Saturday, July 19, 2008

Writing Your Own Children's Curriculum

Several years ago, I heard a church member say to another in my presence, “Karen writes Sunday School curriculum. We ought to have her write our curriculum for us. It would save us a lot of money!”

Sometime later, my mother told me her church had hired a new children’s minister. “He wants to write his own curriculum for the children’s department,” she told me. He wasn’t happy with the material currently available on the market and wanted to write material that would better suit the needs of that particular congregation. Other churches write their own curriculum so everyone can be studying the same thing at the same time.

While each of these reasons sound solid and have their place, there are drawbacks to writing your own curriculum. Curriculum is not written by one individual. When I receive an assignment, a team of people have already decided the overall scope of the curriculum, the chronology of the lessons, the individual stories and applications, the bible passages, the memory verses, and the goals of what the student will achieve. I am only one link in a long chain of people who are expert in their chosen field. After I write the material, artists and layout directors take my roughed out ideas for activities and create beautiful worksheets. Computer technology allows us to do a lot more than we could at the home or church level, but we still can’t quite do the activity pages and visual aids that a company can produce.

Cost is a factor and my heart goes out to churches who don’t have the resources needed to buy curriculum. However, before you decide to have someone write the material, consider other ways to save money. A writer spends many hours writing that curriculum and is paid for their work. The Bible says that a worker is worthy of his hire (1 Timothy 5:17,18). If someone could be paid for the work they do, the church should not expect them to do that same work for free for the church. If you need to save money, consider reusing material, doing without the visual aids or cutting other corners so you have money for curriculum.

Curriculum, no matter how good it is will never perfectly fit your group of children. And it is so hard as a teacher to predict what will or will not work. I’ve done the same activity for two different groups of children. One will respond enthusiastically and the other group stares at me. One week my high school class will love a drama activity, a few weeks later, they’ll look at me like I just arrived from Mars. One complaint I’ve often heard is that material is geared for large churches. Look though your material more carefully. Often the writer will give alternatives for smaller groups.

When I was in Austria, I spoke with a man from Bulgaria. He told me how his church translates material produced in America. “Our culture is so different,” I said, “Don’t you have a problem with activities that are obviously for American children?” He immediately told me what I had forgotten; any teacher should adapt the material to fit the unique needs of his or her class. It doesn’t mean the material is bad. It doesn’t mean you have a difficult group of kids. Any good teacher is going to ask, “How can I best teach this material to this group of students?”

Having everyone in the church study the same passage sounds like a neat idea. Is it? I’ll talk about that in my next post.

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