Now that you know what kind of curriculum is available, let’s take a look at how make the right choice for your church. There are several considerations that you must take into account as you look over the curriculum. Certain factors about your church are out of your control such as when the service starts, how long service lasts, and many times, which classroom you’re given to use. Instead of getting frustrated with the situation, our job is to find creative ways to deal with the challenges we face. Let’s take a look at these hurdles and the important aspects to consider and analyze.
1. SERVICE LENGTH. Begin by looking at your service length. My dad is a Pentecostal pastor, so service lengths in my first children’s ministry position could vary big time. Some weeks it was an hour and a half and other weeks we blew right past two hours. If you’ve been at your church long enough, you will have pretty good idea of an average service length. Our job is to create enough service elements to keep the kids engaged for the entire service. From my experience, the best discipline method for your class is to make it engaging. In other words, don’t be boring! Boring creates restlessness when generally leads to chaos.
Our rule of thumb for segments is 5-6 minutes for sketches, videos, games, etc. For Bible stories, we stretch that time out to 7-8 minutes. However, we almost never go over that time. Why? Well, it’s based on what we know about the developmental stages of kids. Their attention spans are directly linked to their ages. Think one minute for every year of life. Since our class spans K-5th grade we try to hit that middle sweet spot. In our Preschool classes, we use 3-5 minutes as our guide. You might think that 7-8 minutes is too small to get across the Biblical message you want to teach. If that were our only time for teaching God’s Word, then yes, you would be right. However, I view our entire service as the message. Everything in the service works together to teach God’s Word and the concept for that day. When you think of it like that, it’s much easier to break the service into smaller segments because you’re looking at the big picture.
Let’s say that you typically have kids for an hour and a half. That means you need 16-17 segments to keep the kids engaged in the service. You can reduce some of the needs by allowing some free play time at the beginning of class, but count that in your overall time. Does the curriculum you’re looking at provide that much material? If it doesn’t then it may not be the right choice for you.
2. CLASS SIZE. Next, take a look at the size of your class. Does the curriculum fit your class size? A traditional teacher-based Sunday School curriculum might work great for a class of eight, but would probably not work well in a class of 30. Class size is a big factor. When I first started in children’s ministry 18 years ago, my first children’s church was 12 kids. While I attended college, I continued serving at the church and our attendance grew to over 40 kids. I had to shift our services in order to accommodate the differences those 30 kids brought to the class. It was big. I remember that when I first had 100 in a children’s church I had to make a shift again in how I approached the class. Now that we often have over 250 kids in our services, I have had to shift once again. The same elements that work with a class of 12 will not always work with a class of 50 and vice versa.
3. DEMOGRAPHICS. This is true for the culture and demographics of your church. Not every element is equally effective in every culture. Some elements may have to be adjusted between a church in an urban vs. a rural area. The same is true for a church that leans more traditionally in its ministry approach. Both of these elements, size and demographics, should play heavily in which curriculum you ultimately choose to use.
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.