One of the most common questions I get is how do I select the right curriculum for my children’s ministry or youth ministry?There are a plethora of options for curriculum, materials and video series and more all the time. Do a search for children’s curriculum or youth ministry resources and you’ll come up with a long, long list of results. So, how do you know what’s right for your crew? I’d suggest working through a series of questions with your key leaders to see which curriculum or approach works best for your group in this season.

1. What is your goal? Over the course of the year and then the next five years what is your goals for the kids/youth in your group? A note here, this goal should line-up with rest of your church family in some way. If your church family has a goal of connecting with its community, the kids’ ministry needs to think through how it meets that goal too. If your goal is to invite those that are far from God close to God that will look different than a goal that is to take those that know God deeper with God. Are you looking to connect more with those that are in your community and you have not made connections with yet? Are you looking to connect better with those already coming to your church? Whenever you look for curriculum look for materials and opportunities that enable your goals.

2. What are the demographics of your group? a. What is the size of your group? b. What is the age range of your group? c. In terms of their journey towards or in Christ, how would you categorize your group? d. Are their lots of special needs in your group? e. Are you looking for materials to do as a large group, all together with different ages? Small groups? Both? Curriculums and materials are often very clearly broken down by ages and size of group. If you know the answer to all these questions before you go searching it’ll help you select the right one for your group.

3. What are your big rocks? In other words, what are the 4 to 10 things you want to make sure the kids/youth in your group learn and experience by the time they move on from your group. I’ve found identifying these so helpful when then I go looking for curriculum or materials. Now I know the big things I’m looking for and I can search for them in the materials that are out there, rather than having the curriculums dictate to me what the big rocks should be. By the way, when prayerfully settling on your big rocks it can be incredibly insightful to ask the kids/youth what big things they want to discuss or be rooted in before they graduate from the program.

4. Does the curriculum fit with the rest of your church/ministry? How closely do you want it to line-up with the rest of the church? There are curriculums that have adults, youth and children all working through the same material at their age appropriate level. Is this what you are looking for? Why? If not, what overlap and connections do you want with the rest of your church family?

5. How many volunteers do you have and what is their preparation and leadership capacity? While you want to stretch people in their leadership you do not want to break them and you do not need to reinvent the wheel!

6. Does it point beyond itself? Let me explain this one. I mean it in 3 ways:

a. Does it point beyond the lesson to Jesus? Is it easy to see how God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is the hero, the Saviour, our leader or is it simply telling some nice stories and presenting other heroes? Even if it is presenting wise ways of living and helpful, applicable advice (which is a very good thing, especially with youth) does it help people see Jesus more clearly?

b. Does it point beyond the lesson to helping kids/youth live their faith (the lessons) out the rest of the week? Does it have Vitamin A (application)? This is so important! We are not told to make little Jesus scholars, we are invited to join Jesus in making disciples, those that follow Jesus in their lives. I’d ask does the curriculum equip kids/youth to live for Christ where they live, study, work and play?

c. Does it point beyond the lesson, in allowing leaders to connect it to discussions or activities they could do with their parents or families? How much do you want the curriculum to make this easy for you and your leaders and how much do you want to do this yourself?

7. Lastly, you do need to consider cost. However, if you have a limited budget, do not let this discourage you in any way. There are actually a number of really good free options and free videos available. I have also seen extremely effective ministry being done with leaders purchasing a good age appropriate Bible and using that as their guide, as they build activities around each story, each week.

I hope as you work your way through these questions it becomes easier for you to see the right materials for you and your group. If you’d like to talk through specific resources or recommendations feel free to drop me a line.

Have I missed anything? Any important guiding questions you’d add to selecting curriculum?

-Renée @r_embree