Although our kids spent many hours during the first 16 years of their lives as passengers in our family car, it wasn’t until they began learning to drive themselves that they ever considered all the details that go into driving a car.
Recently I had a conversation with someone who, upon hearing me describe all the work that goes into creating pedagogically, theologically sound children’s ministry curriculum said, “I had no idea. You should tell people that!”
And so I am.
Because DWELL (published 4 years ago) is the most recent curriculum project on which I’ve worked, I’ll use it as an example.
Eight things about creating curriculum that might surprise you:
- Excellent children’s ministry curriculum isn’t written in a denominational office (for example, in Grand Rapids) but by experienced educators from across North America who are engaged in ministry with children at Reformed churches. You’ll find their names on the inside pages of every leader’s guide of DWELL.
- When you believe that the way you interpret and present God’s story to children matters, you take time to do that in the best way possible. Those Focus Statement and the Faith Nurture Goals (or whatever they are called in a particular curriculum) are the framework from which each educator writes their session. Along with a Reformed theologian, the editorial team at Faith Alive spent an average of one hour writing the Focus Statement and Faith Nurture Goals for every session. One hour for every session. Because yes, it matters that much.
- Which stories are told and when they are told to which age matters too. That’s called Scope and Sequence and like the focus and goals for every session, in an excellent curriculum the Scope and Sequence is meticulously planned by a team of educators and theologians. If your church cares about the theological approach that’s used in it’s children’s ministry, the Scope and Sequence, along with the Focus Statements and the Faith Nurture goals will be a priority when evaluating curriculum.
- Great thought is put into ensuring that the content and images included in a curriculum are as inclusive as possible. Every session in DWELL was reviewed by a multi-cultural panel of reviewers as well as a person experienced in working with people with disabilities to ensure inclusivity.
- Research on the ways kids learn impacts the ways with we engage in ministry with them. In addition to volunteering in children’s ministry at their local church, every children’s curriculum editor who worked on DWELL allocated time dedicated time to stay informed of current research in children’s spirituality, brain development and trends in church education.
- Family faith nurture must be a priority when creating curriculum. An outstanding curriculum includes resources and ideas to equip and encourage families to live into and out of their faith at home. That’s why DWELL provides churches with bright, colorful, inclusive artwork on family pieces that are used at church and which contain do-able, meaningful ideas for families at home. The popular God’s Big Story Cards was added as an additional resource for families because it gives them a plan for reading their way through the Bible together and provides ways for parents and children to talk about their faith, to wonder, to pray, and to respond to God’s story.
- It’s one thing to provide great pieces for families to use at home---it’s another to actually get those pieces used at home. Excellent curriculum provides ways to help church connect with families. In DWELL that’s done through regular family communication (print or email) along with free downloadable family events which churches can host each year to encourage and equip parents and caregivers.
- Creating great curriculum means connecting with other experts from other denominations to share ideas, research and information. Editorial staff for DWELL regularly reviewed curriculum from other Christian publishers and attended conferences from Orange, Willow Creek, the Association for Presbyterian Church Educators, Faith Forward, Faith At Home, the Children and Spirituality Conference and more so that we would be aware of what else is available and what we could also recommend (and not recommend) for churches.
So now you know. For those CRC leaders who have used and loved Faith Alive Resources for years, I hope I just offered you some extra insight into what makes them so extraordinary. For those who had no idea about the way curriculum was created in general or about how DWELL in particular pays attention to current practices on the best ways to teach children and equip families, I hope you’ll access the Digital Library and take a closer look. If you have any questions about faith formation resources from Faith Alive or those available elsewhere, feel free to contact us at [email protected]
Because the way we teach children and support families matters. And that shouldn’t be surprising at all.