I have often found curriculum conversations tedious..
A little frustrating because I definitely more of a small group leader than I am a teacher at heart. So for me, I have always assumed that the material was there as a tool and I could slice it, dice it, use what I wanted and toss the rest. If I didn’t agree with the “bottom line” of the story, I have always felt at liberty to chew on the different angles with the kids and help them process different types of take-always. For me, the most interesting thing has been what the scripture of the week was, from there, I’d enjoy bringing in my own games, activities and conversation questions.
However I have found it curious talking with others over the years and hearing much dismay over curriculum. Often no matter the material, the feedback was usually that the material was lacking, that the tools were “broken”.
And I have to confess, my perspective was often less than sympathetic, tiring easily of the endless frustrations.
I can remember saying to people “Who cares! They are pretty much all the same- Just take the story and do what you want with it!”
Such advice is probably not entirely helpful to my ‘teacher-ly’ gifted brothers and sister ; )
I can see in hindsight how such a response would horrify anyone gifted in teaching. My response was flippant and uncaring, portraying an attitude content with ‘mediocrity’.
This was not my heart, I just couldn’t see beyond my own style of engaging kids and I couldn’t see the need for a variety of Faith Formation environments: Environments of learning, exploring, sharing, playing, serving etc..
I have come to realize that Spiritual Formation is much more multifaceted than my own style as “small group leader” (and my own preference for circle times, prayer stations, and service projects!). There is also a need for activity sheets that enrich, for well summarized stories, for a theology in the teaching materials that is in tune with God’s Big Story, for material that is succinct and clear.
We Need Good teaching.
So for any teacher friends who I have ever thrown my hands up in the air at and said “who cares about the curriculum! It doesn’t matter!”? I apologize, because it does matter.
We Need GOOD tools!
And the really good news is that there are A LOT of good tools out there. Tools that I was never really away of i the past. Especially if we are willing to still take an adaptive creative spirit into this teaching adventure- we can draw from a number of sources.
For instance if you dabble in the materials that have been developed within particular denominational traditions (Presbyterian, Pentecostal, baptist etc.) you find all sorts of gems that don’t necessarily pop up as the ‘top ten’ in your google search for “Curriculum for small Sunday school classes”.
Some of our Favourites:
The Jesus Story Book Bible Curriculum
We don’t want to settle for poorly produced materials or theologically questionable tools, but we can recognize that we are never going to LOVE 100% of a curriculum. If we can identify with it theologically, if it is using language that we can adopt easily and activities that would work with our kids than we are on a great track… Than it might be a good fit for us: a malleable tool for us to weld. I still hold fast to my belief that we shouldn’t feel limited and restricted by the curriculum outline. Sometimes there is enough at the core that its worth slicing, dicing and working with!
However, if you really aren’t feeling excited about the material you are using… take heart!
Good tools exist, and there will be a better fit out there for you.