In our last lesson, we discussed the general principles for choosing curriculum. Since curriculum is the “totality of student experiences in the educational process,” we refer to its components as “courses.” Think about it this way: A college curriculum is comprised of dozens of courses that must be taken before the student can graduate. So, what are the courses in your children’s ministry curriculum? What CONTENT do yo want your children to study and experience before they “graduate” from your ministry?
Lesson Eight: Choose the Courses
Typically, we choose educational materials reactively–we have a program in place (like Sunday School) which requires teachers to have something to teach. While this is an understandable response to a need, it’s not the best way to choose coursework. Instead, it is much better to begin with your “course catalog”–the components of the curriculum that will give children an entire learning experience. After that is chosen, then you can decide what CONTEXTS are best for the CONTENT. So let’s talk about the courses that are necessary for a thoroughly complete curriculum…
1. Bible Study. Of course we want our children to study the Bible! But, how much of the Bible? Are just the “major” stories enough to have a thorough Bible study course? If we consider 6th grade the final year of children’s ministry, I would suggest we want them to be exposed to the entire Bible. All the stories of Scripture are profitable for training our children, even if some are more difficult than others. Accordingly, we must take age and learning ability into account when teaching the Bible to children. So, here is a suggested coursework:
- Pre-School: Our youngest children need to learn the “major” stories of Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation. They need to learn that the Bible is true, the stories and people are real, and that it is real history.
- Lower Elementary: As our children enter school, it’s time that they begin to work their way through ALL of God’s Word. Among the myriad beauties of Scripture, it is put together in an unfolding revelation that makes it easy to teach to children. Specifically, the beginnings of both Testaments are easier for younger children, while the latter books of each are more challenging. So teach your younger children the OT Law, History, and Poetry, as well as the NT Gospels and History.
- Upper Elementary: As just referenced, older children are ready for the latter books of Old and New Testaments. So teach them the OT writings and prophets, as well as the NT epistles and prophecy. By the age of 12 or so, your children should have been taught all of God’s Word, exposed to all the stories of Scripture.
As we will discuss in another lesson, you will then need to decide in what CONTEXTS these Bible study courses are best taught–Sunday School, mid-week programming, etc.
2. Systematic Theology. Systematic theology for children? What is this, seminary? In a way, yes! The educational coursework of children’s ministry is the beginning stages of preparation for life as a Christian. In that, your children need to receive a starting knowledge of what the Bible teaches about God, sin, salvation, the Christian life, and the life to come. So, here’s what it looks like by the same age/stage divisions:
- Pre-School. Solid Bible story books that teach the truths of the faith are necessary coursework for our youngest children. They need the basic building blocks of the gospel, centered on a sovereign God, our sin and fallen world, and our need for a Savior.
- Lower Elementary. As school begins, this is the best time to use historic catechisms to teach systematic theology. Using materials that teach by question and answer (the definition of catechesis), children learn to think theologically.
- Upper Elementary. This is probably the most difficult age group for which to find materials for theological training. In days past, older children were taught creeds, confessions of faith, and more in-depth catechisms in order to understand the faith.
Again, you will need to think through what CONTEXTS are best for teaching children systematic theology: the basics of the faith.
3. Practical Theology. In a way, it’s too early to focus on much of the “practice” or “working out” of our theology (much more to come in youth ministry). Furthermore, as you teach the Bible and systematic theology in a Christ-centered, gospel-driven manner, you SHOULD ALSO be making it practical for children! Yet, there are still practical theology courses that are necessary to round out your curriculum. Here are a few areas that deserve special attention:
- The practice of corporate worship.
- Life in the family.
- Biblical relationships.
- Biblical communication.
- Spiritual disciplines.
- Living a life of virtue.
These are the fundamental course components that should find a home in your overall children’s ministry curriculum. If you have extra time and opportunities, there are certainly other valuable courses to consider, such as church history studies, great Christian literature, etc. Then, it’s time to put the entire curriculum into your CORE contexts, and pray for the Spirit to do His work!