Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Writing Curriculum

They say necessity is the mother of invention and that is a statement that is often true in children's ministry.  Money seems to be always very tight, so there are not always the necessary funds to purchase all the curriculum that is needed.  What to do?  Well, sometimes you have to write your own.  I LOVE writing my own curriculum, but it is important to point out that just because you enjoy a thing does not mean that it is easy to do.  So if you decide to take on this task, allow me to give you a few hints that have helped me over the years.  Keep in mind that I am, by no means an expert at this process, but the following things have proved useful so I am sharing them with you.

Pick a topic you find interesting.
I know that probably sounds too basic, but it is important.  Whatever passages of Scripture you choose, you will be spending a lot of time in them.  So, it is helpful if you choose something that you would like to study for your own growth and learning as well.  Personally, I tend to choose the lesser known stories of the Bible simply because they are lesser known.  Not only, will they be new and interesting to the children, but I get to spend time learning and growing as well.  And I get to dig deeper into those Scriptures than I might during my devotions.  I love learning new and interesting things about Scripture, and this gives me an opportunity to share the things I am learning with the children.  For example, I wrote a series out of Judges and we focused on the 7 Judges that we have the most information about.  But for the series, I needed to look into the historical time period and the culture of the day as well.  See, in my series, we put those Judges on trial in a courtroom and I wanted my "defense attorneys" and "prosecutors" to understand the Judges they were defending/prosecuting as much as they could.  These "lawyers" were people who did not normally help in children's ministry.  I gave them basic scripts that they could bring to life however they saw fit.  Doing the research and writing was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed learning about these Judges.  The kids loved the series and every week looked forward to who we were going to put on trial and who would be defending and prosecuting them.  

Pick a topic that applies to the kids in your department.
One series I wrote literally came about because I noticed that if you asked the kids in my department how you could serve God, the only answers you got back were that you had to be a pastor or a missionary.  So I wrote a series called "Extreme Faith" that highlighted people of all sorts of backgrounds and careers that God had used to do amazing things.  People like Fanny Crosby, Joni Eareckson Tada, Billy Sunday, Truett Cathy, and more.  I wanted them to see that God uses all sorts of people in all sorts of ways for His glory.  That all they needed to be was willing to be used.  

Each week another picture was added.
Edit, edit, edit.
You may find that when you write your lesson that it looks great on paper, but when you get in front of the kids...it's not working as well as you had hoped.  That's ok.  Take note of where you had difficulty and then work on that for the next lesson.  Nearly everything I've ever written got tweaked a bit after I used it once.  In a series, there are probably 6 - 8 lessons.  I guarantee that there will be one that, for whatever reason, just doesn't mesh as well as the others.  It happens.  Don't beat yourself up over it.  Learn from it, make changes, and keep writing.  

Be prepared to spend a lot of time.
This is not a quick endeavor.  Writing an entire series takes a lot of time.  Remember, you're not just coming up with the main part of the lesson, but everything that goes along with it as well.  Make sure you set aside enough time to plan it out thoroughly.  In my case, one lesson can take anywhere from  5-15 hours to prepare (depending on the amount of research needed and if I am starting from scratch or not) and includes the following:
     Music:  Music is an important part of any service and I want the songs to connect with the lesson as much as possible.
     A game: This introduces the lesson in a fun way.  For example, when we studied the life of Joni Eareckson Tada (she is a quadriplegic who, among her many talents uses her mouth to paint beautiful pictures), we played a game where the kids had to draw certain things with a pencil in their mouth.  I often get my games online or out of game books as opposed to creating them myself, but I find them an important part of the lesson.
     The main story of the lesson:  Usually this will be the Bible story, mission lesson, or whatever you have chosen to study. 
     An object lesson:  This can come in many forms.  Perhaps a video clip, a magic trick, a food you've prepared (trying foods from other countries is awesome for missions lessons) or whatever fits your series.
     A memory verse:  I usually use the same memory verse or perhaps two memory verses for an entire series.  That way I can make sure that the children really learn it well.  So the weeks that we are not learning the verse we will often play a game using it.
     A review game:  This is always the last part of the lesson and I do not always use it.  But if the adult service is running long, it is a great way to extend the lesson.

This could have been listed first, but many times, at least for me, the thing we read last sticks with us most and prayer is the most important part of the process of creating and writing curriculum.  Listen to His leading.  Ask God to show you what the children in your department need to hear.  If you feel a check, heed it.  If you feel led to a certain passage of Scripture, use it.  God will show you what you need to focus on and give you the words you need, but you have to let Him lead the process...the whole process.  Without His participation, writing the curriculum is a futile exercise indeed. 
Writing your own curriculum can be a wonderful way to save money in your budget, but it takes lots of time, some creativity, and most importantly the leading of the Holy Spirit. 

Until next week! 


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