If you are on the hunt for a new Sunday school curriculum for your church, it can be overwhelming trying to picture how all of the options might play out in your setting. Here are three big questions to ask to narrow down your options:
What is your church’s story?
The first step in teaching children is to identify what your church tries to teach all of its members. Look at the words your church uses to describe itself -- do you recite a creed, have a mission statement, or print a tag-line on your bulletin? How do your members describe your church to friends? These are some indicators of your church’s story, and a good place to look for inspiration.
Look for your church’s story in the curriculum you review. When my congregation describes itself, “welcoming” is a word we often use. A welcoming curriculum shows the diversity of the human family. It includes stories about welcoming strangers and learning from people who are different. We’ve also found that curriculums with videos are wonderfully welcoming. There’s nothing like the look of relief on a new kid’s face when you tell them, “the first thing we’ll do is watch a short video.”
Finally, look for space in the curriculum for your teachers to tell your church’s story. I find that when curriculums stick closely to the actions of the Bible story, and offer lots of open-ended questions, this empowers teachers to make the program their own.
What do families need?
Are parents looking for basic instruction in Bible stories? Are they hoping for discussions of shared values? Are they asking for hands-on service experiences and real-world examples? Probably they’re asking for all of the above, but chatting with families often brings out patterns of priorities your Sunday school can address.
Basic biblical literacy has been a common request from families at my church. Many of our families didn’t grow up learning the Bible stories -- they want this basic knowledge for their kids, and for themselves. I’ve found that take-home sheets and the option to take home Bible storybooks have given our parents enough information about the stories so that they can continue conversations at home.
What Are Your Structural Needs?
I like to look at the big picture first, and then focus in on the structural needs of our program. How many kids do you have; how many teachers? What are your teachers’ strengths? Do you have challenges affecting your Sunday school that you hope the curriculum can address?
I’ve got great volunteer teachers in my church who are enthusiastic about our community and want to build relationships with the kids. But most of them are pressed for time. I want to make it as easy as possible for them to share their strengths, so I look for curriculum with an easy-to-follow structure and little preparation time.
Don’t be afraid to peek at a Sunday school curriculum that doesn’t exactly fit your structure. In my church we have larger age-groupings than most curricula support, so we use curriculum written for the middle of each age group. Our teachers do have to make some adjustments to make sure all kids are included, but that compromise was worth it when we found a curriculum that met all of our other criteria.
Finding a good fit between your church and your Sunday school curriculum helps you make good use of volunteer time, build enthusiasm for your program, and ultimately connect your kids with the larger mission of your church. With the priorities of your congregation, your families, and your program in mind, you are ready to find the resource that fits your Sunday school.