Last month, Rebecca Ninke shared some wonderful guidelines for making difficult choices around planning for Sunday school in the fall—will we be in-person, at home, or hybrid? How will we recruit volunteers? What do we do if volunteers disagree about the safest ways of moving forward? In this post, I'll focus in on what happens after those decisions have been made. Most specifically, how do we choose/develop our Sunday school curricula? Whether you'll be gathering in person, at home, or a little of both, these basic principles and suggestions can assist in preparing plans that meet your students' diverse needs.
First and foremost, consider the developmental needs of the people who will be in the room (whether a physical room or one online). Are they preschoolers? College students? Baby Boomers? Will you have an intergenerational group? Very often, when churches consult with me about curricula that aren't landing as they hoped, I discover that there's a mismatch between the developmental levels of the students and the course material. If you’re developing your own curricula, you will, of course, need to do so with an eye to developmental levels and needs. If purchasing curricula, the associates at 1517 Media (home of Sparkhouse and Augsburg Fortress) are well equipped to help you find programs that meet your students' needs.
Next, I suggest simply asking the prospective students what they would like to learn about and how they learn best. Even preschoolers can often tell us what they like best about the Bible stories they know and that they like it when lessons include music or physical games, or food, etc. And what's happening in their lives that they would like to explore from a faith lens?
Additional important insights can be obtained through careful consideration of potential students' gifts and growing edges. What gifts do students share and which can complement each other? I am often astonished to find in congregations that there happen to be several master gardeners and several children who are fascinated by flowers, or a congregation that tends toward insularity that actually has several members who were world travelers in their youth, etc.
Lastly, and far too easily forgotten in the hubbub of fall planning and the messiness of life, is the need for prayer as we go about our planning work. Where is God calling your congregation to go next? How can education and faith formation play a part? What do your students know that the world needs to hear and what is going on in the world that your students need to know? How might we best tap into the richness that God is making manifest inside and outside the church walls, in the heart of every student?
May your planning in this season be both gift and challenge, and please don't ever hesitate to reach out to our staff in assistance with this crucial ministry!