A ministry mindset of "know thyself" only takes us so far, however. When it comes to curriculum, the ability to evaluate and critique potential resources is a fundamental skill for all children's ministry workers. So perhaps one should "know thy curriculum" as well.
Depending on your context and your personal preferences, the evaluation of curriculum can start in any number of places. However, there are a few standard hurdles that many churches face when selecting curriculum for children.
This is especially important for mainline protestant churches, as much of the curriculum industry comes from an Evangelical perspective. While not an immediate reason to reject curriculum for many churches, part of the evaluation process should involve a theology check--particularly around areas that are sensitive in your congregation. If you are uncomfortable being the sole theological reviewer, enlist the help of staff members or clergy.
Context, context, context! It comes up a lot because, well, it's essential! What do you want to achieve with this curriculum? Are there learning goals or objectives? Do you have kids who have special learning needs? All curriculum can be edited for context, but it's helpful to read for your particular congregation in an initial evaluation period. Many curriculum companies offer samples (or trial periods) with their curriculum. In those instances, you can test out the material with either a control group or across an entire ministry.
If you serve a mainline denomination, it's helpful to look at denominational resources and think about whether they will be useful in your setting. For many children's ministries, using a denomination-specific Sunday school class doesn't matter, as much of that information is taught and learned during confirmation.
However, (and this goes back to theology for a second), knowing and understanding what makes your church specifically Methodist or specifically Lutheran is important.
If there are resources that speak to your particular spiritual heritage, great! They may be a good fit. Similarly, if a resource contradicts your doctrine and polity, it might not be worth the effort required to edit the materials regularly.
Your goals focus on a top-level approach to curriculum. However, knowing the goals – the hopes and dreams, if you will – for your program is necessary when choosing curriculum. Many ministries operate on what often feels like a year-to-year basis. Defining and articulating the goals and values of your ministry can serve as a structure and guide for many decisions, including the selection and evaluation of curriculum.
This has been an excerpt from our eBook available for free download here.