5 Thoughts About Bible Study Curriculum
[ym360 Note: Over the weekend, I ran across a blog post by Adam McLane. Adam is one of the founders of The Youth Cartel, a great youth ministry event and resource organization. Adam wrote a post on the merits of purchasing curriculum verses writing your own. True to Adam's style, it generated a lot of really good conversation. I'd recommend reading it if you haven't (and while you're there, check out some of their Bible study and training resources). Click here to jump over to Adam's blog.
Adam's post reminded me of this post I wrote a couple of years ago. I thought I'd repost. Hope you enjoy.--Andy]
I've been designing, writing, and producing Bible Study curriculum for teenagers in some form for close to 15 years. It's been my passion since day 1, but since 2003 it's also been my full-time occupation. I've also taught curriculum weekly (to adults and teenagers) for about the same amount of time.
I don't know it all, and I have a ton to still learn.
But here are five truths about Bible Study curriculum I thought I'd pass along. (And just to clarify, when I say curriculum, I am referring to curriculum you purchase, not the kind you would write yourself.)
1. All Curriculum Needs Tweaking
There's no perfect curriculum . . . not even ym360's. :) Few lessons, "as is," straight out of the box, perfectly meet the spiritual needs of your students or capture the personality of your group. You know why? The man or woman who wrote it doesn't know your teenagers. They don't know your structure. They don't know what resources you have access to and which ones you don't, and so on.
What does this mean? Two things . . .
- You must create a culture where it's expected that your teachers will invest the time in adjusting lessons. Help your teachers see that this expectation is part of their role.
- As you choose curriculum, you might want to consider how much time you'll need to spend tweaking the lessons. Look at samples. If you think you'll have to spend more than a couple hours a week tweaking a lesson, you might want to consider another curriculum. Just a thought.
2. Curriculum Isn't For Everyone
If your spiritual gifts are in the writing, teaching, and speaking mode, then you might enjoy writing your own curriculum. If you have the time and the chops, you'll find nothing but a supportive voice here. If this describes you, you might find your curriculum needs on the lesser end of the spectrum.
3. Everyone Can Benefit From Curriculum
There is good reason to plug in Bible Study curriculum into your teaching plan, even if you are a "write your own stuff" guy or gal. First, it's nice to have a break every once in a while. Second, it's a change of voice/perspective. Your students may benefit from a different viewpoint every now and again. Third, there may be seasonal responsibilities that take more of your time. Purchasing Bible Study curriculum for a 4 or 6 week emphasis may buy you time to plan that DNow or Weekend Retreat, or mission project.
4. Put "Bells and Whistles" In Their Proper Place
At ym360, we have a unique mix of product features on our studies. Video, Parent Pages, Facebook Devotions, and so on. And there are other providers who can say the same thing: video delivered, customizable lessons, etc. These bells and whistles are great. They really can help you build a strong environment around your time of study. But put them in their proper place (yes, even ours!).
The main reason you should choose a curriculum is for how it treats the actual teaching of the Bible. Is the lesson plan solid? Is the curriculum Bible centered? Does it teach sound, inductive Bible Study? And does it put a focus on actually helping students apply what they are learning? Bells and whistles are awesome. But if the lesson plan isn't solid, bells and whistles are merely a distraction.
5. Free Is Fine, But Strategy Rules
Like many other curriculum providers, we regularly offer free stuff. We work hard to make sure our free lessons and devotions are solid. And we are pumped that so many of you take advantage of them. But here's the deal. If you're living off the next free lesson, you're really depriving your students of learning God's Word in a planned out, well ordered structure.
Free lessons are great, especially seasonal ones. But, you need a strategy for teaching students God's Word. Your strategy can be flexible enough to include the occasional free lesson. But if you're going from one freebie to another, it's going to be really challenging for your students to grasp any real big-picture understanding of the Bible.
What are you thoughts when it comes to choosing curriculum?