Is It Worth It?

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I’ve spent most of my life and ministry in small congregations with limited budgets. So when I see the cost of leader’s guides and student pieces adding up, I feel the sticker shock. That’s why I wanted to give you an inside look at how we develop curriculum at Faith Alive, so you can weigh its true value.  

Research

Good curriculum requires a great deal of research. We poll churches who are using our curriculum or who have used in the past. We are careful to survey congregations of different sizes, from different regions of Canada and the US, in urban, rural, and suburban contexts, and in all the major denominations that rely on us for resources: the CRC, RCA, and Presbyterian denominations like the PCUSA and ECO. We ask questions about how the resources are used, what formats they would prefer, what could make the current resources better.

Then spend time visiting churches and talking with Sunday school coordinators, faith formation teams, and children’s ministry directors to see the meeting spaces they have and learn about new and interesting things congregations are doing. We bring in practitioners to meet together and talk about what’s important for them in a children’s curriculum and in children’s programming, and to identify the trends they see in children’s ministry.

We also keep up with the latest research in the fields of faith formation, pedagogy, and theology by reading and attending conferences and workshops focused on children’s spirituality, brain research, and new models for learning. When we developed Dwell brought in several experts including Robert J. Keeley, professor of education at Calvin College, author of Helping Our Children Grow in Faith and editor of Shaped By God; Scottie May, assistant professor of Christian formation and ministry at Wheaton College and coauthor of Children Matters, and Listening to Children on their Spiritual Journey; John Witvliet, the director of Calvin institute of Christian Worship, and Karen Marie Yust, associate professor of education at Union Presbyterian Seminary and author of Real Kids, Real Faith. We ask them questions that helped us use the principles and best practices they are identifying to shape what we develop.

When we have a strong sense of what the church wants and needs, we move into the planning phase (though we never stop researching and talking with churches). Next time I’ll share some of the details that go into phase two--the planning and development of curriculum.

What blogs, magazines, or books would you recommend on children’s spiritual formation?

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