Guest blog: how to pick kids ministry curriculum by Jonathan Simmons

In keeping with my pastor’s recent trend of divulging his approach to preaching, I’d like to tackle a similar task that besets all children’s ministry everywhere.  One of the hardest things to decide when coordinating a ministry to families is in choosing what curriculum will be a best fit for your church.  We’re not liturgical in the ‘high church’ sense so while we are informed by the historical church calendar, we don’t build a lectionary rhythm around it.  Also, we haven’t yet tackled the ‘big idea’ approach enough to look one year down the road and say for example, “All children and adults will be looking at ‘Forgiveness’”.  At any rate, I do encourage that.  Also, related to the big idea approach, our pastor has been preaching through the Book of Revelation.  While I unapologetically think it’s some of the best exegetical preaching on the Apocalypse currently available, the material isn’t always easily translatable to children.  For those of who you who do have the chutzpah to tackle Revelation in a children’s ministry context, please share it with me.

Otherwise, since no two churches are alike it’s hard to imagine that one curriculum will fit the needs of every church out there.  The reality is that it won’t. The only way to teach a curriculum that will fit every cultural niche of your faith community is to actually write it.  While this is certainly a rewarding process I akin it to building a car from scratch.  It’s laborious, all the pieces need to fit and the end product may start up fine but break down five miles down the road.  We still do it and I still encourage it but only with the caveat of “Do it with excellence”.  I personally think that long-term curriculum writing is best left to a team with a hybrid specialization in developmental psychology, Koine Greek, media literacy and hip-hop.  So how do we come to the conclusion of what to teach our kids?  Well, it’s ultimately a hybrid of all the above.  To what degree we modify a curriculum ultimately depends on what season we’re in.  Since there’s not one curriculum that will meet our every need, we prayerfully work through what we have before us and make the best of it.  Here’s a snapshot of the process:
We shop for what’s relevant to our community.  Right now, we’re using Heartshapers for preschoolers.  In elementary classes, we just worked through the parables of Jesus for the summer.  I may pick up the curriculum or I may trust another team member to do it.  While I approve what’s being taught, I’m also secure enough to know that my volunteers hear from the Lord too.
Feeling a specific unction for this Fall, we’re writing our elementary curriculum.  August will be all about fishing, September through November will be based on the Renovatus Manifesto and December will be all about Advent.  That’s as far as I’ve gotten, which I’m ok with.  I won’t be the only one writing either.  There’s a team of highly capable and brilliant folks doing that writing as well.  In pedagogical terms, this is establishing scope and sequence.
There are some amazing curriculum’s out there that go years in advance.  Two that I highly recommend are Tru and Orange.  If we were to pick something like that though, we would never go straight word for word.  It’s too important that our adult spaces and kids spaces are in parallel so we’ll often throw in a dash of what mom and dad are learning.
Finally, whatever is being taught, we think critically about it.  Is it applicable to me personally?  Does it jive with historical orthodox Christianity?  Is Jesus Christ the central figure?  In my opinion, too much of what is passed off as doctrine is actually moral deism that asserts character development and behavioral modification over a true encounter with the Living God.

Ultimately, this is a sacred responsibility and only after seeking God through prayer do we embark on the next chapter.  It’s go time, baby.  Psalm 78:1-6 is our battle cry.  What are you passing on to the next generation?

Jonathan Simmons is the Children’s Ministry Pastor at Renovatus: A Church for People Under Renovation.