Youth and Family Education Journal  


Publisher or Write-Your-Own?

Dr. Jerry Bowling


Bang! Rebecca has just poked a hole in the balloon that she held. “This is what Jeremiah meant when he talked about idols. They’re nothing!” she exclaimed. The 6th grade students cheered and clapped at Rebecca’s demonstration and the teacher was delighted that the children understood the story so well. It’s wonderful for children to experience an in-class use of creative, hands-on, student-centered curriculum that encourages them to reach their potential as learners.
“Hey, what are you studying next quarter,” asked Joe. “I don’t know Joe; Alex hasn’t ordered the adult curriculum yet.” Alex’s inertia with ordering curriculum describes a lack of planning that unfortunately is an all too common occurrence describing the scope of many adult education programs in our churches.
“Man, I gotta find something to teach Sunday morning. I just can’t talk about dating again,” complained Bill. These sentiments expressed by Bill echo an army of complaints heard from youth ministers in our brotherhood concerning the need for relevant curriculum.

Peering into several of our classrooms on a Sunday morning one discovers various curriculums in use. Rebecca’s balloon activity demonstrates the use of experiential curriculum which offers unprecedented opportunities for hands-on learning in children’s classrooms today. Some educators love it, others ask “where’s the content?” The absence of adult educational leadership in Joe and Alex’s situation creates a “hit or miss” curriculum plan. What results for adult learners is a hodgepodge of spiritual development that may impede spiritual formation. Scarcity of youth curriculum that is both cutting edge and relevant sends many youth workers like Bill to non-brotherhood resources for Bible class materials. Youth workers prefer to use a curriculum that has a relational, experiential edge, but regret the lack of biblical content often found in denominational teaching resources. Rebecca, Joe, and Bill face disparate challenges often experienced in the arena of Christian teaching.
The upheavals found among practitioners in curriculum development alert one to understand that there is a shifting paradigm in prevailing usage of Sunday school curriculum. What’s occurring is not exclusive for churches of Christ, but is indicative of changes in curriculum that is happening among denominations in North American churches. What’s happening is that church leaders and volunteers are making important curriculum decisions that will influence a new generation of children and adults. The essential question becomes: how will these curriculum choices affect the future of the church? Will current practice promote spiritual maturity among adults? Will current practice curb the 50% drop-out rate among our adolescents? Will current practice promote stronger families? Establishing answers for these challenging questions engage critical curriculum issues. Christian educators as never before must select materials that encourage mature Christian living.