Simple Excellence: Writing Our Own Curriculum
One of my ministry convictions is that curriculum is best when it is written for a specific ministry context. Too often ministry leaders spent quite a bit of money on curriculum written by someone who doesn’t understand their context. When I started at First Presbyterian here in Champaign, I really hoped that I could write curriculum specifically for our context. Our Family Ministry team agreed with me and I set out to write the curriculum for our Sunday morning children’s ministry. Here is what simple excellence looks like in regards to writing curriculum:
Our children sit with their families during the worship part of the service. Then they come up front for our children’s sermon. Our children’s sermon is a story of Buddy Bear and his adopted sons Spunky and Dunky (two monkeys). The story relates directly to the Big Idea that they will learn about in Sunday School. Next, they are dismissed to First Kids, our Sunday School program. We spend the first fifteen minutes in Big Group where the students worship together and then listen to the story for the week. They then spend fifteen minutes in small groups based on their grade. Children do the Application Activity and do Highs and Lows in their small groups. After small groups, the sermon is over so parents come to pick up their children.
Quarterly Curriculum Outlines
Each quarter we cover a different section of the Bible or topical subject. Each fall is focused on Old Testament stories and then the winter is focused on Jesus’ life or the early church. Spring is a time for topical subjects like following Christ or relationships. During the summer we focus on missions and spiritual disciplines. We have developed a two year cycle so we can focus on what is most important.
Big Idea and Big Word
For each lesson we have a Big Idea that runs through the story and the application activity. We communicate this Big Idea in a number of different ways during a lesson. Then for the preschool children we have a Big Word which they pick up at the beginning of the lesson out of a mailbox we have set up in the classroom. The Big Word comes directly from the Big Idea.
Application Activity and Take Home
One of my pet peeves in children’s ministry is busy work to keep kids entertained. Having children do a crossword puzzle or coloring page can keep them busy but does it internalize the Big Idea? Our Application Activity is a hands on activity that challenges students to think through how to apply the Big Idea to their daily lives. The end of the Application Activity focuses students on thinking through one specific Take Home behavior or thought that they can incorporate in their daily lives.
Communication with Parents
It is always interesting to ask our daughters what they learned in Sunday School. They usually say “Jesus” even if they didn’t talk about Jesus. Each week we communicate in our Family Newsletter what the upcoming Big Idea, story and Take Home are for the upcoming First Kids lesson. This way parents know what their children are learning in First Kids and can ask them specific questions about the lesson.
I have loved writing our curriculum. It builds ownership with our teachers because they have an input in what works and what doesn’t. We listen to their experiences and then continue to customize the curriculum to the needs of the children. It also saves us quite a bit of money that would have been spent on buying curriculum.