Choosing the Best Curriculum for Your Preschool and Children’s Ministries

Originally Posted on September 21, 2020

Webinar Transcript

– As I said, Landry Holmes is our guest for tonight. We are honored to have him with us. Just a little bit of a bio. He is the manager of LifeWay Kids Ongoing Bible Studies and Network Partnership, which is in Nashville, Tennessee. He’s a graduate of Howard Payne University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I hope you have all seen the book, “It’s Worth It.” He is the author of “It’s Worth It: Uncovering How One Week Can Transform Your Church” and the general editor of the “Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary for Kids.” He is a church leader, a writer, workshop facilitator, publisher. He teaches kids at his own church where his wife, and I hope I say this right, Janetta, is the preschool minister. And they enjoy spending time. They have two sons and their wives. And then I was just hearing about all of his grandchildren that he loves to spoil. And so Landry is here, and we are fortunate and pleased to have him, and he’s gonna share so much insight, and he’s a wealth of wisdom, so I know you’re gonna enjoy hearing from him. But before I hand it over to him, let’s pray for our time together. Father God, we just come to you so grateful that even in the middle of confusion and chaos, you give us time to be still, and to be quiet, and to listen. Father, I know that you have been talking with Landry, and I know that what he is gonna present tonight, he has discussed with you, and you have just filled him with the words that he needs to speak. Lord, choosing the right curriculum for the children that we lead in our churches is so very important, and I pray tonight that we will just soak up and absorb everything that he has to say so we can make the best decisions possible for the preschoolers and the children that we teach in our churches. Father, be with us tonight, lead and guide our thoughts, our comments, and, as always, I pray that everything we do glorifies and honors you. In Jesus’ name, amen. Landry, I’m gonna pass this off to you.

– All right, thank you, Patty. I appreciate it, and I am excited to be a part of this tonight. I’ve been, like many of you, I’ve been doing a lot of Zoom meetings, and video meetings, and phone calls. And my church actually has started meeting again, and we’ve been doing it in phases. My church is in Nashville, Metro Davidson County. And they’ve been a little more stringent as far as opening than some of the other surrounding counties. And we’ve been beginning slowly. This past Sunday was the first time that preschoolers and children came onsite on a Sunday, and it was interesting trying to get preschoolers to social distance and children to social distance. And it’s the first time that I wore a mask the entire time I taught children at church, but we’re all in this kind of different world and we talk about that every day, about being in a different world. But in our situation, and probably in your situation too, we have continued to take teaching preschoolers and children seriously at our church, and I know you have as well. And one of the things that we’ve done is continue to use curriculum materials, Now, albeit, we’ve had to do it differently. My wife is the preschool minister at our church, and we’ve been doing Zoom Sunday school since the end of March. And we were talking earlier, Patty and I were talking earlier, about what’s it like to teach children on Zoom. The cool thing is that you can mute all of them at one time; however, the older they are, the more savvy they are, and they’ve figured out how to unmute themselves. So I have one girl in particular that on Sunday mornings when we’re teaching, she’ll unmute herself, and I’ll mute her back. She’ll unmute herself, and I’ll mute her back. It’s kind of become a game. I don’t know that she’s figured out what I’m doing yet or not, but I can tell she gets frustrated sometimes, and that’s really sad that she gets frustrated. But it’s an easy way to maintain some of the decorum in the classroom, but we do miss them, so it was really good to see the children again, some of them. We’re continuing to do Zoom on Sunday mornings along with in-person gatherings with our preschoolers and our children because there’s some families that aren’t ready to come back. But in both instances, we’re using the curriculum. We’re using the same curriculum, and we are able to continue their learning. So I said all that to kind of talk about, ’cause tonight we’re gonna talk about curriculum. And I’m gonna share my screen, and I wanna talk about some things tonight about choosing the best curriculum for our preschool and children’s ministries. I’m gonna spend most of my time talking in general about… So questions that you can ask is, do you evaluate curriculum of any publisher or curriculum that your church writes or did she write? Yes, I am a leader at LifeWay and LifeWay Kids in publishing, so I am partial and biased, but I’m going to give you questions and things to consider regardless of what curriculum that you look at. And I do believe that it’s important to know the right questions to ask when looking at curriculum, I will toward the end of our time together, I will share about some distinctives of three lines of curriculum that LifeWay does for Bible study, Sunday school, life groups, and so I will share that. But the principles that I’m gonna share at the beginning will, you can use these principles to measure any curriculum, not just LifeWay curriculum. So that’s really what we’re gonna be doing tonight. We’re gonna start talking about shoes. Now I’m a guy, and I’m not a big shoe person. Some guys are a big shoe persons. I know people who have lots of shoes. I kinda have my standard shoes. It’s, “Do I wanna wear this pair or this pair?” It’s just two choices. But when you choose your footwear for the day, you probably are thinking about what you’re gonna be doing that day. I mean, when I’m gonna mow my yard, I’ve got my yard shoes, and they stay out in the garage ’cause they’re nasty. But if I’m going to, I’m going to go to worship, then there’s a certain pair of shoes I usually wear. If I’m going to exercise or just go for a walk, I think there’s been a lot of walking in our neighborhoods with all this COVID, then I’ll probably wear my tennis shoes. But we match our shoes with what we’re going to be doing that day. So you kinda plan ahead. Now you may change shoes two or three times during the day, that’s okay, but it easily just because of what you’re doing and everything. And maybe you don’t wear shoes different part of the day as well. Choosing curriculum is kinda like choosing shoes, only a little more complicated, and that I mean in choosing shoes, you choose them to fit the activity, like I wouldn’t wear my dress shoes to go hiking. I wouldn’t wear my hiking shoes to go to a business gathering or to go to worship on Sunday morning. So let’s think about curriculum. It’s not choose, but it is looking at, what’s the purpose? What do I need my curriculum to do? So what curriculum shoe, then, would meet the needs and the goals of my church? So I think that’s a good question, the very first question to ask, and I think is, what do you expect from your curriculum materials? What do you expect from your curriculum materials? What do you want them to do? What do you expect them to do? Now they’re not people. They are not animals. They’re inanimate. They’re not robots. Curriculum materials usually don’t have artificial intelligence. But what do you expect from them? What job do you want your curriculum materials to do? What job do you want them to do? So that’s the first question to ask, is what do I expect? So the next time… Most of the time we’re gonna be spending tonight, we’re gonna talk about how to answer that question: what do you expect from your curriculum? So, first of all, I know you can’t see this, but this is an evaluation tool. It’s paper, it’s a PDF format, and you’ll be receiving a copy of this at some point in the future. And there’s no need for you to have it tonight, but if you see, you see that it’s got several columns. It’s a front and back, if you print it out, front and back, and it’s basically got questions that we’re gonna talk about tonight. Some of them are, some of the columns are blank, but most of them have questions. And this is just a tool to use that you could use with any preschool or children’s Bible study curriculum in order to evaluate, does it meet the needs of your church and the needs of that particular group? And does it answer the question, or does it meet the requirements when you ask the question, what do you expect from your curriculum materials? So you’ll be getting that. And I also wanna tell you that you’re not gonna have time to write down every question that I put up here, so you’ll be getting that in the form of a handout. But if you do wanna take notes, it’ll make sense when you compare your notes to this evaluation tool. And being a PDF, you can make as many copies of it as you need, as you want. Some churches, when they’re evaluating curriculum, will have committees that do it or work groups that will do it. And if you all do it, have the same kinds of questions, then it becomes more objective than just subjective. And the problem with only evaluating curriculum from a subjective viewpoint is that we all approach it differently, and so what may feel good to me, it may not feel good to you, so we need to ask questions that we can actually quantify and say, “Okay, it does this,” or, “It doesn’t do this.” So here’s the first question to help us answer the root question of, is what do we want, what job do we want our curriculum materials to do? And the first thing is this: what’s the purpose of the group that I’m getting this curriculum for? Most of the time when people are choosing curriculum, I mean, what you see mostly on, these days and even before COVID-19, that you see on social media is usually ongoing Bible study or Sunday school, life groups, whatever the primary Bible teaching time for preschoolers and children. In my church, they’re called life groups, some churches, they’re called Sunday school, but it’s that week after week after week of Bible study that is most accessible to most people. And maybe some churches do it on Saturday night and Sunday morning, but when you look at the vast majority of churches, most of the time it’s Sunday morning, maybe Sunday afternoon. So if that’s the purpose, you’re gonna be looking at certain kinds of curriculum and curriculum to meet certain needs. Now the three lines of curriculum that I’m gonna talk about that LifeWay, of LifeWay’s, later, as in towards the end, fit into this category. They could fit into some of these other categories, but they fit into ongoing Bible study category, Sunday school, or life groups. Maybe the group is short term. Maybe it’s just gonna meet for a quarter, 13 weeks, or six weeks, or a month, or one night, or a weekend. That’s short-term discipleship, and it takes, it assumes that, it assumes that it’s not gonna be ongoing, and so it tends to be more specific in the scope of what areas it’s gonna cover. It could be specific areas of discipleship, it could be spiritual disciplines, or it could be what’s the Bible about, or it could be… There’s just lots of different things it could be, but short-term discipleship is another category. If the purpose of this group is during the summer on Wednesday nights, or during the school year on Sunday afternoons, or whenever it, it’s short-term discipleship. Vacation Bible school has a… You would look at curriculum for VBS different in some ways than you look at it for Sunday school or short-term discipleship ’cause the reason you… There are purposes for VBS where the outcomes you want for VBS are a little bit different. And VBS tends to be very outreach-oriented as well as discipling kids. So VBS, and then missions. Now for some, you may incorporate missions into your ongoing Bible study. Many have missions. You may have RAs and GAs, you may have kids on a mission, you may have just, or maybe a short term discipleship focused on missions, but if you’re teaching missions, as a standalone teaching group, teaching time, and it’s a different purpose. And then worship hour. Whether you call it children’s church, extended session, extended teaching care, whatever you call it, but that’s, usually it’s thought of as a second experience. So it’s sometimes it’s on Sunday morning that follows Sunday school or precedes Sunday school. Sometimes it’s on Wednesday night or Sunday night, but it’s focused more toward worshiping. And it’s still Bible study, but it’s focused… It may have more music, and it may have more large group experiences than ongoing Bible study does. And then, of course, there’s others, so you get to fill in the blank. Okay, well, the primary purpose of this group doesn’t fit any of these, so what does it fit? So that’s the first question in all of this. Actually, on this handout that you’ll get, that question is at the very top. It’s not even in the grid because you really need to answer that one first. And I would suggest in evaluating curriculum that you use this tool for each curriculum that you’re evaluating so that you’re evaluating them all the same and being systematic. Let me tell you something that we did recently using some of these same questions in our area, in our kids’ area, LifeWay, is that we, from time to time, we’ll look at other publishers and evaluate their curriculum, and see what they’re doing, what they’re publishing, and they probably do the same. And so we’ve used some of these same questions that I’m going to be going over tonight, is we got into small groups, and we had four different, I think we had three different groups, no, four different groups look at, we assigned each of them a different curriculum line, but use the same questions so then when we were looking at them, we had kind of a basis to be able to compare. And so that’s what I suggest that you do when you’re evaluating a curriculum. Another question to ask, an important question is age grouping or age grading. These terms can really be interchanged, age grouping. Sometimes we think of that term more for preschool and age grading not until kindergarten or first grade, but basically it’s however grouping children together by their age or grade. Are your kids in your church closely graded? In other words, do you have a class for just first graders or a class for first and second graders? That’s closely graded. Broadly graded would be if the group is for, say, first through third graders, or kindergarten through second graders, or three-year-olds through kindergartners, is really kind of broad if they’re true three-year-olds and they’re true kindergartners. That’s broadly graded, is too. So it’s having more, it’s having a bigger range of ages around than you would with closely graded. In some cases, in some churches, many churches, especially probably, I would say probably the majority of churches, there are times that you need closely-graded curriculum and there are times you need broadly-graded curriculum. So you just need to kind of see that’s the question to ask, how do I want it graded? So when you’re looking at curriculum, look and see, does it work in a closely-graded environment? Now it might be broadly graded, say, it says preschool, and younger kids, and older kids, LifeWay produces curriculum like that, you can still use that curriculum in closely-graded environments, but you can also use it in broadly-graded. And with a closely-graded curriculum, you can use it in a broadly-graded environment, multi-age environment, but it’s a little more challenging to take a closely-graded curriculum and use it in a multi-age, multi grade environment. So that’s a good question to ask. And some curriculum will offer both. And then two other questions is on both ends of the spectrum: what’s the youngest age that this curriculum has materials for? Does it have materials for zero to 12 months? And maybe you don’t want curriculum for zero to 12 months. I think you should, but maybe you don’t. And so maybe you just wanted to start with two-year-olds, so does the curriculum you’re looking at go to two-year-olds or does it go younger if you want younger curriculum? And then what’s the oldest age? Does it go through pre-teens? Does it have something specifically for pre-teens? Does it stop at fourth grade? Does it stop at fifth grade? Does it stop at sixth grade? What’s the oldest? Really, you’re looking at the range of ages. So closely-graded, broadly-graded, and then your range of ages to fit your church, in your environment. Now it may be that you use one line of curriculum for younger children and one line of curriculum for your pre-teens, and you may use a short-term study for your pre-teens and ongoing Bible study for your other children. Again, it depends on your goals for the group and what you’re trying to accomplish. Okay, now delivery. Now this is a question that when I first went to LifeWay, we wouldn’t ask this question. Everything was print. Now this is what’s kinda interesting. I’ve been at LifeWay for 22 years, and when I first went, we were just introducing CDs, and we thought we were cutting edge ’cause we had CDs. And the CD allowed us to do more than music. All of a sudden we could have PDFs and printable materials on the CDs. Now we did have, It took a while for people to catch on even 22 years ago. In fact, so long that we kept cassette tapes for a long time. Now we’re in a different world, and COVID has forced some of us into doing more digital than we’ve done before and to do hybrid models. So you all look at the… If you need curriculum, that if you need curriculum, it’s important for you that it has print as a part of it, then you need to look at that. If you need, if you want curriculum, it’s important that it’s got a digital component, then you need to look at, you look at that. If it’s important that you offer both, a hybrid model, some of your teachers get print guides, some of them use digital leader guides or digital take home pieces, some curriculum will offer both. Sometimes they’ll offer a print of some things and digital of others, or maybe they’ll offer… Everything they offer in print, they may offer the same things in digital, and you can combine or choose one or the other. And there’s two different kinds of digital. And I don’t want to get too technical ’cause I can’t, ’cause I don’t know enough to be able to tell you that, but in curriculum world right now, in church curriculum world, most of the time it’s digital. It’s gonna PDFs that you just print off, like this handout you’re gonna get from me, or RTFs, which is rich text format. It’s more editable. It looks like a Word document or a word processing document. Or there’s the eBook that you really can’t manipulate at all ’cause that’s more like what you read on a Kindle or on a eReader. Now an interactive digital experience gives you more freedom to be able to manipulate the entire session. So LifeWay has something called, and this is just an example, but LifeWay has something called Ministry Grid, and we are launching, actually, it’s available now in limited format, but where you could take, you could them through Ministry Grid, and it’s online, and you arrange it how you want to, and you send it out to your teachers how you want to. So rather than sending them a PDF necessarily that came from us, you send them what you want them to have. And same thing with, we have something called, that we’re launching, called At Home Resources, and these At Home Resources through Ministry Grid, you send them to your families, and they’re able to kind of manipulate, okay, stream this video, print out this activity page, or do this activity. Also our apps tend to be interactive digital experiences. So lots more choices than we’ve ever had before. And, again, if that’s not important to you, then it’s okay if the curriculum you’re looking at doesn’t have that. Yeah, a couple of other things to look at is your, of your pricing model. And so your pricing model is there’s a pricing model for print usually, and there’s usually a separate pricing model for digital. And make sure that you actually know, when you’re pricing it, that you’re comparing apples to apples. Sometimes we say we, in kids’ ministry, “Well, I chose this curriculum ’cause it was the cheapest, and I don’t have much money my budget.” But sometimes it doesn’t turn out to be the cheapest because maybe you’ve got to do a lot of printing, and maybe that doesn’t come out of your budget, but it comes out somebody’s budget at the church. I sat with a group of people at a church, they’re making decisions about curriculum, and they were changing curriculum lines, and they were also trying to decide if they want digital or print. And the business administrator was in there, and when he was actually calculating how much it cost per copy if they did it in color or if they did it in black and white, and if that would be better than prints. You’ve gotta take all those into effect when you’re comparing prices, and prices are hard when you get into digital to compare sometimes because this price may seem cheaper, but maybe they don’t have video. And this price maybe seem more expensive, but it’s got everything. So be sure that you look at print pricing and digital pricing. Okay, so publishing frequency is also an important question. It’s ongoing, so that means there’s something, there’s weekly curriculum. It’s different every week and it comes out monthly. And so every month I’ve got this set of curriculum. Or maybe it comes out quarterly, so for the fall, I’ve got this set of curriculum, but in the winter, I’ll have a different set, and it’ll continue every quarter. So every month or quarter. Or is it annual? Can I buy it annually? With digital, you can do that a lot of times. Just say, “Hey, I can just go and pay for my curriculum all at one time.” You have to budget for it that way, but, “I’m gonna pay for it all at one time and don’t have to worry about it anymore. It’s just gonna come to me either monthly or quarterly, but I’ll just continue to get this curriculum for this year, and I can renew every year.” Or there’s two different ways of short-term curriculum. So short term, again, it usually has a beginning and an ending. It’s usually not more, in kids’ world, 13 weeks usually. And I mean, unless it’s teen kid. Now teen kids you have 36 sessions, so it’s a little bit different, but it’s still short term. It’s not ongoing. Each volume of teen kids stands alone. But just released on, to be released on an ongoing schedule, like on a dated schedule. So, for instance, LifeWay has a curriculum called Forged, which is for pre-teens, and it is released, right now when it’s first coming out, it’s released a quarter at a time, but it stays out there for a long time. And then eventually after the eighth volume is produced, and there’ll be two years worth of Force. It will be out there, you can purchase any volume you want to, which takes us to the last publishing frequency, and that is all volumes available now. You can get all of them now. I can pick and choose which volumes I want, but it is short term. So there’s two different ways of looking at short term, and that’s important depending on your group and your group’s needs. Okay, format. I know I’m asking, I know that I’m giving you a lot of information. That’s why this handout will be important. But when you go through these kinds of questions, you’re being consistent as you evaluate. So do you do small group, like are most of… Are they in classes? Are they in large group the whole time? Or maybe they’re in small group part of the time and large group part of the time. And large group doesn’t mean 100 kids, 200 kids, 500 kids. Large group just means all the kids at one time as opposed to multiple small groups going on. And so is it small group or large group solely, or is it a small group/large group experience, or some other combination? Bible study approach. It’s important that the Bible study approach fits your church’s DNA and fits, again, the goals of what you want to teach. If you want children to learn the Bible chronologically from Genesis through Revelation, or anywhere in between, but in a chronological sense, this happened, and then this happened, then this happened, you know, the Bible itself is not written chronologically. There are things, there are books, that overlap each other, but a Bible study approach that’s chronological will take that into account. So if you’re studying this book of history, yet this minor prophet was during that time, then you’ll be studying them in close proximity, chronological from beginning to end. There’s also Bible book. Bible book’s different than chronological in that you’re studying a whole Bible book at a time. Now depending on the length of the book and the particular book, you might only study that book one Sunday, another book another Sunday. Or if it’s a book like Genesis, you might study it for four weeks, five weeks, 13 weeks. And sometimes Bible book, it is not necessarily in order, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers. Sometimes the Bible book study will vary between Old Testament and New Testament, but over a period of time, you study all 66 books. Now in kids, you’re not gonna spend much time Psalms of Solomon, but you’re gonna spend a lot of time in Acts, you’re gonna spend a lot of time in the Gospels, and you’re gonna spend a lot of time in Genesis and Exodus. There’s also taking particular concepts and building studies around the concept or around even a topic. Maybe the concept is about… Let me think. Well, maybe you’re just having a study about Jesus this month. It’s not chronological, it’s not December, it’s not Easter, but it’s a concept of Jesus as a healer. Healer. Sometimes my West Texas comes out. Or Jesus as a miracle worker. Jesus’ divinity. Whatever. That’s a concept that you could build a study around. Or topical, you know? And topical tends to be more application-oriented, but still, key is Bible study, that you want it to be Bible study even though it’s topical. And then, of course, then there’s the other, there may be a different approach or hybrid approach. If it’s important that you have that additional worship hour, then look and see: does it offer one? No, okay, well, I could get this curriculum for Bible study and go to a different curriculum for worship. Yeah, you can do that. Maybe, yes, it has it for an additional cost or maybe it’s just part of the package, and, yes, I get it at no additional cost. And your scope and sequence, your study plan, how long is it? Scope is really what you’re studying, and sequences is when you study it. So some curriculum stresses, you know, well, even if it’s a short term, might be a year, might even be two years and it’s done, but is your scope and sequence a year of study, two years, three years, so that every three years it cycles back around, and so you’re repeating stories? Some of them you repeat more than every three years. Sometimes in the two years, you may not repeat stories or you might repeat them. One year, you’re probably not gonna repeat many stories, if any at all. Maybe it’s four-plus years. Or maybe not applicable, maybe there’s not scope and sequence necessarily. But usually most curriculum when you start evaluating, they’ll say study plan or scope and sequence. And then what are the important distinctives? Now this is a place at some time that you have to do some digging, and you’re not necessarily gonna get it from a marketing piece or from a catalog. You might actually have to do some digging on this.

– So these are just some of the things that I think are important, and this is based on my work in publishing and my experience as a volunteer teacher of children for years. And so is it Bible-based? Is the curriculum really rooted in trustworthy content that’s based on Bible? Not based on other things. Not based on virtues or characters, but based on the Bible truth. That’s important to me, especially if it’s Bible study. Is it Jesus-centered? In other words, does the curriculum point to God’s ultimate revelation of itself through Jesus Christ? The Bible is God’s revelation of itself to us, and ultimately God reveals himself through his son, Jesus. So does the curriculum point to Jesus? It doesn’t mean that every session necessarily connects directly to Jesus, but as a whole, does that curriculum build foundations in the life of a child, for them, build those foundations so that when the Holy Spirit convince them that they know who Jesus is, and they understand who Jesus is, and they are ready to trust Jesus, and Jesus-centered? Is it doctrinally dependable? Look and see who publishes it. You may have to look pretty hard. Is it a organization, or denomination, or a institution that believes like your church believes? Can you find the doctrine? You want to be able to find that. There’s some curriculum that they’ll teach certain doctrine that may not fit your church’s beliefs. So it’s important for you to know what doctrine you’re gonna be teaching your kids. And then is it theologically sound? It’s a different question than doctrinal and in doctrine, but what is the theology about it? Again, you need to look and see who’s the publisher, who the writers are, who the editors are. Does it come from a conservative theological viewpoint? Does it come from a more liberal theological viewpoint? Find out the theology behind it. And theology doctrine can be related, but there are differences. And then another one, is it flexible? Can I use it in different sized groups? Can I use it when I don’t have a lot of materials? Can I use it if I have a lot of space? Can I use it if I don’t have any space? Can I use it in a theater? Can I use it in an old building? How flexible is this curriculum? Can I change it up without spending a lot of time? Can I make adaptations to fit my group? Which kind of fit also with teacher empowering. Does this curriculum, could it train my teachers? In other words, if I gave a teacher some basic training, but then said, “Okay, if you follow this curriculum, brand new teacher, you’re gonna learn how to teach children, how to teach preschoolers. And this curriculum, it’s not gonna require you to spend hours and hours and hours in commentaries, but it will require some preparation, but it empowers you to do your job as a teacher, and now you don’t have to go to Walmart every week. You don’t have to go to Kroger every week. There are some, to do the activities and be successful.” Does it empower the teacher? And then, is it age-appropriate? Now I will tell you that age-appropriate is subjective. There are some people who will tell you it’s objective, but it is pretty subjective in my experience, and what I call age-appropriate, you may not call age-appropriate, so you’ve got to find, what does that mean? Are the activities age-appropriate? Is the biblical, is the way the biblical content presented age-appropriate? Now notice I didn’t say the biblical content, but the way it’s presented, because I believe that the Bible is for all people and all ages, but, like I said, I won’t spend four weeks with children on the Psalms of Solomon, but it doesn’t mean that I won’t teach about Psalms of Solomon and about Solomon. Or what are other things that, these distinctives are more of, these are the, these are the things that, the must haves, and it is so important that before you choose curriculum, you know the answers to these questions, the distinctives. And then, kinda following up on that, are you looking for a wise discipleship plan? Why do I say that? Well, Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.” So in all this Bible study curriculum we’re talking about, does it build foundations for discipleship? Does it help disciple kids? And I’m taking the word discipleship from Matthew, from the Great Commission, when Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations.” And he’s talking about evangelizing, and growing people, and discipling them. So does the curriculum take that holistic approach? I think there’s an, I think the best thing, the best statement of that is that Jesus grew in wisdom, and stature, and favor with God and people. Does the curriculum help kids increase in wisdom, in stature, and in favor with God and people? So here’s the questions to ask: is the focus on God or is it on me? If it’s on me, then I wouldn’t get that curriculum. Is it built on foundational biblical principles, or is it built on tradition, or built on principles that are not biblical? And it may be hard to see that, and you gotta just look and really examine. Do the biblical truths build on one another? In other words, do I as a one-year-old learn this biblical truth, and then as a two-year-old build on that truth, and as a kindergarten build on that truth, and as a pre-teen build on that truth? Do the truths build on one another? And does it grow with the child, which goes along with this, does it grow up with a child by considering the uniqueness of the age groups and the grades? In other words, does this curriculum fit each age group’s needs? The need of a first grader is a lot different than the need of a fourth or fifth grader. The need of a three-year-old is different than the need of a kindergarten. Does this curriculum help me meet those needs? And does it help us equip next gen disciple makers? And does this help us equip young adults and parents as disciple makers? Does it help us equip teenagers, and children, and preschool as disciple makers? You want to ask those kinds of questions. And then a practical question and something that we’re really, that I think has come more to the forefront now with COVID and so many churches not meeting or parents not wanting to bring their children to church, is do you have family resources, and what kind of resources are there? Mobile apps, online applications, take home pages, take home cards, social media, texts, emails. What does this curriculum provide so that I don’t have to create all this stuff? And I will say that with most families today, it takes more than one of these items. It may take a mobile app for one family and a take home page for another family. So we have to think about, do I have enough options for my families? What about music? Is that important to me? If not, you go on. If it is important, does it have original songs, or radio songs, or worship service songs, no music at all, or just suggest a playlist? What about video? If that’s not important, then fine. Click Not included and go on. If it’s important, what kind of videos are they? Are they music videos? Is it where somebody tells the Bible story or maybe somebody acts, it’s about straight drama. Maybe it’s a life-situation drama that’s kinda life application-oriented. Or maybe it’s like a documentary, or maybe it’s like an interview, or a news report-type video. So, again, you’re trying to compare curriculum, then if video’s important, what kind of video is important for you? Ultimately, here’s what we want to know. We want to know if this curriculum will help us do this: “But as for you, continue what you’ve learned and firmly believed. You know those who taught you, and you know that from childhood you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ.” You want to know if this curriculum is gonna help you teach children the Bible, and teach the Bible in such a way that it builds foundations for salvation and spiritual transformation because that’s what the Bible does. The Bible reveals God to us so we can trust Jesus as our personal savior, and we can be discipled and live according to God’s word. So does that curriculum help you do that? Now the curriculum in itself won’t accomplish that job, but when you go back to the first question, what job do I want it to accomplish? You probably want something similar to what Paul tells Timothy. So I wanna you quickly three examples of Bible study curriculum materials. These are all fit in the category of ongoing. And so I just, these are three ongoing or dated Sunday school, life group, ongoing Bible study curriculum. And so there’s, I wanted to share with you Bible Studies for Life, The Gospel Project, and Explore the Bible. Bible Studies for Life has a three-year study plan. All three of these have a three-year study plan or three-year scope of sequence. So when you’re filling out that form, you can put three years for these two. It’s based on biblical concepts. In fact, we call, we have a tool, a document called the Levels of Biblical Learning, and these are concepts or precepts, truths that build on one another as children age. And so the Bible Studies for Life is organized around concepts: concept of God, Jesus, Bible, Holy Spirit, church. There are 10 different concepts. And it also introduces kids to foundational Bible stories, and they’ll get some of those foundational Bible stories, like creation, every year. They’ll get foundational Easter stories every year. Some foundational Bible stories, they may get once in a three-year period, maybe twice in a three-year period. The Bible Studies for Life takes the approach of it’s heavy on life application, still points to Jesus, still centered around the Bible, but connects the Bible to the real life of kids. One of the ways it does that is through some of the videos for Bible study and for worship, but, also, it focuses on specific age groups from babies through pre-teens. Bible Studies for Life is also our only curriculum that we have, we have a leader guide and a learner guide just for children with special needs. It also, like the other curriculum, helps kids be on mission, and it give us tools for connecting with parents. One of those tools, or a couple of those tools, is in the LifeWay Kids app. One of them is specifically for each session of the Bible Studies for Life, and the other one is actual listing of all the Levels of Biblical Learning. And so life application Bible study is Bible Studies for Life, and it’s framework is the Levels of Biblical Learning. I’m gonna give you a tool, an online tool, in just a moment, where you can spend time with each of these three. And, of course, I know these, the things that we talked about earlier tonight can apply to any publisher. A book-by-book study of God’s word is what Explore the Bible is and covers all 66 books. We just, this fall, this September, we’re starting a five-year cycle. We’ve been doing three years. Sometimes we don’t get to spend so much time in a book that we want to spend, and so we have expanded that to five-year cycle. And when you think about it, if you have your preschoolers in it and your school-age children in it, they’ll go through, they can go through it twice, the cycle twice, so all 66 books twice. And that does what I said, is have a balance of Old Testament and New Testament. You are studying different genres or different divisions of Scripture, different kinds of Scripture each year. So you’re studying poetry, and you’re studying letters. And so it tells how God’s one big story of redemption is through Jesus, and every story of the Bible, Genesis through Revelation. It connects theology with life in a way a kid understands, and it uses Bible study video, but also questions from kids videos to bridge that Bible story and life application. It encourages and empowers kids who are following Jesus to be a part of his mission now. It also has an app for The Gospel Project itself and also the Big Picture Questions and Answers. What are Big Picture Questions and Answers? Well, it’s a way to learn theology and doctrine through a question-and-answer approach. And so that’s the framework for Gospel Project. So theology, big picture question/answers, and gospel centricity. Now you might wanna jot down teachkids.lifeway.com. If you’re interested in evaluating any of those three curriculum, you can go to teachkids.lifeway.com. And that’ll take you to a website, see, these three, and you see it down at the bottom it says quiz. You can take this little quiz, and it kinda helps you point, okay, if you answer this way, then maybe you’re more toward Gospel Project, or you answer this way, maybe you’re more to Explore the Bible. Or maybe it might say all three depending on how you answer the questions. And then in each of the age groups, I mean, each of the curriculums, you’ll get something like this, which is a little instant preview sampler, where you can, it’s a flip book. You have not given anybody your name or your information. This is just an instant preview. If you want four weeks of preview samples, then we do need your name, but, otherwise, you can just flip through this and see a sample of the curriculum. And then at each of these three lines, you can click on the study plan and see the scope and sequence. And then on each of these, you can click on framework, and this is also a flip book. So this is about Studies for Life, so it’s the Levels of Biblical Learning booklet. You would have the Bible Skills for Kids if this works for the Bible framework. You’d have Big Picture Question and Answer booklet to go through if it were The Gospel Project. So I have talked a lot, I know, and I have no way of seeing if you’re still awake, but I do appreciate you staying with us. And, again, you’ll get this evaluation tool, but it comes down to this: what curriculum best fits your ministry? So go back to that question of, what job do you need this curriculum to do? And then ask yourselves questions, these questions. And even if you don’t, even if you’re not looking to change curriculum, it doesn’t hurt to go through this exercise with your key leaders to understand this is why we use the curriculum that we use, because we want this curriculum to do this job, and this is the job we need it to do. This is what best fits our ministry. All right, Patty, do we have any questions?

– Yeah, here I am. Thank you. Landry, that was awesome. My brain is on overload. That was awesome information. And I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I learned lots of new stuff here, and so that was great. Those of you who are with us, now’s a great time if you have any questions to go to that Q&A at the bottom and type in your question, and we can get those to Landry. And while we’re giving you a little bit of time to do that, Landry, I loved that you mentioned multi-aged classrooms, the broadly-graded classrooms. I had a lady call me the other day, and she said it’s a small, she’s in a small church, and they have six-year-olds through 14-year-olds in one room. Wide, really wide range. But which materials, can you help us know, which materials do come in a broadly graded? Do all of them or just some?

– Well, yes. Bible Studies for Life is the only one that does, that has specifically closely-graded materials, like babies, ones and twos, threes or pre-K, kindergarten, first, second, third, and fourth, and pre-teen. And it also has multi-age. It has babies through five-year-olds and a leader guide and first through sixth grade and a leader guide. Especially talking about Bible study, it’ll be I probably would go there first; however, The Gospel Project and Explore the Bible are by nature broadly graded because you have babies and toddlers, and then you have preschool, and you have younger kids and older kids, or elementary. So any, all three of those, are fit broadly graded, so you would wanna ask them those other questions in addition to that one. Did I answer your-

– Yes, no, all of them are. Yes.

– All of them are. All of them cover babies through pre-teens. In the situation you just described, I probably would say I would look at Bible Studies for Life’s broadly-graded materials first ’cause it’s designed specifically for that kind of environment.

– Right, right. I also loved that when you were talking about Explore the Bible, I taught that for several years, and the kids absolutely loved the on-location videos. They loved those. They wanted to see those. When are we gonna get to the videos? So I really enjoy teaching Explore the Bible. I liked it. I liked it a lot. A lot of resources came with that: the books, the Bible posters, and just a lot of things that you can put in your room to help enhance that Bible teaching, so I really, really enjoyed that one too. There’s a resource that I use, and I don’t know if you mentioned it, but Extra, could you tell us a little bit about Extra online?

– Yeah, so each of these three brand has some additional resources or extra resources on online. I’m glad you asked. Beginning with the fall, we are gonna have each brand, each of those three, Bible Studies for Life, Explore the Bible, and Gospel Project, will have suggestions for activities that would fit social distancing. So we kind of joked at the beginning about kids social distancing, but school-aged children, I mean, this is a world they know about masks, and they know about social distancing, and so we’re, there are, helps there, but even right now and before COVID happened, there are supplementary activities there. So maybe, say, I need one more activity or this just doesn’t fit. Other things that are there, depending on which curriculum it is, there’s sometimes there’s some parent resources. There are training sources there to use, and people can train on their own. We have training resources on Extra. So it’s each brand has a website, and you would go to that website and click on Kids or click on, it’s either called Leader Resources, or Extra, or Additional Resources. Also if, say, we needed to respond to a current event, which we kind of are with COVID, that’s where we would put it because this material is published so far in advance that just like the fall material that we’re using, well, that was prepared before we knew what kind of world we were gonna be living in in the fall. We were, you know, and even winter was. And as we were working on spring, where I was, “Surely by the time this comes out in print, we’ll be done with this.” Well, we’re not, and we probably won’t be completely. So Extra allows us to be able to do that too.

– Well, I use it, and probably not the way it was meant to be used, but it’s one of those things, when you have a teacher at the last minute tells you, “I can’t be there,” and you can’t get material to a sub, sending them to that Extra is a great place where they can find activities, they can see what the story is. And so they don’t go in there and do that thing. I hate to hear people say they “wing it.” We don’t do wings in Sunday school, so I really like that resource as well.

– Another thing about the Extra, say that you’re preparing, whether it is in that situation or it’s all of us lead busy lives, and sometimes we might prepare at the last minute, and we didn’t bring our CD home, or we didn’t download all the printables, or the PDFs, the extra teaching resources from that CD-ROM onto our computer, and so it’s Saturday night, what do I do? Yeah, I know, nobody wastes Saturday night.

– No, no, no, no.

– Not us, but all of those CD-ROM items are available on Extra. And, by the way, Extra’s free, so you don’t have to purchase anything, it’s there. And so the music’s not on there, but all those other printables that are on that CD-ROM that you left at church are available through Extra.

– That’s right. That’s right. Its a resource I love. I use it. I use it a lot. So, well, we’re gonna wrap this up. Landry, thank you. As I said at the beginning, you were a wealth of information, and I’m excited that the handout is gonna be available. Those of you who have joined us, you will receive an email. Once the recording has come up, it will be on the pinnaclealabama.org website. And when you get that link in your email, you will also get the handout that Landry spoke about, so all of that information will be there for you to download instead of those PDF, correct?

– That’s correct.

– Yes, so you will be able to download that and use it as you need to. We have three more webinars this week for Preschool Ministries. I hope you’ll join us Thursday at 6:30. Beth Henderson of Mount Zion Baptist in Huntsville is gonna come, and she’s gonna talk about All Around the Room. We know preschoolers don’t sit still for very long, and so we teach them All Around the Room. She’s gonna talk about learning centers, and how to use the resources, and the space, and the equipment in your room, so you’re going to wanna, to join that. So 6:30, Thursday night with Beth Henderson. Landry, again, thank you, thank you, thank you. I really appreciate your time.

– Thank you.

– You’re very welcome. I will have you back again and share even more. Those of you who joined us, thank you so much for joining us, and look for that email. You guys have a good night.

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