Nikki Lanigan, BAR, former Director of Children’s Ministries, Northview Church, Abbotsford, BC
Baby Moses floating in a basket. A staple component in a central story of every pre-school curriculum written. But did I read that right? Do they really want me to use an unshelled peanut to represent baby Moses? This is the age of anaphylactic shock. The river on the picture mat that I am to move the peanut down has a line of identical pictures of Baby Moses in a basket. Preschoolers are literal learners. If you show them lots of Baby Moses’, then there are lots. And to the child who can count there are seven.
In my nine years as a Children’s Ministry Director, I constantly adapted classroom activities – because grade 6 boys don’t stand in a circle and hold hands. Or adjusting lessons – because where I live Thanksgiving is in October, not November. Or strengthening the biblical content –because that was important to me.
These are real examples from real curriculums. Curriculums have their highs and lows. Not every lesson can be fully usable. But some fundamentals have to be met for a curriculum to be successful.
I once had a phone conversation with Dr. Linda Cannell, retired Academic Dean at North Park University in Chicago. Dr. Cannell emphasized that curriculum needs to be used only as a baseline. Curriculum writers must prepare curriculum for children’s workers with varying levels of education who may lack teaching experience and spend little time preparing for the lesson.
Curriculum needs to be seen as a baseline for Christian education and discipleship. It needs to teach, inform, and develop so that curious minds want to know more. It needs to engage a child’s whole being to create a sense of wonder and awe. It needs to allow the Holy Spirit to lead and work so that true transformation can begin within the heart and mind of a child. It needs to lead to worship.
The curriculum evaluation guide by Verda Campbell and Cammy Jones briefly describes the five fundamentals of a successful curriculum. It provides a series of questions that allow churches to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of a curriculum, and determine whether the curriculum aligns with their theology and philosophy of education. It is by far the best guide I have come across to date. As your church gathers a team to pray, and begin the journey of choosing or evaluating the right curriculum for your church’s ministry, I hope you will find it helpful.
Campbell, Verda and Cammy Jones. “A Christian Educator’s Guide to Curriculum Review.” Northwest Institute for Ministry Education Research. www.nimer.ca (retrieved [Date Accessed]).