Detroit, Engineers, and the Value of “Ready-to-Use” Curriculum

The book Crash Course by Paul Ingrassia details the rise and fall of the “big three” automakers.  The book is a fascinating look into the inner workings of the automobile industry and the decisions made by executives that led to the crash of that industry a few years ago.

In the midst of poor decisions made by American automakers, Honda quietly rose to prominence because it was led by engineers, not the “bean counters” like GM (p.66).  Ingrassia notes that this was a critical difference in Honda’s success and GM’s failure.  Let’s think about this and how this might apply to Sunday School curriculum.

The car you drive was not created by a single engineer.  In fact, teams of engineers worked for years to develop and test the very car you drove to work today.  Would you dare drive a car that was designed by just one engineer?  I bet not.  I know I wouldn’t trust the experience and background of just one engineer.  I’d want a team of engineers pooling their expertise.  In a similar way, some churches are opting to have a staff member (or group leaders) create (“engineer”) their own lessons each week.  One person is responsible for creating a lesson rather than a team of experts.  Here are several advantages to purchasing “ready-to-use” curriculum rather than a single teacher/engineer building their own:

1)  A team of “curriculum engineers” keeps the lesson free of doctrinal error.  When you have multiple experts (editors, writers with advanced theological degrees) who craft Bible studies, the chances of doctrinal errors slipping into the material is reduced to almost a zero possibility.  Multiple filters are in place to make sure that only accurate biblical doctrine is presented in each study.  If you have only one person writing Bible studies, you don’t have a built-in system for catching mistakes in doctrine.

2)  A team of “curriculum engineers” work a long-term plan.  As said earlier, it takes years to design a car, and dozens of meetings with marketers, engineers, execs, and salespeople to create a product that will be received well in the marketplace.  “Curriculum engineers,” in a similar way, work a long-term plan that is known as the scope & sequence of the curriculum.  The scope and sequence is a detailed plan that sets strong guidelines for what the curriculum will lead learners to study over the course of time; the scope & sequence can actually stretch many years into the future, giving the entire team a strong framework around which to build lessons.  This is not so if you have only one person writing their own studies. They will struggle to tell you what they are going to lead their class to study in two weeks.

3)  A team of “curriculum engineers” brings diversity and creativity to the process of building lessons.  Automakers employ hundreds of experts, engineers, craftsmen, and workers to produce the vehicles you and I enjoy driving.  No church can come close to employing the hundreds of theologians, editors, writers, proof readers, graphic designers, and others that produce quality Bible study materials that are “ready to use.”  Hundreds of people speak into a lesson’s design, theme, Scripture passages studied, illustrations, and more.

The next time you are tempted to write curriculum for your church, or when that teacher approaches you about writing his or her own curriculum, ask yourself if you are giving your church members the very best by choosing that philosophy.  In my experience, my teachers were better prepared, had better materials, and experienced better results by using the “ready to use” curriculum  than if I’d spent several days of my week trying to write curriculum for them to use.


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