We live in a world full of “I want it now” service. Options range from drive-thru food to a drive-in church service (there are actually several of these in California); from instant data via online googling (like the elder who needs an immediate answer in a council meeting) to real-time Facebook conversations with your children at university; from having several different choices of iPhone covers daily to building your dream car at the dealership that meets all your needs (even the financial option to lease or add a loan). We are quickly becoming a society that gets what it wants — how it wants it and when it wants it. Yet, even in a day and age that exudes with everything and anything you can think of, Youth Leaders are still at a dead end when it comes to choosing curriculum materials for their youth groups.
I struggled for years searching and researching, examining and questioning, digging and scratching the surfaces, in the quest for that “perfect” curriculum; and, just when you think you’ve found it, the culture changes on you. In frustration for years, I decided it was hopeless to continue the crusade in search of the “holy grail” — that perfect program — and custom created my own biblical curriculum and devotions each week, year after year.
However, the webinar a few weeks ago on Resources for Youth Leaders was a refreshing overview highlighting some options that are definitely available for Youth Groups today.
- The book Sticky Faith promises everyday ideas to build lasting faith in your kids. One of my favourite chapters includes “Sticky Identity”, where they discuss how to help our kids shape a Christian identity for themselves.
- Or, check out the book Hurt 2.0 which searches to understand the contemporary adolescent, and doing so by exploring the landscape that youth live in today. Then, taking the extra effort to give a thoughtful reflection on ways we can help to stabilize the situation around us.
- There’s also the Right Now Media approach for those who are techno-savvy and are technologically able to add meaningful and supportive media clips that enhance their weekly talks, devotions and curriculums. And, don’t get me wrong, “Right Now Media” is an awesome tool if you can afford the price tag that comes with it. All these — New City Catechism, 99 Thoughts on Raising Your Parents, Truth Matters — have their shield of glory, in which they excel.
But, I would like to highlight a curriculum that I have found to treasure in the last few years that was not mentioned in the webinar. It’s called the “So What?” Curriculum Series. The “So What?” youth Bible study materials are produced by the Great Commission Publications (a ministry supported and directed by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the Presbyterian Church in America) and is designed for ninth to twelfth-grade students. The entire curriculum is designed to teach students the whole Bible and God’s plan of redemption in Christ from a distinctively Reformed perspective. Each study comes with materials for the students as well as an extensive leader guide. The student materials and the leader guide are attractively put together. The graphics are obviously designed to appeal to the audience, and the content is well organized. Teachers will find these studies very “teacher-friendly.” Electronic resources include already prepared PowerPoint slides.
The Leader Guide offers an overview of the entire study, a helpful guide to getting started, an explanation of the different materials, tips on leading an effective study, and an explanation of the digital resources available on the So What? website. For each individual study, there is a lengthy section called “Leader Prep” designed to help the teacher prepare for the study. For the students, a separate booklet is devoted to each weeks study. The format of the booklets is appealing, and the questions are designed to get the student to dig into the Scriptures and think about what they read. Helpful discussion questions called “Meaningful Conversations” are interspersed throughout the studies. In each module (and, presently there are 8 or 9), there is easily more than enough material for 1 year, possibly 2 years depending on how many times you meet in a month. All this is very reasonably priced, per child.
My experience in the past 30+ years with youth-curriculum has been extremely disappointing. Many well-intentioned designers of such materials end up creating studies that do not engage the students very well. The “So What” Bible Study series does not suffer from this flaw. If you are looking for a solidly Reformed youth curriculum for your church youth group, I highly recommend considering this series.