Two weeks ago, Jonathan Cliff wrote a wonderful post on the Curriculum war. I’m really glad he wrote it. Whether people would actually own up to it or not, there is a battle going on in the world of kidmin curriculum. There are some very strong opinions, mostly those of vocal users who want to explain why one is better, more Biblical or theologically correct. Honestly, I feel that these conversations are more hurtful than helpful in most respects. Most of the jabs at curriculum are not about Biblical inaccuracies, but philosophical disagreements that just about anyone could argue both sides equally well.
That manifestation of this curriculum war became very apparent for me last week. LifeWay graciously invited me to blog at the media launch of their new Gospel Project. No one said anything to me, but by being at this event, I felt like I was “choosing a side.” Again, no one said anything but based one past conversations, I could’t shake a feeling that by being in Nashville for this event, people might automatically associate me with a certain philosophy or tactical approach. I’m embarrassed that I spent any mental energy at all to the concern because I believe it to be stupid.
LifeWay interviewed me at the event and asked me why I’m “behind” the Gospel Project and why I “support” it. Honestly, there are a lot of things about what they’re doing that I love. I love that it’s family-centric, where everyone in the family is on the same page. I like the recurring emphasis on the Gospel message of Jesus. But what I really like is that it’s another GREAT option. I remember being a Children’s Pastor 15 years ago and not having very many good options for curriculum. There are so many churches where the Gospel Project is a perfect fit. Home run!
However, there are other churches where the Gospel Project isn’t going to be a perfect fit, mine included. The model just doesn’t fit the Sunday Morning approach of my church, although I’m interested in seeing how components could be used in secondary experiences. At Gateway, we use My First Look and 252 Basics as they fit more into our model and approach for ministry… but that doesn’t mean I can’t still be a fan of the Gospel Project nor does it mean that I can’t encourage others to check it out. I talk with other churches every week and its very encouraging to be able to recommend a bevy of curriculum options, giving them the opportunity to select a curriculum that best fits their unique needs.
I’m grateful to LifeWay for investing the resources into developing the Gospel Project. I expect that lives will be changed and I’ll certainly recommend the curriculum to many churches just as I frequently recommend Orange Curriculum and others. I think that if we’re totally honest, every curriculum has it’s shortcomings or ways that it doesn’t meet our church’s needs. There isn’t any such thing as the perfect curriculum and that’s why we tweak the curriculum every week to meet our needs. So rather than criticize a curriculum because if it’s approach, maybe we should recognize that the curriculum that you have a problem with simply isn’t a good fit for your ministry, but could be perfectly suited for mine.
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Amen Kenny! What’s also nice is that competition forces each curriculum to get better. For so long curriculum companies were allowed to just skate by because there were so few options.
I’ve noticed a dramatic shift in curriculums to becoming higher quality, more customizable and user friendly, and also philosophical shifts in how they present the Gospel. At the end of the day, this is a great thing for all involved.
I agree. We’re in a much better place today than even just 5-6 years ago. I hope that in another 5-6 years, we’ll even have more options, and the curriculum out there today will be even better. It’s a great time to be in ministry.
I agree that there are several great resources, but there is an undercurrent of curriculum wars. Some by producers to try to garner market share and frequently by users who feel what they use is best and everyone should use it.
True story….. I was once sitting in training at Awana Headquarters where a scenario was posed about a new youth pastor dropping Awana. In our group, I made the comment that Awana isn’t for every church and you would have thought I had just committed treason! The tension was so thick that someone else had to divert the conversation. At another table, someone mentioned that they were looking for a children’s pastor, but that Awana was “non-negotiable”. Again, I was stunned! How can someone limit God to just one resource! Yes Awana is good, it is effective, I’m “big” on Awana, but it is not the only one God can use and you are not “out of God’s will” if you’re not using it.
I’ve also heard, or felt, the same form others about other programs.
I’m thankful for the many choices available today. I pray that market share doesn’t taint ministry, and people/churches don;t say “I’m better because I do this or that”. The ultimate goal is to reach kids for Jesus, and disciple them. There are many paths for that, but only one way to Jesus and that should be our focus.
Thank you for that comment Bill. It’s obvious that you’re committed to AWANA and to hear your view brought a smile to my face. We must be reasonable and understand that every resource has it’s place… and some are better served at some churches and not at other. Good stuff, thanks for your input!
This is a refreshing post. I agree completely. I think we spend too much time defending our curriculum choice. The Gospel Project looks sweet, and I’m hoping to check out their media resources to implement into the curriculum I already use. As you said, it’s exciting to have some more resources to pull from.
Great topic and handled well! I too endorse or encourage various curriculums for different needs. I still wrestle with a best curriculum for my Children’s Church. Thanks Kenny and Keith and let’s keep the conversation humming!
My prayer is that families and churches will discover singing as the very best way to teach and to learn the Bible. Singing is very participative using all the senses and its effectiveness far exceeds listening to a talk or watching a drama. It absolutely has the best result.
Lord, encourage the piano players to play and the guitar players to strum and the families to sing and make a joyful noise unto You! More singing! More song writing! More spreading of Your word! Amen!
After working with 252 and First Look for over a year, I’m glad to be walking away from it. Took me a while to realize the lessons related very little to Jesus, kids only really heard a complete Gospel at Easter, and that major parts of the Old Testament that give great pictures of salvation (Noah’s Ark, for example) are not taught because they present a God who is “too scary,” according to one contributor. Kids can get moralistic lessons including words about Jonah and Abraham at Latter-Day Saints’ programs. They can only get the Gospel at Christian churches. The Gospel is disturbingly absent from Orange.
You’re thoughts aren’t unique as I’ve heard similar comments from many other people. Especially when their are curriculum’s branded around “the Gospel” it causes some people to ask, “so does this curriculum not contain the Gospel?”
I’ve been using 252 and First Look for over seven year and our kids are experiencing the Gospel every week because we don’t just rely on our curriculum. Our small group leaders share, invest and mentor the kids in their small group each and every week. They’re building relationships with their kids and sharing their faith. The “virtue” of the month might be determination, but our small group leaders only use the “virtue” as a talking point and diving board to making meaningful connections where life-change happens.
The format of 252 and First Look has always provided the best tools and resources to equip my leaders to lead kids to faith. Sometimes a curriculum choice is bigger than just the content in the scripts and small group activities. It’s why I still believe the best choice for our church is Orange. Sorry that wasn’t your experience and I hope you find that with whatever you’re using now.