Note from Kathie: Today’s post, written by Jackie Jamison, who blogs over at Sunday School Helper.
After two years of haphazardly trying to find curriculum for my elementary Sunday School class without much success, I decided to create a website to help others in my position by providing independent reviews of the major Sunday School curricula on the market today. Sunday School Helper, a curriculum review website, was born. Through the process of reviewing over 35 curricula, here are the top four lessons that I’ve learned about Sunday School curriculum.
Most Sunday School curriculum is better than you think.
When I started reviewing curriculum, I was skeptical about the quality of most Sunday School curricula. But when I systematically immersed myself in studying curriculum, I found a lot of material that was genuinely interesting, age-appropriate and biblically sound. There were only a few that I genuinely didn’t like. It occurred to me that God really is invested in teaching the next generation and has given a lot of people who really love Him the passion and creativity to write curriculum. A lot of the Sunday School curriculum out there is better than you think.
All curriculum will appear hard to use at first.
It takes a surprising amount of time to make sense of sample materials. This is because it’s hard to absorb a new curriculum format. ANY curriculum will appear hard to use at first. Even curricula that are not designed to be used digitally will appear very cumbersome if you’re evaluating them on the computer. Most curricula have lessons with numerous pages (over 10 pages per lesson is not uncommon). This is a lot of material to sort through in a meaningful way. Curriculum is not written to be easy to evaluate—it is written to be easy to teach.
All curriculum requires work to implement—but not that much.
I ran across one curriculum from Group that is literally open-the-box-and-go (which is convenient for a volunteer but makes the quality of the curriculum suffer), but aside from that, all Sunday School curriculum is going to take work to implement. Some will need more modification to work for your group—but there is no such thing as a curriculum you don’t need to customize. It requires work to translate a curriculum to your teaching style, and it requires time to prepare your heart to teach. With that said, I found most mainstream curriculum was designed to be easy to prepare, and there weren’t lots of differences in how time-consuming the prep work was.
Writing your own curriculum is probably not the best option long-term.
According to the Barna Research Group, 18% of churches write their own curriculum. I was in this category, too, until I saw the high-caliber of curricula on the market. There are great reasons to write your own lessons sometimes, but over the long haul it takes an enormous amount of time that in many situations could be better used customizing something that’s pretty good to make it great. With such great options on the market, that have already taken into account different learning styles, and systematically covering the whole Bible, and testing activities to know what will be effective, I have decided to write my own curriculum a lot less.
If you need help finding Sunday School curriculum, read my reviews at Sunday School Helper. I have profiled almost 40 of today’s major Sunday School curricula, and have broken down curriculum by cost, age group, translation, level of creativity, level of depth, and much more.
I am the mom of two young kids, and the director of my church’s children’s ministry. I have been working with children and youth in Sunday School and Christian camp settings for over ten years. I am a freelance writer with a background in natural resource planning and live near Charlottesville, Virginia.