Top Posts of 2016

Happy 2017, friends!

I hope your 2017 is off to a great start!  Before jumping too far into the new year, I wanted to reflect on the top posts shared here in 2016.  I tried to post from a variety of angles, from what God taught me personally to giving a glimpse into my ministry world.

Top 5 Posts of 2016 from KidMinspiration - A Children's Ministry Blog

Here’s a recap of the top kidmin posts of 2016.  Check out any that you may have missed (and please, share them if they spoke to you.)  I look forward to writing more here in 2017 and sharing (really soon!) about a new project I’ve been working on.  Stay tuned!

1. When Kidmin Breaks Your Heart

2. Preparing for Move Up Sunday

3. When There Are No Words

4. Preschool Curriculum: Why We Chose Orange’s First Look

5. A Conversation About Teaching Kids the Gospel

I appreciate you for reading and being part of this community!

As we look ahead to 2017, what topics would you like me to tackle here on the blog in 2017?  Leave your thoughts below or email me at kidminspiration@gmail.com.  

{Guest Post}: Four Lessons I Learned While Reviewing Sunday School Curriculum

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.

 

Preteen Curriculum: Why We Chose “Preteenministry.net”

This post is Part 4 of Ministry Basics: Selecting Curriculum.  

You can read Part 1 herePart 2 here, and Part 3 here.

Our Preteen Ministry, Route 45, is very special to me.  We launched it from the ground up in Sept 2012 and designed it to be a safe place where 4th & 5th Graders can ask hard questions and begin to own their faith.

What we use, the selection process and why this was our choice

Our team selected curriculum from preteenministry.net.  I blogged about our selection process here.

How the curriculum looks at our church

This is what our current format looks like:

  • Arrival Activities (20 minutes):  After checking themselves in, preteens are able to hang out until our Large Group worship begins.  (They are able to enjoy basketball, air hockey and board games.)
  • Large Group Worship (15 minutes):  Our preteens worship with our 1st-3rd Graders.
  • Large Group Teaching (20 minutes):  After worship, our preteens head back to their area for a teaching time.  Sometimes our teaching time includes a game or object lesson that relates to the Bible story.
  • Small Groups (30 minutes):  During this time, preteens split up into 2 groups: 4th & 5th Grade Girls and 4th & 5th Grade Boys.  Each group has one adult or high school leader who facilitates discussion, application activities and prayer.

What I like

  • The selection of available lesson series is great.
  • The artwork is great, too.  (I use each series’ banner picture as our Facebook page cover photo.)
  • The lessons are engaging and do not look the same each week.  Some weeks, there might be a video clip; some weeks the preteens act out the story.  Other weeks, there might be an object lesson or group art project.
  • The games are fun and tailored specifically to preteens.
  • We hardly ever have to supplement the material.
  • There is flexibility to choose our own lesson schedule, which allows us to customize for our needs.
  • The cost is very affordable, as each series is digital.

What I don’t like

  • I’d like to see take-home resources provided for each lesson.
  • It would also be great to have scripts for social media (i.e. Facebook and Twitter) that accompany each lesson/series.  Right now, I write my own.

Preteenministry.net is a great resource for ministry leaders.  In addition to curriculum for elementary, preteen and junior high ministry, it also provides training materials, games, and other great stuff.  Check it out!  You can click the image above for a direct link to website.

Do you use preteenministry.net for your preteen ministry? What has your experience been?

If you don’t use preteenministry.net, what do you use?  How’s it working for you?

Elementary Curriculum: Why We Chose LifeWay’s “Gospel Project”

This post is Part 3 of Ministry Basics: Selecting Curriculum.  

You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

The Treehouse (our 1st-3rd Grade ministry area) is a very special place.  Seeds of faith are planted and nurtured here but it’s also where we desire for children to have a greater understanding of the Bible and grow in their relationship with Jesus.  We want the roots to grow deep (Colossians 2:7).

What we use

After much prayer and consideration (comparing other materials), our team chose LifeWay’s The Gospel Project.

For almost a year, a KidMin friend raved about this curriculum.  She encouraged me to check it out.  I did, and at the time, I didn’t feel particularly drawn to it.  But as we refocused our vision and assessed our needs, it was clear that The Gospel Project was a good fit.

The selection process & why this was our choice

“This curriculum is awful” is something that my younger elementary (1st-3rd Grade) volunteers reiterated over and over last year.  Our volunteers made the best out of material that was, for lack of a better word, outdated.  Most lessons included a lot of verbalizing (from the teacher) and activity pages, so our volunteers ended up writing/supplementing the material.  A change was needed immediately.

I am blessed to work with a wonderful team of seven committed ministry leaders and those on the team who represent our younger elementary ministry helped me evaluate 3 different curricula.  We we looking for a curriculum that:

  • was Bible-based and integrated Bible literacy; we wanted the younger elementary children to be more familiar with the Bible and have more of a Biblical foundation to better prepare them for our Preteen Ministry.
  • digital, as curriculum costs had been about half of our annual budget;
  • offered activities so that all types of learners could be engaged; and
  • offered more media elements (such as video).

Because The Gospel Project takes children through the Bible in 3 years and met our criteria, this is what we use.

How The Gospel Project looks at our church

One of the biggest changes was switching from a classroom format to a large group/small group format.  In addition, selecting The Gospel Project meant that the format for our mornings needed to change.

What I like

  • The Gospel Project connects the whole Bible to Jesus (similar to the Jesus Storybook Bible).
  • The curriculum introduces stories from the Bible that other curriculum might not offer (since it’s more chronological).
  • The lessons are emailed directly from LifeWay to the leaders – one less thing for me to do.
  • The journaling time at the end of the morning allows for quiet reflection each week.
  • Curriculum has an app that parents can download to iPhone or iPad.
  • The large, color timeline poster have added a nice decorative element in our exit ramp.

What I don’t like

  • Projecting the Big Picture Question would be easier to do if it came in PowerPoint format rather than pdf.
  • Customizing lesson order is difficult, as you can only skip a lesson, pushing it to the following week.
  • The parent take-home page leaves much to be desired.  Not only can we not email each week’s page individually to parents, the page lacks good follow-up questions to discuss at home.
  • The Bible verses for the children are often too long and often include big words that 1st-3rd Graders can neither pronounce or spell.

Overall, I think if you’re looking for curriculum that is Bible-based, comprehensive and clearly presents the Gospel each week, The Gospel Project is worth looking into.

So, there you have it.  I’d be happy to talk with you if you’re interested in learning more or have any questions.  You can email me here.  You can also learn more by visiting The Gospel Project for Kids’ website (you can click the logo above).

Tomorrow, I’ll share what we selected for our Preteen Ministry.  I hope you’ll come back and read all about that!

Do you use The Gospel Project for your elementary ministry? What has your experience been?

If you don’t use The Gospel Project, what do you use?  How’s it working for you?