“What are you doing in your youth group?” I inquired, really just wanting the basic ideas of what this youth guy was trying with his students. His answer was surprising. “Well, like all young youth pastors, you know I tried writing all of my own curriculum and programming.” My eyebrows raised, he went on.
“Then I realized I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel. There is some great stuff out there. I just have to tweak it to fit my needs.”
This is a conversation that so many of us in youth ministry have had with ourselves. I used to believe there was “no” curriculum that fit the particular needs of my “unchurched” students. Then my group became more complicated. I had students who were growing up in church, those who had never attended and others who only attended on a sporadic basis. This meant each were coming through the door with a different worldview.
Who did I teach to?
The tendency was to teach to one extreme or the other. If I acted as if everyone was “unchurched” then my students who knew the Bible were bored. On the other hand I could steam roll students and assume they were all spiritually mature. So to include EVERYONE in the room, how did I approach curriculum?
Start With the Basics (No Matter What):
I have found that just because a student as heard the “good news” (even most of their lives) doesn’t mean they have taken it to heart or even understand it for that matter. When working with an integrated group of students start at the beginning of each idea: Scripture, Story, History, and Application. If you have students who tell you, “Oh, I know it all,” find out exactly what they know. Use them as leaders. If they know the facts, how is affecting their lives? Remind them we are always growing in our relationship with the Lord, whether a “new” or “old” believer.
It’s so easy to assume what students need or want to focus on. We find something we think is awesome and then wonder why they aren’t engaging. Just the other day an 8th grader told me, “I hate those lessons when I have to watch a video of someone lecturing me on something.”
Assess your group. What are they questioning? What topics do they want to talk about? In what ways do they learn? Then teach accordingly.
Just because the world is telling you that your students “should” like videos or technology or this or that, doesn’t mean that they will. You know your students and what they respond to. Do some research on what is out there for curriculum.
Before you tell me what you can’t afford, have you asked if there is a discount? Call the companies and talk to salespeople, asking specific questions.
Mix & Match:
One curriculum may not hold all that you need. Don’t be afraid to try integrate a couple of options to best fit your scenario. For example, LIVE Urban by Simply Youth Ministry touches on some basics of needing to know who you are in Christ. Elements by Youth Ministry 360 touches on the foundational keys to growing in our faith. I know several ministries that will follow a unit of LIVE curriculum with Elements and so on.
What are the first questions you ask with curriculum? Are you looking at who is in the room and constantly changing to meet students where they are at?
Stay tuned for the next 3 days. We are going to pull apart what it takes to transform curriculum to fit the needs of YOUR students.
Thanks for being committed youth workers,