical instruction to the Church which has been to esteem such
bodies of knowledge as gifts from God.
The Ezzos’ materials are not without positive aspects (e.g. reminding
parents of the importance of consistency) however, given the crucial
nature of parenting instruction, the Church’s responsibility to use the
best teaching materials possible, the significance of the identified
concerns, and the fact that the materials themselves discourage using a
variety of parenting curricula, this church decided against using any of
the GFI curricula as part of its sponsored offerings.
Once the decision not to use the Ezzos’ materials had been made, it was
decided that the elders would invite those in support and those critical
of the Ezzos’ materials to the next elders’ meeting.
At this meeting, the elders and pastoral staff shared their conclusion
in written form and led an open discussion about their concerns. Both
advocates and critics of the Ezzos’ curricula were given an opportunity
to speak and be heard. Respect was conferred to all in attendance.
The pastoral staff took great pains to point out that their decision was
in no way a reflection about any individual who had used or would
continue to use the Ezzos’ materials without church sponsorship. Those
still trying to make up their minds about whether or not they would use
the materials in the future were urged to read through the Ezzos’
programs with the church’s concerns in mind, and prayerfully arrive at
their own conclusions.
Reaction and Response
Some of the advocates of the Ezzo’s materials told the elders that they
were submitting to the elders’ conclusions and had chosen to discontinue
use of the materials. Others chose to begin using the materials in a
forum not sponsored by the church.
Reflections on the Process
It is the opinion of this church that the approach taken afforded them
the best possible outcome given the level of controversy over the Ezzos’
materials. All those who needed to know of the process were informed,
and hurt feelings were minimized.
The process assured that the issues were brought to light, that the
final decision was not imposed without input from the affected
congregants, and that those who (in spite of the elders’ recommendation)
chose to privately use GFI’s parenting materials were treated fairly.
In short, a peaceful resolution was achieved.