My Journey to Sunday School Curriculum Building:
In 2004 my husband and I moved from one of the largest churches in Oregon to the perhaps the smallest one. The biggest adjustment was the Children’s Ministry. Our large church had the most wonderful children’s ministry. I had never been exposed to such a love for teaching children God’s word, as I was with our large church. And once I saw what was possible, I didn’t want to give it up. But I quickly discovered that a small church presents obstacles a larger church can afford to overcome. Most often the Sunday School teacher is a loving and willing volunteer with little or no experience and an equal amount of insufficient time to prepare, few if any helpers, large age-range groupings and sparse resources. With those resources they must preform the full gamut of children’s ministry duties. Lesson planning (with or without a lesson or plan), supply acquisition, craft preparations, room and lesson preparation, children intake, worship leading, teaching, craft instruction, parent pick-up, and clean-up. I’m tired just writing it all. And of course some of these need to be delegated or just dropped.
What you do have in a small church is a chance to know all of the parents that bring their children to church. You know who is new and they quickly realize that everyone else knows they’re new too. (If they are old enough) You have an opportunity to ensure that everyone feels welcomed and beloved. It is easy to remember names, even with my “no name brain.” The closeness with the children can cover a multitude of insufficiencies. We fell in love with our church family and stayed.
I thought perhaps my experience as worship leader/teacher in the big church, love for teaching and crafty nature could help create the excellence of bible teaching with a small town feel. I first setout to buy a curriculum for our small church that would have a strong bible base, fun and age appropriate for the large age groupings we have (2 year old- Kindergarten), and would be teacher friendly and small church affordable. You would think I was asking for the moon. Many curriculums are geared toward a large church style and pocket book (that’s were the money is), others were fluffy with little planning, and still others were strong on bible but boring. I found none that completely fit my 2 year old- Kindergarten group. There were a few I could make work but we just couldn’t afford them.
Through this frustration sprang a curriculum creation effort that was to take only three years. I am now on the fourth year of the three year project and still have a long way to go -in my estimation. I had no idea of the complexity that a curriculum held. I especially underestimated the scope and sequence creation time. This would have been a generation long process if I wouldn’t have been stuck on bed rest (with a laptop) when I was pregnant. I finished the scope and sequence during that time and found that I had created great lessons that just wouldn’t fit into our three years of Sundays. I am now more focused. I have also changed software since the beginning and need to redo the first lessons with the stronger tools. What an adventure! It is exciting each week to see how the children respond to the lessons. I often have to adjust my teaching and crafts to our circumstances and sometimes just to the reality of the age group.
The features I thought important for a small church 2 year old – Kindergarten Sunday School Curriculum would also save a big church a lot of money. Here are some of the most important features of the curriculum I am developing.
- Strong Bible Base: for this age group we wanted them to really know the stories of the bible and apply the life application to them. (They are smarter then we think.)
- Chronologically ordered stories: (Embed in their minds that these are real places and events that really happened in real time and space. God’s events have an order to them and they make more sense if they flow in that order.) Although, I did decide to separate the old and new testaments so that the children heard the stories of both each year. Part of the Year we do the Old Testament and then part the New.
- Repetition: The core stories are repeated every year at Christmas and Easter time.
- Age appropriate learning crafts that reinforces the main idea of the story. Not just coloring pages! But crafts made from things found around most households. If you don’t have it, call someone else in the church. They most likely will.
- Decreased paper trail for the parents: The finished product will be a Bible the children make for themselves. I keep the pages each week and put them into piles I will soon organize into Bible Binders.
- Teaching Object: I try to have an object for the children to look at while you tell the lesson. I’m very thankful that God created puppets just for times when I can’t think of anything.
- Activities and teacher devotionals for the later lessons (I had child-care help for these lesson creating times. I got a lot more completed.)
- Reproducible student pages: This insures that it is affordable for small churches.
- Organized and easy to read: So that who ever is teaching that day can “read and go.” They don’t need a four year teaching certificate to decipher what is to be taught to the students and what is just for their information.