Much like shopping for a car, choosing a curriculum is a big investment. In a previous post I noted that curriculum is a vehicle that can be used to point and teach the Gospel. To me, finding the right curriculum is more than just finding something that “works” for children. As a family ministry pastor, I want our ministry to partner with families to move kids and their families to Christ together. Here are four attributes we used to select our current children’s ministry curriculum.
Ask yourself, how does this particular curriculum line up with you as a church? Theology is important, despite what many will say. All churches have a theological pull and if your curriculum is going the opposite way of your church, problems will arise as time marches on. Look into the theological themes being represented as well as the structure of the lessons. Many curricula have a strong emphasis on a particular theology so it’s always good to do your homework.
Does this curriculum work with the audience you are connecting with every Sunday? For instance, a particular curriculum might use a lot of videos. Is your church used to a media-driven children’s ministry? There are many elements of a particular curriculum that might work but the best way to be sure is to test it. Try it out for a few weeks or observe other churches that use the same curriculum you are interested in. No matter what, curriculum must be compatible with your church or where you want to go as a ministry.
How does a curriculum seek to accomplish spiritual growth? Think of philosophy as being a map with a starting point and an end point. The journey between those two points is philosophy. The curriculum we use at Life Community Church is called TRU. The philosophy of TRU is composed of seven pillars. You can see those pillars here. The point is this: You can come up with a story, craft and activities every Sunday but a philosophy provides an intentional path that moves your ministry beyond week-to-week planning toward long-term spiritual growth.
Will your volunteers understand and be able to follow the teaching outline? How do the lessons transfer from plan to practice? Can your staff teach and succeed from the lesson outlines and the elements in a given lesson? Honestly, your curriculum will not make a lick of difference if the leadership cannot teach it. For instance, when we were shopping for curriculum we found a great curriculum but the lessons called for elements not yet utilized in our ministry. It also called for a level of volunteer involvement that we have not yet reached. At the end of the day, you as a leader need to select a curriculum that your team can manage every week. Understand that every curriculum calls for training and preparation of some sort but be sure that your ministry is capable of the adaptation.
What has been your experience? What other attributes would you add to the list? Many churches settle on a curriculum or continue certain curricula because of cost or tradition; but I encourage all children’s ministries to continually re-evaluate your curriculum to be sure it’s best for your ministry.