Tag Archives: Curriculum

“Curriculum Choosing” Season

Children-clipAs springtime rolls around for Christian educators (even in the midst of Lent), thoughts turn to reviewing curricula, especially if your church is feeling the need for a change or what you have been using is about to be discontinued. Now is the time to begin the research, as it really takes a concerted effort to evaluate what you’ve been using, what’s been working, what’s not been working, what direction you want to go (or continue on), and how the needs of your church (and its families and children) have changed.

With that in mind, springtime has meant a time for me to update the curriculum overview charts that I’ve been doing for 10+ years. Most of the time, each year I simply need to make sure the website address for each resource is correct and update the prices (which inevitably go up a few dollars and cents every year). There’s always a program that is no longer being published or a new one making its debut.

All that remains true for the 2014-2015 program year, with a few additional changes I’ve discovered as I updated, added, and subtracted from my 2013 charts:

  • Despite churches having fewer funds to purchase curricula and more “writing their own” (see the results from the curricula survey I did a year ago), a few publishers are cranking out more new products in a field that is already full of stuff.
  • Older resources are being converted to pay-and-download only (which may be extending their life) for a less-expensive fee.
  • Most publishers offer webinars to introduce new curriculum and/or videos on their website (or YouTube). Teacher training is also offered via video on the websites.
  • There is an increase in video usage in programs, but not all DVD-based. Use of life-streaming is making an appearance.
  • More resources and actual modules for home use. For some, the “Sunday School” portion of the material is a small part of the lesson plan – the rest is meant to be done at home as a family.
  • Pricing is increasing to a license-based model (especially on-line and downloadable material) and as these are often based on average Sunday attendance, the number of children in your program or (now) whether it is used in a home-setting (for homeschoolers).

I’ve expanded the chart this year with several additions – some new curricula (Whirl, Shine On), programs I wouldn’t exactly call curriculum but I know are being used as such (Messy Church), and a few that publishers actually contacted me about, wanting their materials listed on the chart (Discipleland, Faith Practices). So . . . here it is . . . my 2014 Children’s Curriculum Chart!

April2014ChildCurriculumChart

2016 UPDATE! Charts for all age levels (and confirmation) can be found here.

Let the e-mails fly back to me as they usually do with whatever errors you find or missing material you feel I should have included. Happy evaluating!

And if you want more help in evaluating and choosing, don’t forget to visit Building Faith’s Curriculum Center in the Resource Room.

Preparing for Lent

lent2013As much of the country is being blanketed with snow and ice, we are longing for sunshine and warmer temperatures. Lent has always meant spring is on its way, and Ash Wednesday is less than three weeks away, on March 5th.

It’s time to put those Lenten studies in order and plan what our personal disciplines will be this year. Every year I  update a document that lists information about Lent and some intergenerational activities to kick off the season starting with Shrove Tuesday (pancakes!) and “Burying the Alleluia.” It includes a list of resources for children & families, adult studies, and resources for individual or group reflection. You’ll find it all by downloading Lent 2014: Year A.

This is what’s on my radar screen for my congregation (and myself):

  • Lent Madness – I’ll be mounting the large “bracket” poster on a tripod in the narthex for everyone to follow. I’m hoping some confirmands will help keep it up to date.
  • Downloading The Season of Lent 2014 app to my iPad and iPhone that features the words of spiritual director Mary C. Earle alongside the beauty of one of Roger Hutchison’s paintings. The app is not available yet, but I’ve had a sneak preview, and it’s beautiful. (We’re giving out the posters at church, too).
  • Watching another “Big Class” from ChurchNext; this one “Making Sense of the Cross.” I’m trying to figure out a good date and time when I can facilitate a conversation at my church to watch and discuss this together.

What will you be engaged in personally and in your congregation this upcoming Lenten season?

The Curriculum Challenge = The Sunday School Challenge?

var73Many of you know that every 18-months or so I conduct a curriculum survey. I began the practice during my tenure as Children’s Ministries & Christian Education Coordinator in the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut as a means to determine what curricula was being used in congregations in the diocese as well as learn what needs churches and their leadership had that I might be able to offer assistance. When I was called to a new position as Christian Formation Specialist for Church Publishing in 2007, I continued the practice, only offering it church-wide and across denominations.

Perhaps more than anything else, I’m known for the curriculum charts I produce every Spring that gives an overview of a growing list of curricular resources: their theology, publisher, content, format, cost, age-level, and more – all in a handy-dandy multi-page chart. Now my survey results are also looked at with interest. They aren’t scientific, and any true statistician would find all sorts of flaws in my process. But I believe over the years I can see trends. And I hear from real people with real joys, concerns, and questions.

About six months ago I was contacted by Christian Century (the only print magazine I now subscribe to). They were interested in an article about what types of curriculum are being used in mainline churches today. They were interested in what their editorial board were surmising was a greater interest in Godly Play. Would I be able to write a piece? Wow. What an honor.

So, many drafts and edits later, my article has appeared in the February 19, 2014 issue of The Christian Century. I knew it would be coming out soon, but didn’t quite know when. Until I got my bi-weekly e-mail of the issue via e-mail yesterday, listing all the articles. Volume 131, No. 4 is entitled, “Theologians in Residence.”

Read my article:

What Reaches Children? The Sunday School Challenge.

I didn’t choose the title, but perhaps it does speak to the issue facing our church today. I invite your to post your responses on the space offered on The Christian Centuries website / Facebook page and join in the conversation!

Shutting down the Sunday school

oil lampKey Resources, a blog and ministry of the Center for the Ministry of Teaching at Virginia Theological Seminary, recently posted an article by Day Smith Pritchartt that gives a glimpse of a possible future. More and more congregations are looking for new ways of providing formation while realizing that worship is the glue that brings all of us together and nurtures everything else that we do.

What would happen if you “shut down” Sunday school in your congregation? Why would you do this and what would you offer as an alternative in today’s changing culture of lack of volunteers, lack of time, and overextended and over scheduled families? Day might give you some ideas here:

Shutting down the Sunday school · Key Resources.

To blog, to tweet, to pin, to dream

Rows of Sharon seems to have fallen off my radar screen (in a way) as other social media and writing assignments have usurped by on-line time. So here’s how I’m making up for lost reflections here.

It’s an interesting world we live in today, and as a digital immigrant, I’m having fun learning all the ins and outs of the various avenues that seem to open up each day. I’ve just succumbed to linking my personal e-mail (via gmail) to Google+. I’m still not sure what the enhancement will be to being part of “circles” yet, but as they say, “You’ve got to be in it, to win (participate) in it.”

For those who’ve told me they can’t keep track of all the blogs, websites and other digital pieces I manage, I figured I’d run down all of them here in one place. Not just to share with you, but to list them all in one place.

E-mail – that goes without saying. Being a remote staff person for Church Publishing (I am one of many as more and more of us can easily do our jobs using today’s technology in which we are a simple conference call, “Go To Meeting,” or “Web-Ex” connection away.

Blogs – That’s where the time gets eaten up. I oversee many of these; some more intensely than others. Building Faith is sponsored by CPI and has an article posted everyday. Thankfully, I have a cadre of great educators who contribute an article or two each month. Otherwise, all articles come from me – either personally written or searched for from other avenues in the public sphere. I also post weekly to the site that corresponds to my book, The Prayer Book Guide to Christian Education. I list the lectionary readings for the coming week with some reflection questions for personal or group use. There are some for my work with the Standing Commission on Christian Formation and Education: The Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation & Education and Building the Continuum.

Facebook – of course! What started as a simple way to keep connected with friends (which it still is) has become a major way in which I share resources, ideas and information with colleagues, educators and others. I administer several Facebook groups – professional and personal. There’s one for each of the blogs I administer, my church (where I’m Jr. Warden),  St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Wilton, Connecticut, plus I share oversight with others from CPI for Church Publishing, Living the Good News and Weaving God’s Promises. Thankfully, many of the blog postings automatically are set to also post to their particular FB pages, so I don’t need to manually make all the connections work all the time.

Twitter – You can find me at @rowsofsharonp. I’m amazed that I have 254 followers! Most days my blogs posts are simply pushed to Twitter and if I come across an article or new resource, I tweet that. At events I’m more active, such as the recent Children, Youth and a New Kind of Christianity Conference this past May in Washington, DC. I expect I’ll be tweeting at Kanuga’s Christian Formation Conference next week and during July at General Convention. Follow me!

Pinterest – This is the latest one in which I am still learning and adding from time to time. At first it seemed this was a social media site for collecting and sharing recipes, the latest fashions and shoe styles. None of which I have the slightest interest in. However, I do try to keep my bibliographies and book lists up to date for when folks ask for recommendations. And lately I have not been doing well at that. So . . . why not create a virtual site that directly links to books, categorized by topic and ministry category! Check it out and let me know what titles you believe should be added to each “board.”

LinkedIn – I’m “there” too, but it’s pretty static. I’m not looking for a job and the conversations seem to be a bit of a stretch. So no efforts going into that one.