Does Your Sunday School Curriculum Meet the “IBM” Challenge?
By: Jonathan McKee
We have no choice but to admit it. Things change. We can ignore change. We can resist change. But we can't stop change! Changes, especially technological changes, have come at a rapid pace and affected all of our lives. Is there any place technological change has not touched?
How about Sunday school curriculum? While the ancient words of Scripture must continue to be the foundation of all we teach, does our curriculum ask us to use methods that are nearly identical to those we used 10 or even 5 years ago? Is flannel graph still king and the overhead projector the lady in waiting? If so, may we suggest that there is something wrong?
Technological innovation has given us new ways to be even more effective as we seek to teach eternal truth. Take a look at the curriculum you now use. Does it meet the IBM (Instant, Bigger, Mobile) test?
Imagine that an event of such great importance occurs that everyone in your Sunday school classes will be affected that week. A good curriculum provider should be able to instantly offer direction and resources for you to meet those immediate needs.
Or ,what if you want to react to the content of a printed piece or ask other users for suggestions you can use in your classroom? Can you "follow" your curriculum provider on Twitter or become its "fan" on Facebook? Do the mascots of their take-home magazines have an e-mail address or a presence on MySpace? Do executives of your curriculum company blog regularly, allowing you both to get timely information and even give you access to the ear of those in "high places?" They can. And they should.
But, a good curriculum does not have to follow the same trend. Thanks to technological changes, a good curriculum can actually increase usable content at little or no cost to you. Online and downloadable supplementary resources can actually increase the value of a curriculum, adding "pages" that do not have to be printed, inventoried, and shipped. Here are few supplements that a good curriculum publisher could be offering you.
Today, MP3 players allow us to carry an entire music library in the palms of our hands. Movies can be streamed to our laptops, music players, and even cell phones. Radio DJs no longer program our music choices, nor does the TV executive control what we watch or when we watch it. In addition, the emerging development of portable print readers even allows us to wirelessly download a book, newspaper, or magazine from virtually anywhere. A storehouse larger than the Library of Congress can now be carried under our arms.
So, does your curriculum provider live in this same world? How easily (and legally) can resources they provide be placed in a presentation, e-mailed to students and teachers, carried on an MP3 player or smart phone, or streamed from a church website? Questions that need to be answered, indeed!
We may reminisce about filmstrips, picture cards, and flannel graphs. But technology continues to give us new and more efficient ways of delivering that same content to students. Has your curriculum provider kept up with technology that allows us to be instant, bigger, and mobile? If not, look for those who can pass the IBM test!
Jonathan McKee, president of The Source for Youth Ministry, www.thesource4ym.com, is a well-known author, blogger, and speaker on the topics of youth culture, youth ministry, parenting issues, and the influence of the media on teenagers.
On a recent trip, I used my phone as a GPS for the first time. At one point, the phone commanded me to bear left and then immediately commanded me to exit to the right. "You've got to be kidding me!" I exclaimed, as I sailed past my exit. The voice, unfazed by my agitation, calmly responded with one word: "recalculating."
Driving on an unfamiliar road to an unfamiliar destination can be challenging, and having a GPS should make the experience successful. My phone's GPS proved unreliable.
In a church, the purpose for a ministry becomes that ministry's guide, or GPS. Every ministry should have a clearly defined purpose. But if a church is not careful, its purpose for its Sunday School can become a bad GPS. A bad GPS could lead to selecting curriculum that fails to meet a church's need for making disciples.
Inferior Reasons for Choosing Curriculum
All of these reasons for choosing curriculum have some merit, but all of them fail to recognize the opportunities curriculum provides to a church. These reasons are indicators of a subpar GPS for a church's Sunday School ministry.
Paul captured the sense of the word "curriculum" when he wrote, "I have finished my course" (2 Timothy 4:7). Paul saw his life as a racecourse God laid out for him. His analogy helps us see that God expects all believers to join the race by accomplishing His will for their lives.
Sunday School should assist a church in helping students run the race God has laid out for them. Sunday School curriculum should help the church make disciples.
Biblical Reasons for Curriculum
Clearly teaching Bible-based doctrine is an essential part of making disciples. Effective curriculum will include lessons on important doctrinal truths so the students might become confident discerners of truth.
Focusing on others and serving them are important emphases in the teachings of Christ. Curriculum that makes disciples should help students realizes these emphases in their lives.
Church leaders should get to know their Sunday School curriculum. They should investigate whether their curriculum actually helps students come to know Christ and grow to be like Him. If it doesn't, then it is time for a change.
Alex Bauman is director of Regular Baptist Press, www.regularbaptistpress.org.