By Nathan Johnson
Finding the best Sunday School curriculum can be a challenge. It’s not for a lack of options. It’s more often for lack of clarity.
Amidst all the options, what should you really be looking for in your next choice of curriculum? I’ve been involved in Sunday School ministry for more than a decade, and I’ve got a few different ideas on what great curriculum looks like.
Here are some key factors you should consider when choosing a Sunday School curriculum for your class or church.
1. Is the theology on point?
If the curriculum doesn’t have the same theological views as your church, then it’s a no-go.
I believe this is probably a no-brainer for most of you, but it needs to be mentioned. If you are anything like me, in all my diligence to pay attention to details, I can overlook the obvious. Theological alignment is obvious. Make sure the curriculum’s theology lines up with your own.
2. Are we all in this together?
Some publishers produce materials that keep everyone on the same lesson every week, from “cradle to grave.” What was taught in the main service to the adults was also taught in the 3rd grade Sunday School classroom.
I know some churches like to have this type of “lesson synergy” so families can discuss and process the week’s teaching together. After all, if everyone in the family heard the same lesson, there is some great stuff they can all talk about together!
I’ve actually never been to a church that used this approach, but I can see the draw.
3. Is there a story time strategy?
In the course of a school year, do you want to hit the high points of the Bible and teach from cover to cover? Or, would you like your complete Bible tour to be on more of a 3-year rotation?
If you want to make sure you teach all the “major” portions of the Bible to your class within a certain timeframe, there are great resources out there to do that.
Other curriculums take a different approach. They choose to go a bit deeper, shall we say. Instead of rapidly moving from story to story, they cover topics or Bible characters in a “teaching series” type approach.
4. What’s your style?
Since there isn’t a standard way every Sunday School classroom in the world is run, the events of class time can vary from church to church. And just like churches, the way curriculums lay out classroom events can vary greatly, as well.
Some curriculums use activity stations where kids are separated into smaller groups that rotate around the room doing different activities as they move. Others are organized around the class doing everything as one big group.
You need to determine what style classroom you have, or what style you want. Look at the sample curriculum lessons and see if the material fits the way you like your classroom to operate.
5. Who is your audience?
I haven’t seen this mentioned in many places, but I believe it should be a huge part of the curriculum evaluation process.
Are you teaching a lot of kids that were raised in church? Or are you teaching kids fairly new to the stories in the Bible? This matters greatly!
Find lesson plans that cater to your audience. If the kids you teach are likely to know most of the Bible stories, find plans that provide lots of fun approaches and different ways of teaching the lessons. If the kids in your class are pretty new to the stories in the Bible, then find curriculum that is good at just giving the facts of the story.
6. Is it fun?
Find curriculum that your kids will get a kick out of. You are shopping for kids here, and an important part of teaching kids is making sure there is fun involved. Children learn when they are having fun.
How many of you have ever tried to teach a kid who was bored? Have a look at the samples from materials you might be considering to see if the stuff is fun. It needs to be!
Side note: What you think is fun and what kids think is fun might be very different. Try your best to shop for what they would like.
7. Are there enough ideas?
One of the most frustrating things about curriculums are the ones that provide you just enough classroom ideas to get by with…so, if you ever don’t like one of the ideas suggested, you are on your own to think up something to do with the remaining class time.
Take a look at the curriculum you are considering and ask if there are plenty of ideas provided in the materials.
No volunteer teacher ever quit because the curriculum they were given provided too many ideas for keeping kids engaged and interacting. But the hallways of churches are littered with former teachers who got burned out from trying to come up with stuff to do every week during class.
8. Is it volunteer-friendly?
At the end of the day, there are most likely a group of volunteers who are going to be teaching from the curriculum you select, so consider them at the beginning of the process.
- Ask yourself volunteer-centric questions like:
- Is this curriculum easy to use for volunteer teachers?
- Are the lessons well organized and thought out?
- Do the activities in the curriculum actually work in a classroom environment?
- Will my volunteers be excited to use this?
- Does this curriculum equip a regular volunteer (with limited time) to teach a great lesson?
I truly believe that finding the right curriculum for your church will have a huge impact on the energy and effectiveness of your classrooms. When teachers love the materials they use and the lessons are perfectly geared toward the kids they teach, the results are amazing.
Nathan Johnson is the founder of BetterBibleTeachers, which is dedicated to teaching the Bible to kids in crazy and interesting ways, www.betterbibleteachers.com.