Q: What is the benefit of all the kids exploring the same story at the same time?
A: The benefit of inviting all of the children (or in some cases kids + teens + adults) to explore the same story at the same time will be different depending on the church. Here are a few of the potential benefits I see:
Success for smaller programs
Many churches can’t sustain the preschool, K-1, 2-3, 4-5, 6-8 Sunday school model. Lately a lot of my phone conversations have started like this, “I have two kindergartners, one second grader, and a fifth grader, what would you recommend?” Or, a church may have been using a grade level curriculum designed for 4th and 5th graders with a class of 3rd 4th and 5th graders. Now they are ready to loop back to year 1, but the kids who were in 3rd grade when they started have already had those exact lessons… Now what? Stretch the 2nd-3rd grade material to work for a year? Dip into the 6-8th grade material?
These are some of the challenges facing churches. A drop in attendance at certain grade levels or gaps between levels can make programming very frustrating. Curriculum that puts all the kids on the same story at the same time can relieve the headache. It allows you maximum flexibility to group children in larger age spans and to make changes throughout the season if attendance changes.
Creative programing potential
Some churches that group kids in the preschool, K-1, 2-3, 4-5, 6-8 model want to spice things up a little. They want to do the story and singing time altogether as a large group before splitting into classrooms. Or they want to have special monthly together time lessons. These are real possibilities with a curriculum that puts all the kids on the same story at the same time. With children exploring the same story at the same time you can blend age levels or divide them more easily to suit your needs and goals. Churches that have all the grade levels on different stories at the same time will have a harder time making this work.
If you have a busy family with two or more kids you may have experienced take-home-paper fatigue. Those well-intentioned Sunday school papers full of easy at-home ideas can be overwhelming if coming from multiple children at once. The simplicity of talking with all of your kids about the same story after church is appealing (even if a bit unrealistic considering the sermon or the children and worship story and by Wednesday the GEMS or Cadets lesson, etc.)
Cross generational opportunities for growth
There is a big buzz in the faith formation community around the idea of intergenerational connections. Research shows that time spent in age level groupings should be balanced with time together as a church family, learning, growing, serving, and worshipping. The sharing of stories, faith modeling, and lifelong relationships that are formed between generations have a big impact on how children, teen, and adult faith grows and how we live out our commitment to Christ every day.
Some advocates of having all the children on the same story at the same time also want to see adults and teens focusing on the same thing at the same time. Depending on your role this may sound like a sweet dream or logistical nightmare. But it is worth pondering. If the children’s programming was all focused on the same story might it open up opportunities for adults and teens to join in once and a while to study the same things? How might that make conversations around tables at church and at home richer? What possibilities do you see in that?
These are some of the potential benefits I see. What about you? Have you used a curriculum that puts kids on the same story at the same time? What were the pros and cons you encountered?