5 Myths About Curriculum

I’m going to do a short series of blog posts on selecting curriculum for your church, and today I’m starting with 5 myths about curriculum. Over the next week or so I’ll release more blog posts on how to choose curriculum that fits your church, and other related topics.

Curriculum comes from the Latin word currere, which means to run. Curriculum was used during the Roman Empire to refer to the course used for chariot races. The “curriculum” was the racetrack. What a great picture of what we think of as curriculum today that is! Curriculum, like a racetrack, has a beginning and ending point, and provides parameters within which the material is taught (much like parameters at a race track showed participants the prescribed course. When I think of curriculum today, I can visualize materials that show me, the leader, where to start and end a study, and what topic(s) I should cover during a group meeting with learners.

Well, let’s jump in and think about 5 myths about curriculum. See if you have said any of the following:

1. There is a perfect curriculum. There is no such thing! Don’t waste your time looking for it, because it doesn’t exist. There is no such thing as a perfect company to work for, and no such thing as a perfect marriage…and there’s no perfect curriculum. Some curriculum will meet the needs of your Sunday School better than others…they all have strengths and weaknesses. Don’t give in to the pressures that some teachers will place on you when they ask you to choose a different curriculum because they don’t like the present one. Help them understand why you’ve chosen the one you did, train them on how to use it properly, pray for them to accept it and have a positive attitude about it, and stay the course.
2. The newest curriculum with all the “bells and whistles” is best for your church. Maybe, maybe not. If you believe this, you’ll be changing curriculum at least annually, because new curriculum is always being developed, and in this day and age, there is no shortage of publishers who produce Sunday School curriculum (and we can now add churches and individuals to that list). It is better to select a curriculum that meets your criteria, train your leaders in how to use it properly, and become experts in using it. If you constantly change curriculum, your learners will never complete a scope and sequence and their learning will be hindered.
3. We should change curriculum each time we get a new leader. The church must decide what its plan is for teaching people of all ages, and as new staff join the leadership team, they should be in agreement with the educational philosophy. That isn’t to say that a new leader shouldn’t be allowed to have a conversation about curriculum changes they would like to make, but generally they make those out of their own experience (i.e. “I’ve used XYZ curriculum at my previous church”) and they haven’t spent enough time fully understanding their new church’s philosophy and reasons for selecting its current curriculum. Sometimes the new leader is right, and a curriculum change should be made, but make sure you take the time to do the proper research before jumping ship to a new curriculum.
4. Teachers teach curriculum. Actually, they teach the Bible. Teachers use curriculum as a tool to aid in the teaching of Scripture, but it’s just a tool. Curriculum provides a rhyme and reason for the scope and sequence of study, it provides balance, and it provides teaching procedures and ideas for involving learners in studying the lesson, but ultimately teachers teach the Bible, not curriculum.
5. Teachers don’t need any curriculum…they have the Bible. Churches make a big mistake when they allow teachers to create their own curriculum plan and “just study the Bible.” It makes sense on the surface, doesn’t it? The Word of God is powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword, so why not just allow the teacher to open it, teach his or her favorite passages, and save the expense of buying curriculum and training leaders? Because it is a poor plan for teaching the entire counsel of God in age-appropriate ways in a scope and sequence that takes into account the life-long developmental and spiritual needs of preschoolers, children, students, and adults! At a recent conference in which I was teaching Sunday School directors, one man shared with the group that one of the adult classes in his church’s Sunday School had a teacher that had been leading his own study of the book of Acts…for the past two years! As good as Acts is, people need a balance of Scripture, just like you and I need a healthy balance of food. Too much of a good thing isn’t good.

In my next post I will share 10 ways churches are selecting curriculum. Until then, thanks for dropping by and being a part of this community!

I’d love to hear your stories about curriculum selection…no doubt there are some very good tales out there!

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