Sunday, August 12, 2012

Are You a Slave to Your Curriculum?

Last winter I led a creative Bible teaching workshop at a kidmin conference in Kentucky.  I showed the crowd all kinds of engaging techniques they could use to bring the Bible to life in a way kids will never forget.  I spent a lot of time showing them how to juice up mediocre curriculum so it would rock.

At the end of one of the sessions, a young lady came up to me nearly in tears.  I thought she was about to give her life to Jesus.  She told me how her church had just hired her to direct their children's program and that she loved teaching the kids, but no one had ever told her it was okay to deviate from her curriculum.  She thought she had to read it word for word.  She said I had set her free.

Then she asked if she could hug me.   I get that a lot (and by a lot I mean this is the only time it's ever happened).

You would have thought I'd just walked her through the Red Sea.  But it made me think.  There are far too many of us out there, paid staff and volunteers alike, who are living as slaves to our curriculum.

Don't get me wrong.  Curriculum is great.  Curriculum is awesome.  I love curriculum so much I might marry it some day.

But, here's the catch:

Too many of us treat curriculum like it's Scripture, and it's not. - Click to Tweet

We substitute listening to curriculum writers for listening to the voice of God.  And being a curriculum writer myself,  I can tell you that that's one lousy substitute.

Here's the deal.  As wonderful, godly and good looking as all of us writers certainly are, you can't trust us.  Why?  We don't know your church and we don't know your kids.  The best we can do is to try and target the stuff we write for the average church and let you take it from there.

Let me put it this way.  I spent the last year and a half writing a boatload of curriculum for my friends at 3DM Ministries.  It was a blast, and I'm really excited about the final product, but every church who uses it will have to adapt in some way to fit their situation and their kids.

For some it will be too elaborate, for others too simple.  For some it will use too many supplies, for others not enough.  For some it will skew too old, for others too young.

You get the picture.

Whatever curriculum you're using is exactly the same.  So in case no one's ever done it before, I'm giving you permission, no I'm begging you, to set that curriculum book aside and make the lesson your own.

You can hug me later.  

For now, here are a few questions to ask before you teach straight from that lesson book next weekend:

  • Does the lesson fit my culture?  Is it targeted for suburbia, but I'm in the inner city?  Is it hip and urban, but I'm in a rural church populated with farm kids?
  • Is the presentation age-appropriate for the kids I'll have in the room?  If not, what do I need to change?
  • Is the lesson boring?  If so, how can I spice it up?  How can I make it fun?
  • Does this lesson provide clear, specific application that's relevant to my kids? If not, what can I give them to do to live out this Bible truth that makes sense in their world?
  • Is this lesson too complicated for me to pull off, require more supplies than I can afford or just written with a different teaching style than I can make work for my kids?  Is it too talky without enough interaction?  Too interactive but lacking a focused time to communicate the Bible story?

Curriculum is a great spring board, a fantastic launching pad, a wonderful insert-your-own-metaphor here kind of thing, but it's no substitute for you knowing your kids and listening to Jesus. 

So, what do you need to change about next week's lesson to bring the Word of God to life in a way that will change your kids forever?