Every March or April I update my curriculum charts for children’s and youth ministries. This year it has been done in fits and starts as I wondered if they will make any difference now. As we begin a new normal in planning, we need to consider that most likely we will be still social distancing come a new academic year. When churches DO open back for worship, life will be different – sitting farther apart, no touching, perhaps no singing, and most likely no Church School in classrooms. This may be the tipping point in which Sunday school will have a quiet death.
Hopefully in midst of all of this we have realized that the family is the most important element in passing on faith to our children. Gathering together in worship will take precedence over figuring out how children can practice physical distance in classrooms that need to be kept sanitized. While we figure out how many can actually attend in person, most likely churches will continue to broadcast services online. Most of the population of our congregations (especially those over 65 or at high risk) will not “fit” into the space in a safe way.
But that observation needs to be saved for another post. Right now I look at how many “clicks” my curriculum charts from the past several years continue to get, even though they are outdated. (So I’ve removed them all in case you are looking for past ones.) Before I share my updated curriculum chart for children (with a youth chart coming soon), a few things to consider as you review programmatic resources for the coming year.
New Questions to Consider:
- How is this material accessible and/or adaptable for using in the home by an individual child or with a family together?
- What have you learned over the past few weeks in providing formation for children in your congregation?
- How engaging is this material for those who are weary of looking at a screen?
- What is most important for our children (and youth) from a faith perspective during this new phase of our lives together (and apart)?
- What themes are most important for building a life of faith that sustain a relationship with God during times of crisis?
- How are relationships strengthened and community built when not everyone can be “present” – either in-person or online?
- What are the costs (financial and developmental) vs. the benefits of using a particular program?
Updated Children’s Curriculum Chart
In my research there are numerous new programs, mostly “home grown” (StoryMakers NYC is a good example) as opposed to those put out by the major curriculum publishers. Several standard published programs have been discontinued (such as Deep Blue from Cokesbury who has morphed their Deep Blue Bible into other new traditional programs). More and more have gone to downloadable options, including streaming video. But there continues to be the printed teacher guide with lots of additional components. Interestingly, the costs of some have gone down, while there are increased costs for others. I’ll be doing individual reviews of the newest programs in the coming weeks.
Another new addition is that I have included the statements of faith, mission, or theological perspectives of each publisher including those materials self-published by individuals. Most of these I found transparently on their websites, others I needed to dig deeper into their websites for religious affiliation or personal statements. Knowing a publisher’s “theological viewpoint” is one of the lenses I suggest be used in discerning what curricular resource fits best with your church’s mission statement and theological perspective.
Read It’s Planning Season! (now updated) for tips for evaluating your current program year and a process to discern if there is something else that will fit your needs better.
A word about the chart and what each column represents, in order from left to right:
- Title or name of resource
- Publisher – To me, this is important. It gives me an idea of the theological perspective and stance of who is doing the writing and who has editorial oversight. Knowing who the publisher is is helpful. For example, I expect baptismal language in Episcopal material; references to Martin Luther in ELCA materials, and little sacramental materials in independent and non-denominational materials. Doctrinal (or lack thereof) statements can often me the implicit message that an untrained eye may not be able to pick up. Website – how to find it, including sample materials which is 99% standard practice now.
- Foundation Statement – What is the purpose of this resource? It there a theological underpinning that drives the content? Sometimes this is very hard to find in the material.
- Content and Articulation – What kind of resource is this? Is it lectionary based? Thematic? Six weeks, quarterly, of a full year’s worth of lessons? What version of the bible is used, if any?
- Teacher Support – Is the leader left to their own devices? Are there specific lesson plans? What support is available (or necessary), such as teacher training or online support? Are teachers given the answers to questions asked in the material? (There is a pro and con to that, depending on how experienced and discerning your teachers are.)
- Format – How is the material presented and with what materials? Online? Print? DVDs, participant materials, etc.
- Ages – What age level is the material written for? Always check this out as the audience it is designed for is not always in par with your audience of the same level due to experience, maturity, or ability.
- Cost and Usability – Sometimes this is where the rubber hits the road. The snazziest, most attractive, and comprehensive material is out-of-range of most budgets. While a leader’s guide may be reasonable, there, may be so many extraneous pieces that are essential for the program to work that once you add up all the components, it has become quite costly. Curriculum is expensive to publish – and print rapidly goes out of date and is tossed out. More materials are now available online and downloadable, allowing the user to choose what to print or not print. And with the use of tablets, teachers can often load a pdf of the lesson plan on their device and bring it to class with them, eliminating paper altogether.
A final note: permission is given to post and share this chart in your church or on your website. Please link back to this page and give credit to Sharon Ely Pearson. Thank you!