My Children’s Curriculum Conundrum

I’m having a bit of a difficult finding children’s curriculum right now. Honestly, I’m pretty disappointed in the selection of so much of the curriculum. I feel like we keep getting moralism and/or dryness shoved down our throats because that is just the way the industry and the market is.

Allow me to explain a bit about my context. I don’t think it is that unique, but it might help to understand why I’m so frustrated.

We live in an area that is hit pretty hard by broken homes, drugs, poverty, and kids who are caught in the crossfires. About a year ago we started feeding our community a free meal on Wednesday evenings. And we also worked on strengthening and expanding our bus ministry. We went from having about 50-60 kids to 130 and climbing. I would say about 80% of these kids come from unchurched families. Many of them don’t even know the name of Jesus’ mother.

Honestly, we’ve grown way faster than we’re been equipped for. We have a great group of leaders and volunteers but every week has been a learning experience. Right now our major task is picking a curriculum that is both Christ-centered and theologically-solid and fits the dynamics of our ministry. I’m having a terrible time finding this curriculum. Here is the problem:

The curriculum that is engaging and written with unchurched kids in mind is drenched in moralism and light on Jesus. The curriculum that is phenomenal theologically isn’t geared towards unchurched kids who are from broken homes and possess little Bible knowledge.

Why in the world doesn’t this curriculum exist? Why is that the action points in about 80% of these lessons is, “You can make a right choice for God” and not based on the accomplishments of Jesus? The first test any curriculum has to pass for me is whether children are left in their own hands or in the hands of Jesus. As Bryan Chapell has rightly said, “Whether people depart alone or in the Savior’s hand marks the difference between futility and faith, legalism and true obedience, do-goodism and real godliness”.  I throw out a ton of the curriculum on this first test.

Honestly, at this point I usually look at some of the curriculum coming out of more Reformed-minded folks. And you know what I find here? Stuff that does really good at teaching gospel truths and doctrine, and would be phenomenal for kids who have a parent that can walk through these questions with them, but is written on a level that will befuddle our kids. Believe me, I will shout from the rooftops that the power is found in God’s Word and not in a bunch of trivial junk we often do to try to engage kids. But you can also err in speaking a language these kids don’t even understand. And that’s what happens with so much of the solid Bible curriculum, it almost always assumes some prior Bible knowledge.

Why in the world does “go-deeper” mean connect things to Christ? That isn’t the next level of Christian discipleship, it is the A-Z of the Christian life. So why in the world can we not have something written on an introductory level that is engaging to unchurched kids and also absolutely grounded in the gospel?

Sort of an Open Letter

Dear Reformedish folk, I know that the ideal is to have parents actively discipling their children. And please continue writing stuff that consistently tries to train, involve, and equip and parents. But please don’t write curriculum which totally relies upon that. Because we don’t live in an ideal world. We live with tons of brokenness and we have scores of kids whose only concept of mom and dad might be their midweek Bible study teacher. Help that Bible teacher out by providing some good twenty minute studies that are grounded in the gospel. Help us put together curriculum which can help build relationships with these kids, create an atmosphere soaked in the gospel, and shorter Bible studies which will introduce kids to Christ.

Dear knocking-it-out-of-the-park-with-being-engaging people, you’ve put a ton of work into writing material which will relate to kids and make the teachers job easier. Please, oh please, have a little more confidence that the gospel really is exciting. I know it’s so much easier and parents absolutely love it when we tell kids how to behave but I beg you stop writing stuff which will only churn out more and more Pharisees. Ground EVERYTHING in the gospel. Don’t just tack on stories about Jesus or have a gospel presentation somewhere during the quarter. Show us how Jesus relates to everything and how his finished work is everything that kids need! Show them how what Jesus did motivates our obedience.

I’m open to any curriculum suggestions you have. I’m looking for midweek stuff, though. We use The Gospel Project for Sunday school (love what they are doing). It needs to be easily accessible for the teachers, understandable for the kids, engaging, and above all truly Christ-centered.

Photo source: here  (That’s about how I feel right now trying to find suitable curriculum)

3 Comments

  1. Have you looked at the Bible study curriculums available for women — not to see if they would be good for your weekday children? Most of them are the same as you describe the curriculums you have looked at for the children: not Christ- or Bible-oriented, but focused on the personal choices (and emotions) of the student. So, maybe the problem is with the church as a whole. If the adults do not study theology and the gospel and focus on Christ in their Bible studies, why should we expect to find a theological, gospel, Christ-centered study for children that is truly appropriate for children?

    And as for the materials not being appropriate for children, or adults, who have no background knowledge of Christ or the Bible, that fits the current educational policy for secular schools too. The materials writers work toward the standards set for where the student of that age should be, not where he actually is.

    Maybe you will have to write your own!

    • Obvioisly this is a great problem in America. I find myself in a similar problem as yourself. I teach the youth group on Wednesday nights at my church. Our church is on the edge of a low income community that is plagued with broken homes, drug use, alcoholism, etc the list goes on and on. All of the “youth ” or “student” curriculum I find assumes prior biblical knowledge. Problem is that these kids didn’t grow up in church. The youth curriculum is over there heads while the elementary curriculum is to childish. I have been teaching them out of a gospel project Sunday school book. Its the best match I could find for their spiritual maturity level, but I still have to stop and explain things often.

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