Since I first drafted this in October of 2014 and it is almost one year later I am going to release this article. I had intended on following this post up with further details regarding specifics of various curricula; however, maybe some of you will find this beneficial as it stands. I still hope to provide a follow-up when time permits……
I have spent approximately 18 years in Student Ministry. In 1996 or thereabouts I taught my first group of 4th grade boys, moved on to middle school, then high school, some college students, then taught in Christian schools for 9 years (mostly high school and some middle school) and then about 3 years ago I found myself back in the midst of children again as our church plant attracted many children. So, I’ve spent a fair amount of time evaluating children’s curriculum – looking for Bible based, Christ focused, active learning, parent connected curriculum. I prefer having media resources available as well but because we meet in city parks and apartment complexes I’m not often able to use that component so it is not imperative (though it is preferred in a good curriculum).
Over the past three years I have utilized many curricula and while I still prefer to create my own eclectic materials, the increasing number of opportunities to teach each week makes that more and more unreasonable. Recently we added an after school Bible Club at a local public elementary school. We had 29 children on the first day. We are excited and expecting great things.
Our ministry meets in three different locations throughout the week. Currently, we meet Sunday afternoon at a local Rotary Club then in a city park for community fun, Wednesday evening at an apartment complex, and Thursday afternoon in a public school for our after school Bible Club.
This past week we ministered to approximately 50 children and another 15-20 middle school/high school students at these venues (October 2014). With the transitory nature of where we minister, the high level of single parent families, and other circumstances we will not be able to contact and have face time with all the parents (our team is about 4-5 people; all part time except myself – soon to be bi-vocational again as things look); however, I believe it is the primary role of parents to raise their children and it our job to come alongside them and assist them.
With that understanding, the following are some of my thoughts on various curricula.
First, I would recommend determining what your non-negotiables are. For me these included:
- Bible based: The materials needed to be text-based
- Chronological: The materials need to teach the children the overarching story of God, not just topical, character, piecemeal lessons.
- Christ focused: The materials needed to point to Jesus as I believe all the Old Testament points to Him and the New Testament is about Him and the future is awaiting His return
- Active learning: There must be regular interaction for the children. I tend to be content heavy and need constant object lessons, activities, illustrations, and involvement to maintain interest and cohesion
- Parent connection: Even though I don’t think most of the parent take home papers make it to the parents and the ones that do I fear are mostly left unread it is vital that we make inroads to connecting parents with Jesus and helping parents shepherd their children.
- Child connection: We do not just want to teach children for one hour each week. We want them to learn to study the Bible for themselves so each week we send home a child/student paper to help them further their walk. Again, most of these are not used but for the few that we think are using them, this will greatly help their Spiritual growth.
- Reproducible: By this I do not mean you can print extra copies! I mean that as you train others to teach as part of your team, they can do what you are doing. This is actually one of my biggest obstacles because of my education, experience, and eclecticism. I prefer to create all my own materials, including weekly take home cards with a summary of the lesson, memory verse cards, activity (word search, etc.), pictures, etc. I cannot expect a new teacher to do all this. I do expect them to prepare and spend the time (not 20 minutes) to have a good lesson but they need a good, strong curriculum that makes sense to follow and is easily adaptable.
- Contextual: Again, I am not referring to Biblical context here but rather where you will be meeting. Curriculum that is based on DVD are no use to use when we meet in a city park without electricity, lots of sunlight, etc. Where and how you do ministry is a major factor in choosing the right curriculum.
- Jared Kennedy has written a good article on the process they used you may find helpful as well.
Second, I would recommend, reading what others have already reviewed. This will save you a lot of time and there is no need to re-invent the wheel on this aspect.
- For some good reviews of Children’s Curriculum check out the Sunday School Helper.
- I would also recommend looking at Jared Kennedy’s article on why they chose the curriculum they did as well as his article on alternative choices they looked at. What you will note is that Jared indicates a similar process to what I’m recommending and that they use the curriculum as a skeleton and re-arrange as needed.
- These two resources, the Sunday School Helper and the articles by Jared should give you a strong base for making some preliminary decisions in choosing a Bible based and Jesus focused curriculum.
- EPIC is a newer curriculum not listed (and too pricey for our church plant) but it looks to be great for churches desiring multimedia and parent connections combined with a chronological approach.
Third, I would recommend, based on your non-negotiables, choosing what is the best fit for your current, and if possible, your long term ministry plans.
P.S. If you are interested in the Gospel Story Curriculum, it is currently on sale (very unusual!) until September 21, 2015.