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Before we jump into the nitty-gritty of resources and practices, can we clearly define our roles? I think it will help provide a framework and context to talk about issues.

The role of the church

As Bill Hybles so beautifully says, “The Church is the hope of the world.” It’s true. There was a time when there was no such thing as curriculum. The church would read the letters of the Apostles, they’d encourage each other, share meals together and tell their neighbors about who Christ was. There were no publishing companies back then. There will come a day when Christ comes back for his church and all need for curriculum will be gone as well will fully know and be known. The church is eternal, curriculum is temporal. Curriculum is nothing without the church. Curriculum serves an important function, but precious few people will be encouraged, grow or will come to faith by curriculum alone.

The role of curriculum

Curriculum is a valuable resource. So much of the work of the church today is being done my part-time staff and lay volunteers. With people with limited time, their time is best spent loving and pastoring people, not designing lesson plans, object lessons and skits. Publishers provide such a valuable role by committing biblical experts and creative communicators who spend 40 + hours a week developing resources that the church can use. It really is an efficient model. The church needs good curriculum. It helps us at the church maximize our time and better equip our leaders and volunteers while still giving us time to serve the needs of our community.

I don’t know a lot about publishing companies and the world they live in. Although most are non-profit like our churches, they’re trying to be profitable. Not profitable to pad their salaries, but profitable so that they can continue to offer more and better resources for the church. I’m sure there is a bottom line and business decisions to be made. I understand that. I also have spoken to several who run and/or work for publishing companies. I’m almost always so impressed with their heart and passion for the church. Most are very involved in their own churches and are very much connected to the reality of what the real focus is.

Here’s the bottom line. Although the church needs good curriculum, publishing companies exist to serve and equip the church. If churches are frustrated with the resources provided by one publisher, they’ll leave that publisher and pick another. Unfortunately, the bigger problem that I’ve experienced is that I’ve come to realize that there is no perfect curriculum. There may be aspects of one that I love where certain components are sorely lacking. We could switch to another publisher and the things we love and the things we hate would just get switched around. So here’s the truth. Many churches feel trapped. There are some great resources out there and great publishers doing awesome things, but I’ve not yet found a publisher that totally satisfies. I know that it’s impossible to please everyone, but I do think that it’s possible to raise the level of what you’re already doing in every area to keep your fan base committed for the long haul.

One other thing and I’ll end this post. Take more chances for the churches that are doing the same. I know that there are bazillions of churches that are doing the same thing they were 10 years ago and they’re mostly happy with the resources you’re providing. However, sometimes a movement begins in the church and things begin to shift and it seems that curriculum publishers are too slow to accommodate churches that are pushing the boundaries of what’s been done before. I remember a time when children’s ministry was primarily a 90 minute kids church. When the strategy began to change to both kids church with small group breakouts, very few companies were developing material to do this. Churches had to write small group breakout questions to go along with the large group format. Now it seems every publisher has large group/small group curriculum. Maybe it’s a money thing? Maybe now that there is a big enough client base to support the development of that kind of curriculum. However, I’m not convinced that publishing companies can’t take more risk and develop experimental resources to equip churches that are pushing the limits in reaching families for Christ.

Tomorrow we’ll dive into another subject.