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How to Choose the Perfect Small Group Curriculum

As we head into the Life Group season full-swing, one of the big questions we have to answer is about curriculum for our small groups. Our answer is the LIVE curriculum from Simply Youth Ministry, with it’s 4-year teaching plan and great technology behind it. Whatever you choose for your ministry, you would be served well by following the criteria Youth Ministry 360 lays out – here’s 3 of the 9 principles they shared on their site today:

How “teachable” is the resource? There some great looking resources out there that are written or laid-out in such a way that makes them difficult for a teacher to actually teach. So, lesson teachability is a huge factor. The Internet has made purchasing curriculum a breeze. These days, I can’t imagine buying a resource without viewing a sample lesson. Any reputable (and some who aren’t) resource provider will offer a downloadable sample of the resource. Take the time to download and really check it out. Read for theological accuracy, teaching style, and overall comfort. It’s like trying on clothes: you know when it fits.

Free Is Great, But . . .Lots and lots of folks offer free lessons.
We do it (and you can check our free stuff out here).  And most of the major curriculum providers do, too. Free lessons are great for individual use, or to get a feel for a specific provider’s overall curriculum strategy. But, you’ll never be effective if your youth ministry relies on free lessons for the majority of your teaching time. It’s a shotgun approach that is tough to be very strategic with. Here’s one thing I have learned: there are a million people offering free lessons online. All you need is a blog, and Microsoft Word, and you can create and distribute resources. Not all of  it is good, accurate, reliable, or usable. By all means, take advantage of free resources. Take advantage of ours and the many other great ones available. But, don’t become too dependent on them. Honestly, you are better off writing your own curriculum than having a steady diet of free lessons where you can’t control the direction.

There Is No Perfect Curriculum
The best curriculum in the world is still just a starting point. You know your students better than the men and women who create the curriculum. It’s a good idea to know that you will always have to make tweaks to lessons to make sure they fit your students’ personalities and level of spiritual development. You know you’ve chosen the right curriculum when you find that the tweaks are relatively minor, and that for the most part, you are not having to make them week-in, and week-out.


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Josh Griffin is high school pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA. He’s the co-counder of DownloadYouthMinistry.com and host of the Youth Ministry Garage Podcast. He's authored more than 20 youth ministry resources and is the author of "99 Thoughts for Small Group Leaders" with Doug Fields. Josh is a father of 4 who speaks a little, podcasts a little, Twitters a bit, and blogs a lot. You can find him at DownloadYouthMinistry.com!