Choosing and Using Curriculum for Youth Ministry

This weekend I was honored to attend Choosing and Using Curriculum, an event hosted by FUMC, Keller and sponsored by Central Texas Conference Center for Mission Support and Christian Educators Fellowship. I receive numerous calls and e-mails regarding curriculum, so I was excited to have this offered. I know many of you were interested but unable to attend, so I wanted to share what I prepared and what I learned.

The day started off with beautiful worship and lead into a curriculum presentation by Joyce Brown, Cokesbury representative and consultant. She shared different types of curriculum, how curriculum connects the Bible to life, and what lenses you should use to choose curriculum. She also shared several new and popular curriculum choices for children, youth, women, men, and adults.

After looking through the new Cokesbury catalog and speaking with others, I discovered a curriculum that I’m embarrassed to say I was previously unfamiliar with: re:form. This curriculum has come to me highly recommended. After reviewing the samples on their website, I’m thrilled to recommend this to you. Check out their What is re:form? video, the new Traditions video, and other free samples. If you’re using re:form, I’d love to hear what you think!

In our youth ministry break-out session we discussed different types of curriculum, what environment you’ll be presenting the curriculum, how to engage students with different learning styles, and what is the purpose of the curriculum. As you explore curriculum, you need to answer three questions (among others)

  1. What type of curriculum are you looking for? (topical, comprehensive, life to Bible, or Bible to life)
  2. How can you incorporate different teaching techniques?
  3. What is the environment?

Good curriculum should offer several different types of learning options for students. We all learn in different ways so it’s important to share the message using several different mediums. For example, you can introduce a topic through a song playing in the background as youth gather. Play a game or ask a discussion-starting question regarding the topic. Utilize a craft or hands-on activity to drive a point home or have students act out a scripture to illustrate the message. If you find curriculum that is theologically accurate, fits your circumstances, and is relevant, you can adapt a drama, song, game, or mutli-sensory experience to fit your situation. Know your students but don’t rely on the same mediums every week. Switch it up a bit – if you normally play a game, try a craft one week.

The environment where curriculum is taught is important to consider. How much time do you need to fill? What size room do you have? Will you have the same students each week or will you see different kids each time you meet? These issues will remain somewhat constant from week to week – if anything is ever constant!

I handed out two different examples of curriculum. A free sample download of LinC and the Hunger Games from Highland Park UMC. We examined each of these two options and discussed how we would use them.

It arrives weekly to your e-mail box and utilizes current events and seasonal topics. The copy we are going to look at today is a free download available at cokesbury.com.

The first page of the LinC curriculm is typically an article setting up the theme and the second page is the three scripture texts for the week with commentary. I typically will choose one scripture text that I think the students will relate to and focus on that. Most lessons of LinC are topical or life to bible. With some planning, the curriculum could begin with the Bible and back into how it relates to life. It’s important to prepare a little beforehand so you know what the scripture text is about and what the commentary provided says. If you are looking for something that connects bible to life, you can rearrange the lesson to accomplish that goal.

The next two pages have two different program outlines. It is basically a step-by-step instruction on how to lead the group. There is a list of supplies, how long each section should take, and ways to use multimedia. You can pick and choose a combination of the two outlines or use one over the other. You can also choose to use one outline for a Sunday school gathering and the second for Wednesday evening. Depending on how many students you have, where you will be meeting, and what your time schedule is, you can add or subtract from the given outlines. There is always plenty of great material to cover two youth group gatherings. The final page is a handout for the students. It has interesting information, scriptures, a cartoon, and activities. LinC has craft options, drama, journaling, multimedia, and games to help emphasize the theme. How would you use this curriculum in your ministry setting?

Highland Park UMC offers several different free resources from their website. The Hunger Games curriculum is a great example of topical curriculum that connects the Bible to life. It is based around the popular books (and movies!) The Hunger Games. This simple curriculum is part of a 4-week series put out by Highland Park UMC. These, and other, curriculum resources can be downloaded from their website. Each week in this series, students examine a different biblical character and what they were hungry for: affection, justice, proof, and patience.

The draw for this curriculum is the connection to The Hunger Games. Students who have read the books or seen the movie will come because of that advertisement. However, because the association is loose, students who are not familiar with the books will still have plenty to add. This curriculum does not incorporate other forms of teaching, games, crafts, etc. It would be relatively easy to add multimedia or some other component as time allows, but would take some additional planning. Using this curriculum walks students through a scripture passage and series of questions. This curriculum starts with the Bible and links back to the student’s lives. How would you use this curriculum in your ministry setting?

The final curriculum option we examined was a NOOMA video. Nooma videos are short 10-15 minute videos that explore our world from the perspective of Jesus. NOOMA is an invitation to search, question, and join the discussion. Each video comes with a study guide. The guide walks through the video offering quotations to discuss and scriptures to explore. After watching the video, the leader will guide the students through the booklet. The videos often start with life and then connect to the Bible, although it occasionally begins with the Bible and connects back to life. When preparing this lesson, it’s helpful to watch the video before showing it to students. This gives the leader an opportunity to be thinking about what might stand out to the students. The booklet does not include games or hands-on activities. How would you use this curriculum in your ministry setting?

 

What curriculum are you using? Do you like it? What are you looking for in your youth curriculum?