Curriculum for Kid's Ministry

Greetings from the EF Kids Ministry Team!  We are a group of Kids Ministry leaders who are working together to develop some resources to support you as you serve the littlest members of your church!  This is our first entry into the EF Youth Blog world, so feel free to comment and let us know what other Kids Ministry topics would be of interest to you!

The most common question I get asked by other Kids Min Leaders is “Which curriculum should we use?”  I wish the answer to that were simple and direct.  But unfortunately, there are a lot of components to consider when choosing a curriculum for your Kids Ministry.  The task can be pretty daunting so I’m going to try to simplify it a little bit!  (But...Keep in mind that, while I am giving you links to specific programs that you can check out, there are probably a million more that I haven’t listed here, so don’t feel limited to only the links in this blog post!)

Now, I’m a sucker for a good online quiz.  I’ll be honest...I’ve spent more time than I’d like to admit finding out things like which Disney Princess I am based on my food preferences.  (FYI, I’m always Belle because she’s from France where they eat all the cheese.)  While discovering your inner Disney Princess may be important to you, it’s not nearly as important as what you’re teaching the kids in your ministry.  So, take this quiz to help you narrow down which programs might be good options for you!  

1.    Do you want a Large Group or a Small Group setup?
•    This one was kind of a trick question anyway, because most programs now have both Large Group and Small Group components, that you can combine in whatever way works for you.  So, don’t feel like you have to pick just one style of programming!  That being said...

•    If you answered LARGE GROUP, then you’re probably looking for a program where one fun, charismatic teacher delivers “The Big Lesson”, and support staff help with managing  kids during that presentation.  They may also help lead short reinforcing activities throughout the session.  
◦    Group Publishing has several Themed Programs that provide Large Group resources, including media and worship
◦    Orange is a completely online, comprehensive system for managing all of your age groups, while still providing a large group experience.
◦    Hillsong Kids “BIG” is a powerful, worship-driven media-heavy program that has some great creativity included in it!  (Great for combining large and small group options)  

•    If you answered SMALL GROUP, then you probably have a wide range of ages in individual classrooms, a large number of kids, and/or a team of strong teachers who all want to teach whole lessons and manage an entire Sunday morning session.
◦    Group Publishing programs can also be used as Small Group style, though you might miss out on a few of the larger “WOW” moments like Skits and large group participation activities.  
◦    The Story for Kids is a GREAT resource if you have a tight budget (like less than $100 for the whole year!) and has modifications for ages Preschool through Older Elementary.  

2.    Do you want to incorporate media and technology into your Sunday Morning lessons? 

•    YES I love technology!  As is true with almost everything nowadays, almost all Kids Min Publishers are loading their products with media:  Videos, Music, iPad apps for Parents, Facebook links, blogs, etc.  If your church is already pretty tech-savvy, then you should definitely consider incorporating these media components into your lessons every Sunday.  
◦    Remember that kids all learn in different ways:  seeing, hearing, touching, saying.  So, with the technology and media included in most programs now, it’s entirely possible to reach every single kid in a single lesson.  Your visual learners can watch a 3-minute video of the Bible story, your audible learners can listen to a song that teaches the Bible verse, your tactile learners can do a craft building a replica of Noah’s ark, and your verbal learners can enjoy a “Repeat After Me” game.  
•    NOPE, I don’t even own a smartphone!  If your church struggles with technology, or your budget doesn’t allow you to create a 30-foot plasma display with a state-of-the-art sound system in every classroom, DON’T DESPAIR!  You can be creative with the materials that most programs provide and find ways to reach each learner, even if you can’t do it all on a Sunday morning.  For example, a lot of media that’s is included in a program is accessible on the Parent iPhone App.  So you can encourage your parents to watch the video with their kids Saturday night before the come on Sunday, or listen to a song with their kids on the way home from church each Sunday.

3.    Do you want a BIBLE LITERACY program or a TOPICAL program?
•    Bible Literacy:  Some churches are made up of mostly “churched” families , with parents who do some kind of Bible education and teaching at home, in addition to what they learn with you.  Those kids would feel pretty comfortable with a Bible Literacy-based program, where lessons take them through the Bible either Chronologically or book-by-book.  (Honestly, you can’t go wrong with teaching kids straight Bible stories!  So if you’re not sure, I would recommend this route for your first try!)
◦    What’s In The Bible:  Phil Vischer, creator of Veggie Tales, has a publishing house that puts out some incredible resources for Kids Min curriculum.  They have the  chronological “What’s In The Bible” series, that is fantastic and fun!  But, take note that it works best as a Large Group, rather than in individual classrooms unless you have great technology setup in every room to replicate a Large Group media-based program in every classroom  
◦    The Gospel Project by Lifeway is a 3-year chronological look at the Bible with a focus on how God had planned to send Jesus and bring salvation from the very beginning.  
•    Topical:  Some churches are full of brand new families and growing every week, so the kids showing up in your classrooms may have never even heard a Bible verse before!  Topical programs are great for them, because you’re teaching a CONCEPT, and reinforcing it with Biblical truth.  New kids won’t feel left out by not knowing the Bible forwards and backwards, and they’ll still learn about the love of God in a simple, understandable way while getting exposure to the Bible more and more each week.  
◦    Group Publishing has several Themed Programs that provide Large Group and Small Group resources, and include media and worship
◦    Orange is great for usability, with everything managed online and in one place.  Also, their themes are really Biblically sound and create great action items for kids to focus on each week.  
◦    Clive & Ian’s Wonderblimp of Knowledge is a shorter topical program also created by Phil Vischer’s publishing company, “What’s In The Bible.”  It’s a 16-week scope that is terrific for answering big questions about God!  (P.S.  This one, along with a few of his other Holiday Programs, make for perfect Summer or Holiday fillers if you’re trying to bridge from one program to another!)

4.    How long do you want to commit to one program?
•    Most Topical programs will carry you through 3-4 months.  Most Bible Literacy-based programs will last 1-3 years.   When you’re reading about programs, they refer this to their “scope.”
•    Don’t worry:  If you choose a program that has a longer scope (1 year or more), you’ll usually have the option of purchasing it in “Seasons”, i.e. purchasing 3 months at a time. So, don’t worry:  if you decide it’s not working for you, you aren’t stuck with it until Jesus comes back.  Just until Christmas.  (Although...maybe He’ll come back on His birthday...that would be a total ironic hipster thing to do, wouldn’t it?) 

Let me finish by saying this:  In my experience reviewing dozens of different curriculum samples, I haven’t yet found one that’s teaching unbiblical, heretical lies to our kids.  So, rest assured that even if you pick one that your team doesn’t love, you’re not going to create some kind of weird cult in the Kids Wing of your church.  Also, remember that kids all learn in different ways, so no matter what program you choose, your teachers will need to have freedom to be creative in order to reach every child.  

Just remember:  You have an amazing opportunity to teach the love of Jesus to kids every single week.  Curriculum is just one piece of that puzzle.  If you empower your team to love your kids like Jesus loves them, your ministry will be a success no matter what curriculum you choose! 

Here are a few more helpful links that might help you in your Curriculum quest:  

•    List of Curriculum providers 
•    A blog site dedicated to reviewing Kids Curriculum.  I don’t personally know this author or ministry, but she’s direct and seems to have a pretty good handle on what churches need! Check out her reviews!  
•    A Chart (from that same blog) comparing several of the bigger programs 

Questions?  Your friendly EF Kids Ministry Team is always here to help.  Just let us know what we can do to make your Kids Ministry the best it can be!

Ashley Milliken serves as the Director of Children's Ministry at Family Life Church in Warsaw, NY.  She also works as a Registered Nurse at Golisano Children's Hospital in Rochester, NY.  Prior to her current roles, she managed teams and worked in volunteer development for 7 years as the Executive Vice President at CompassCare Pregnancy Services in Rochester, NY.  She says that "Making kids feel special and showing them the love of Jesus is what I wake up for every morning.  There's nowhere I'd rather be than in Kids Ministry!"