Consider Faith Alive First

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This letter was sent last week to all pastors of Christian Reformed churches. And has been cross-posted in the Pastors and Sunday School sections of The Network.

I’m writing to ask for your help with an issue that affects all Christian Reformed churches. Faith Alive, as you know, is the publishing ministry of the CRC. But like many denominational publishers, Faith Alive is facing significant financial headwinds in today’s tough economic times.

For decades it was true that most Christian Reformed churches ordered curricula from Faith Alive, then called CRC Publications, because that was their tradition. Today, I know that there is much competition for your attention when it comes to curriculum. No doubt your church mailbox fills up with many offers and brochures from many different publishers. But I also know that Faith Alive is the only Christian publisher that creates materials specifically with your church in mind.

In today’s world, the average church changes Sunday school curriculum every two years. When that happens, two important things are lost. One is the opportunity to follow a well-planned “scope and sequence” designed to teach God’s whole redemption story over the course of a child’s Sunday school experience—an approach that helps shape the kids in your church into biblically literate people who know how Scripture unfolds God’s redemption plan and see their place in it.

The second thing that churches lose is a distinctively Reformed approach to Scripture and a Reformed world-and-life view. For example, when a curriculum uses Bible stories to teach moral values rather than to reveal God’s purpose, or when human faith determines the extent of God’s sovereign grace, we are failing to teach the Bible from a Reformed perspective.

I know that church budgets are tight and that your curriculum choices are myriad. But at this time, Faith Alive needs your support. As you choose curricula for the upcoming church year, I urge you to please give Faith Alive first consideration.

I’m not asking you to make this commitment solely because Faith Alive is your CRC publisher, but because it produces excellent, engaging, relevant, solidly Reformed material that will help your children and youth grow in faith.

Visit FaithAliveResources.org or call 1-800-333-8300 to get more information, learn about current ordering incentives, and see for yourself why you can proudly affirm that Faith Alive is your denomination’s publishing ministry.

Sincerely,

Joel Boot 

Posted in: Elders > Pastors > Sunday School; Blog

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I would love to order from FaithAlive resources for our church and have ordered the catalogue for next year. When our church stopped ordering from FaithAlive the material had an urban slant that was difficult to teach to our small town and rural children and appeared to us to have lost the reformed foundation. I am hopeful that there is now material that will fit our congregation and its needs. It appears to me that our congregation was not the only one that had problems with the material. Shall we say it appears churches voted with their feet?

Royce - What do you mean by "the material had an urban slant"?

The last I saw of the material was several years ago. At that time the stories that went with the lesson were not stories that our 4th grade students could relate to. Several of the teachers found the lessons very difficult to teach. As I wrote I am willing to look at the lessons again, but changing material is difficult and once changed difficult to go back. We will be moving to a new Catechism material for the 9th and 10 grades next year. It is my hope that Faith Alive will have materials that we can use.

I will consider looking at Faith Alive's material first, which I usually do.  Unfortunately, I often have to look through a great deal of material before I find something that is both interesting and challenging.  Sometimes I just find it a better use of my time to look at curriculum from other publishers that I know are still Reformed in their thinking but don't water down their material.

Hi Mister B. I'm the director of Faith Alive. Thanks for your comment. Would you be willing to give me some examples of other publishers that are still Reformed in their thinking that you typically look to and, what you mean by "watered down?" My ask is not a challenge to you at all. I hope you don't take it that way. Actually, I'm asking because I want to learn. As the leader of Faith Alive, it's very helpful to me to hear from churches what other publishers they rely on for Reformed material and why. I'd also be very interested to know if our content is considered watered down, what that means so we can address the problem. Thanks for your consideration.

Are there any year long high school catechism curriculums besides What We Believe, HC and Me, and Questions worth asking? 

Jeff -

Those are the three major year long catechism options we currently have available. However, we do have a few other products you may want to take a look at:

Believe It! http://www.faithaliveresources.org/Products/130325/believe-it-leaders-guide-on-cd.aspx

(Based on the Belgic Confession and only 16 sessions but some churches use it every other week to cover a full year)

Living Your Faith In a Messed Up World http://www.faithaliveresources.org/Products/130305/living-your-faith-in-a-messed-up-world-leaders-guide-download.aspx

(again, only 15 sessions and it is based on the Contemporary Testimony, not the Heidelberg or Belgic)

Quest of Faith http://www.faithaliveresources.org/Products/138805/quest-of-faith.aspx

(more of a pre-Profession of Faith study but some churches have used it other ways)

If you are thinking about ordering for next fall, keep an eye out this summer for Deep Down Faith, which will be an updated version of A Sure Thing for high school and young adult small groups.

We have a few other projects in the works aimed at refreshing our high school curricula and resources in the future. Our monthly e-newsletter is a great way to stay in the loop on these new products. You can sign up to receive it on our website: http://www.faithaliveresources.org/

   

Speaking as someone who doesn't really understand publishing, I'm guessing that one of the reasons that Faith Alive has not done much in terms of DVD curricula is because it's cost prohibitive.   At the same time that seems to be a source of potential revenue, so it's kind of a catch 22.  Is that changing at all with web based video? 

You are correct in identifying the catch-22 we find ourselves in. We'd love to do more on the video side as well as with developing interactive media technology, especially because we sense that the Reformed voice is sadly under-represented there. However, all that costs a whole lot of money when you are talking about everything from the initial investments in equipment and software to the money needed to pay the many people these types of projects involve.

Web-based video does provide a break in distribution costs, but not enough to overcome the cost on the production side of things.

At the end of the day, Faith Alive is committed to producing engaging and effective educational materials to equip and assist churches in their faith formation efforts. We pray daily that God will guide and sustain us as we work to develop new and innovative ways to do this with the resources we have while remaining hopeful that God will provide the means for us to do more with visual and interactive media in the future.  

I need a sunday school curriculum for next year. Grade kindergarten through eighth grade ( every grade is in a separate class room). I must be missing something because I am unimpressed by the Dwell series. What else do you have available that allows the teachers to lead the children through the stories in the Bible to learn the truths of God.

Hi Royce,

I'd be happy to help! My name is Karen DeBoer and I'm an associate curriculum editor at Faith Alive. Sounds like you've got a great age span of children at your church--that's exciting! The other grade K-8 age graded curriculum we offer is called Walk With Me. It's often described as "faithful, friendly, fun." Faithful because like all Faith Alive curriculum it's faithful to scripture and every story is taught from a Reformed perspective--one that believes every story in the Bible tells us about God and must be understood as part of the one story of God's redemption and restoration of this fallen world through Jesus Christ.   Friendly because WWM provides leaders with a variety of options so they can adjust their teaching based on their setting, available time and the learning styles of the children in their class. Fun because each session includes activities that meet the needs of different learners---the contemplative child who learns well on their own, the child who loves to interact with others, the child who needs to move their body, the child who likes to solve puzzles, the child who loves to sing, and more! Paying attention to the different ways kids learn cuts down on discipline problems too because everyone is engaged:) 

What are leaders telling us they love about WWM? The full color resources for both the leaders and the children, the grades 6-8 materials which include a year of the Catechism, a year of issues that middle schoolers can sink their teeth (making tough choices, prayer, justice, etc.) and a year that examines church membership and Reformed themes like Covenant and Kingdom. They also appreciate the fact that the scope and sequence revists key stories at deeper levels throughout the years---something that's especially important now when Sunday school attendance can be erratic because of sports committments, visits with non-custodial parents and more. And they also like that it's relevent. (I think you mentioned in an earlier post that your church is in a rural location. One of things to keep in mind is that even though your location may be rural, because of the Internet and all the other influences that technology brings into kids lives, children may be physically present in the country, but still within a fingertip's reach of urban influences and attitudes. So sometimes it's helpful to consider the perspective of say, kids in an urban school---even if that's just to contrast and compare with the situation of the kids in your class---it can lead to some great discussions! )  

If you'd like to see a sample of WWM visit www.walkwithmeonline.org. There's a page where you can request samples for it and our other curriculums---Kid Connection, a K-grade 6 curriculum that uses a large group-small group approach, WE an intergenerational curriculum for the whole church, and Dwell.

In the spring Faith Alive will be offering a number of free webinars on Choosing a Curriculum that you and your leaders can attend. Check the website in the next few months for the dates those will be available. 

PS: At my own church this past Sunday I was approached by two Sunday school co-ordinators from other churches who recognized me from a workshop I had done in the area. Both mentioned they were using Dwell this past year and in the words of one of them "the leaders love, love, love it!" When I asked what was most exciting about Dwell for them one co-ordinator said the leaders loved the simple prep time and the easy way the sessions were laid out--especially the  session step where kids retell the story.  The other co-ordinator said families in her church were thrilled with the God's Big Story cards and the way they were now able to connect what happens at church by faith-talking with their kids at home. Different curriculums "fit" churches in different ways, but I always find it helpful to hear what is working about a particular curriculum in a particular church. (That's why it's also been great for us to hear from you, Royce!) 

Hopefully these ideas help you find the curriculum that will fit at your church. God bless you in your ministry to children and their families!

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