Awkward Curriculum Conversations

Two weeks ago, Jonathan Cliff wrote a wonderful post on the Curriculum war. I’m really glad he wrote it. Whether people would actually own up to it or not, there is a battle going on in the world of kidmin curriculum. There are some very strong opinions, mostly those of vocal users who want to explain why one is better, more Biblical or theologically correct. Honestly, I feel that these conversations are more hurtful than helpful in most respects. Most of the jabs at curriculum are not about Biblical inaccuracies, but philosophical disagreements that just about anyone could argue both sides equally well.

That manifestation of this curriculum war became very apparent for me last week. LifeWay graciously invited me to blog at the media launch of their new Gospel Project. No one said anything to me, but by being at this event, I felt like I was “choosing a side.” Again, no one said anything but based one past conversations, I could’t shake a feeling that by being in Nashville for this event, people might automatically associate me with a certain philosophy or tactical approach. I’m embarrassed that I spent any mental energy at all to the concern because I believe it to be stupid.

LifeWay interviewed me at the event and asked me why I’m “behind” the Gospel Project and why I “support” it. Honestly, there are a lot of things about what they’re doing that I love. I love that it’s family-centric, where everyone in the family is on the same page. I like the recurring emphasis on the Gospel message of Jesus. But what I really like is that it’s another GREAT option. I remember being a Children’s Pastor 15 years ago and not having very many good options for curriculum. There are so many churches where the Gospel Project is a perfect fit. Home run!

However, there are other churches where the Gospel Project isn’t going to be a perfect fit, mine included. The model just doesn’t fit the Sunday Morning approach of my church, although I’m interested in seeing how components could be used in secondary experiences. At Gateway,  we use My First Look and 252 Basics as they fit more into our model and approach for ministry… but that doesn’t mean I can’t still be a fan of the Gospel Project nor does it mean that I can’t encourage others to check it out. I talk with other churches every week and its very encouraging to be able to recommend a bevy of curriculum options, giving them the opportunity to select a curriculum that best fits their unique needs.

I’m grateful to LifeWay for investing the resources into developing the Gospel Project. I expect that lives will be changed and I’ll certainly recommend the curriculum to many churches just as I frequently recommend Orange Curriculum and others. I think that if we’re totally honest, every curriculum has it’s shortcomings or ways that it doesn’t meet our church’s needs. There isn’t any such thing as the perfect curriculum and that’s why we tweak the curriculum every week to meet our needs. So rather than criticize a curriculum because if it’s approach, maybe we should recognize that the curriculum that you have a problem with simply isn’t a good fit for your ministry, but could be perfectly suited for mine.

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Kenny Conley
Kenny Conley is the primary author of Childrens Ministry Online and the NextGen Pastor at Gateway Church in Austin, TX. In addition to creating the Illuminate Conference, a high quality kidmin conference designed specifically for volunteers, Kenny is a published author and speaker.