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Making Curriculum Work for You, Part 4:  ADAPTATION

You’ve analyzed your needs, analyzed your resources, scrimped and saved, and now you’re holding a beautifully pristine curriculum pack in your hands. Hooray! Well, well sort of… that’s just the first part of the job. Now comes the next part and I wish I could tell you that it’s simple and easy. But the truth of the matter is, the teaching job is the hardest. It’s true. It’s much harder than picking out the curriculum – that’s the fun part because everything looks shiny and new. The ideas are fresh and the companies are telling you how this curriculum is going to make your job 1,000 times easier! Hooray! Except that reality is that the more you look at the lessons, the less they seem to match. Why is that? Didn’t you work extra hard to pick out the curriculum? Yes, and that’s why this part, while difficult, is still going to be much easier than if you took shortcuts in the process. The unfortunate truth is that there is no “one size fits all” curriculum. As much as they try to make it fit for everyone, you will probably still need to adapt some elements to make it successful in your church.

  1. SERVICE LENGTH. One of the first steps is making the curriculum match your service length. Unless your church is regimented about service length, you’ll want to have some segments in your back pocket for those moments when the guest speaker decides to preach two sermons in one service. What are some easy things to add to your lesson? Games are a great option. Having three or four easy go-to options prepared ahead of time is an easy way to extend the service. If your curriculum doesn’t offer strong game ideas, then this may be especially necessary to do. Another option is to review the memory verse. Make it game, say it in a funny voice, say it while doing jumping jacks. Changing it up will reinforce the verse while helping the kids burn energy and have fun. Add an offering teaching moment to your lesson. Share about a missionary your church supports or a ministry in your community the church partners with. Object lessons are great to add to the teaching. These segments give you a chance to add your own personal teaching and voice to the lesson. It never hurts to have a video or two in your back pocket for when things go really long. The “What’s in the Bible” series by Phil Vischer is a great option to show at the end of service.
  2. CHANGE THE ORDER. You may also look at the lesson and realize that the order doesn’t fit how you want to arrange your service. No problem! You are the children’s pastor or leader. Change it! Move the videos around in the order. Teach the Big Point first and the memory verse last. It’s your lesson to teach. Once the writers send that lesson to your church, you are in control and responsible for the service. Be the expert on your kids and your church. Let that knowledge guide the service order.
  3. ADD YOUR CREATIVITY. Don’t forget to add your own creativity to the service. You have something special to offer to these kids. Adding your own elements makes the service more fun for you as you stretch your creative legs. It’s fulfilling to see something you’ve written or planned bless kids and help them understand God’s truth.

One element that’s missing from most curriculums is the use of characters. Live actor or puppets add a lot of life to your service. It’s fun for the kids as well, when they get to meet a recurring cast of characters. They learn the catchphrases, mannerisms, and personality quirks. Here’s a few quick tips for utilizing funny characters. Don’t use puns for names. Calling a character Kandy Kane is not a great way to engage kids. Some of the funniest names are simple and easy to remember. Make sure your character is high energy and give them some kind of quirk. Every great character has what’s called in storytelling, a “limp and an eye patch.” That means that have some quirk or physical element that provides the fodder for great comedy. In the movie “Dodgeball,” one of the characters literally had a limp and eye patch. Create a costume for the character so they have a definable look, and even consider using a song to accompany their entrance. If it worked for Hulk Hogan, then it can work for us, too.

  1. UTILIZE SMALL GROUPS DIFFERENTLY. If you are also responsible for a Sunday evening or Wednesday evening service and are looking for something else do in those services, consider moving the small groups component of the curriculum to one of those services. The advantage is that you will save money by doubling up the use of the lessons. Secondly, you will reinforce the themes by teaching the same concepts twice. Reggie Joiner from Orange once said that if it’s worth remembering, then it’s worth repeating. Also, if you have gender-specific programs or groups, the small groups component of curriculum can be used with any type of groups. The beauty is that you get to decide.
  2. ENJOY THE CURRICULUM. Lastly, and this one is important, enjoy the curriculum. Have fun! If you despise the curriculum you’re using, chuck it. Get rid of it. Burn it if necessary so you’ll never go back. The point is that if you don’t like it, the kids probably won’t either. When we write curriculum, we begin by making ourselves laugh. If it can’t make me laugh, then it doesn’t pass the test. I want my teachers, connectors, and kids to all enjoy the service. We’re learning about God’s great plan for us, that should be a fun and engaging subject. One of the worst crimes we can commit is to make kids believe that God is boring and irrelevant because our services are boring and irrelevant. Kids will view God through the lens of your service. Go out there and kill it, remember you have the God of the universe on your side.

About the Writer

Dwayne Riner is the associate children’s pastor at The Ark Church and the head writer for Equip KidMin Curriculum. Dwayne attended Emmanuel College and graduated in 2000 from the School of Christian Ministries. For over twenty years he has worked with thousands of kids, creating stories and characters that inspire them to become everything God has created them to be. Dwayne has spoken at conferences in the U.S. and abroad. He has also authored a children’s book series for elementary kids.

Photo Credits: Discipleship Ministries, Dwayne Riner

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