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Why Not Write Your Own?

Valerie Van Kooten

You may enter into copyright issues-even unknowingly and with good intentions.

Rowan says copyright issues also raised their ugly heads during the process. After writing a 12-week series called Faith Olympics, she learned that someone else had already written a curriculum by the same name.

"I was naive and thought this would be easy," she says. "Then I realized that a lot of what we were doing could violate copyright issues."

Ministries often employ the method of "beg, borrow, or steal" when it comes to crafts, games, lessons, video clips, and more. Internet searches for topical material may provide a wealth of information, but almost always that information is copyrighted and intended for readers' personal use, not repackaging in a church's printed curriculum materials. Some available materials are denoted with permission to reproduce, but this is an area where writers must tread carefully.

It's not the best use of the time you have as a minister.

Everyone who's done it agrees: Writing a curriculum takes a great deal of your ministry time. Professional curriculum publishers spend up to 30 hours per lesson -- that's almost 400 hours per quarter. A team of editors does the nitpicky work of verifying that every item for a lesson is listed, every reference checked, every fact verified, every activity tested, and more. Such critical scrutiny ensures that volunteers have a satisfying teaching experience and children grow spiritually.

Burney found the more she worked on her curriculum, the more work it took. She began writing a modified rotation curriculum where children would study the same topic for five weeks and participate in large and small groups.

"Even doing a lot of cutting and pasting -- I was probably spending 20 hours a week writing," she says. "I was also writing the Wednesday night curriculum. I basically thought the church should've hired a part-time curriculum writer instead of a children's minister."

Fletcher had much the same experience. "If I spend all my time writing and don't spend my time teaching the teachers how to teach, it won't reach the kids, and then it won't reach their families," he says. Fletcher says that while writing the curriculum, his team members quickly realized they were squandering their precious time.

Spending too much time writing curriculum can derail your true job description, adds Burney.

"If children's ministers start doing too much writing," says Burney, "they aren't doing what I think they're called to do -- disciple and mentor a team of laypersons to teach. You can thereby multiply your ability to reach children. When I'm locked up in the office writing, I've shrunk my little area of influence down."

If you're holed up in an office writing curriculum, who's taking a balloon bouquet to children in hospitals? Who's spending time with team members to encourage and train them? Who's equipping families to impact their children? Who's counseling children whose lives are falling apart? Who's doing the stuff that only you can do? Where's the best use of your time?

If you write your own, there's a constant tension between ministering to kids and preparing the curriculum, says Peterson. "There is such a plethora of great curriculums available, and publishers employ a wide variety of talented writers," she says. "This makes much of today's curriculum relevant for the daily lives of children."

Your role may become confused.

You can be a talented writer and you can be an outstanding children's minister, but even if you're gifted in both areas, rarely will you have the time and energy to do both.

"I found myself in full-time children's ministry and I was basically becoming a part-time curriculum writer," Burney says. "But I needed to be more involved in pouring myself into my Sunday school teachers and my VBS team."

If you love writing curriculum, it's legitimate to ask if that's in fact where your true passion lies. Ministry is a people-oriented position; writing is solitude-oriented. If you look forward to holing up for hours on end in front of the computer, it's time to reexamine your role.

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