There are so many curriculum options out there. How do you choose? While your church likely has specific needs for your ministry context, there are universal features that can make a curriculum a good or bad choice for reaching kids. Here are five red flags to help you identify a curriculum that won’t be effective in your ministry.
1. Lessons are full of lecture.
This is an easy one to spot. Bold text is usually what the teacher says. If your curriculum has more bold text than not, it’s likely your teachers will learn a lot and think the curriculum is really deep. That’s because the speaker is usually the one who learns more than the listeners. And while we all want to keep our teachers happy, our ultimate goal is to impact kids. As your teacher lectures on, your kids will lose focus and walk away not remembering much of what she said. Keep in mind that we remember more of what we do and discover—not what we hear from others.
2. Questions have “right answers.”
If your curriculum has questions that are all about reviewing what happened in the Bible, only one kid gets to answer. And it’s probably going to be the same couple kids, because everyone else is afraid of being embarrassed if they get it wrong. If a child does answer wrong—even once—they’ll shut down in the future. Kids learn best when they can join discussions, share their opinions and experiences, and tell their stories that relate to the Bible point. If a curriculum doesn’t have questions that promote that kind of discussion, that’s a big red flag.
3. Kids don’t apply what they’ve learned.
A lot of curricula approach the Bible as a textbook full of facts to be memorized. If you leave out the real-life application, your kids can graduate from your ministry and name the 66 books of the Bible in order, the 12 apostles, and what happened on each day of creation. But is that your main goal? Of course we want kids to know the Bible—but more importantly, kids need to know Jesus and how he impacts them personally. And that happens when they can apply what they’re learning. They’ll see Jesus at work in their lives, changing them from the inside out. If the only take away you see is memorizing facts, consider another curriculum.
4. Kids get the wrong message.
A curriculum that resorts to tricking kids, embarrassing them if they don’t know the right answer, or forcing them to do things that make them uncomfortable can quickly and horribly backfire. Sometimes this takes the form of high-pressure Bible verse memory: if kids don’t say the right word on their turn, they’re out of the game and everyone sees their failure. When we make kids sweat and stress over doing everything perfectly according to the lesson expectations, it sends the message that if they work hard enough…then God will love them. And that’s a big red flag.
5. Developmental appropriateness is off.
We’ve seen curriculum where fifth graders talk on toy telephones (even though most have real phones in their pockets). We’ve seen puppet shows for preteens. On the other end of the spectrum, sometimes curriculum introduces abstract concepts for preschoolers. If kids feel babied or lost in concepts that are beyond their cognitive level, you’ll quickly lose them.
Ali Thompson is the managing editor for Group’s curriculum, including Dig In, FaithWeaver Now, Hands-On Bible Curriculum, and Buzz. She’s also a contributing editor for Children’s Ministry Magazine. Learn more at group.com.
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