curriculum 2

We have our curriculum in hand.  We have asked our students what they want.  Now HOW do we teach curriculum so we don’t really lose anyone in the room.

For the next couple of days, I would like to provide you with some practical ideas.


Sometimes curriculum is cumbersome because the context of a student’s life is assumed. It is written from the perspective that MOST of our students have 2 parents, no questions and a great home life.  Yet, do we know this is true?  What’s going on below the surface of a life?

        For example:

You might hear a statement like: “You live in a materialistic society, in the richest nation in the world,” in a curriculum. HOWEVER, if we say this to a  student who may not have enough food or feels neglected, it is a statement that is hurtful. When we barrel in this way, it actually closes our students off.

         TRY THIS: 

 Instead, we take out assumptions based on what we SEE in our group. We must remember that the students don’t always give us the whole story.   Fathers may be missing physically or emotionally from a child’s life. A student’s perspective is their reality. So try switching the lesson so they can see from their point of view:  Talk about how there is hunger in this nation, but that doesn’t give us a right to become victim. Then talk about what is going on in the rest of the world.  Help them connect with how they feel with how others might feel in other areas of the world.


Change Phrasing:

 Sometimes in an effort to make things “teen friendly” curriculum doesn’t make sense to the actual teen. It’s obviously written by a well meaning adult who doesn’t actually interact with teens.

        For example:

I read this statement in a recent MS curriculum. They were making the point that we need to understand we are all children of God.  So it made the statement: “Prepare yourself to receive the sonship today. “

What?! I don’t even know what that means! How can I expect a 7th grader to interpret that, even one who has grown up in church. How do you receive “sonship?” Do you need to do something special for this “preparation?”


Change the phrasing in a way that allows students to feel included in the conversation.  As you look at the way things are written, think to yourself, “If I had just started coming to church, or didn’t really “know” my Bible would this statement make sense to me?”

 We have to take the time to ask students if they know what we are talking about.  What is a child of God?  How do we become one?  What are the  implications of being that?  The original phrase makes it sound downright scary.  What about asking students instead, “Is everyone a child of God? Why?”  Then take a look at the scripture and break it down.

 Remember students,  even ones who have grown up in the church, may not know how to take statements to heart and truly apply them.  They may have heard words like faith, temptation, sonship, and even trusting God. Yet, they may not have any clue what that really means to them.

Look for cues in your students’ demeanor. Usually when students act bored or indifferent, there is a reason we have lost their interest. The question becomes are they being challenged to REALLY understand what it will take to make this a part of their every day lives?

In part 3, we will finish up with some creative concepts to hold make curriculum your own.

Change your phrasing!




curriculum 1


“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?

First Steps:

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,



This week we’re going to focus on some of the best practices of youth ministry nationwide and hope that it generates some helpful conversation as you agree, disagree or have no opinion either way! Right up front we want to let you know that there is no PERFECT way to do youth ministry; our hope is that you prayerfully consider your context and determine what would and wouldn’t work in the ministry you lead.

BEST PRACTICE: Dividing up junior high and high school students.
There is simply too much difference between a 12-year-old 7th grader and an 18-year-old graduating senior—specifically, the developmental differences. Plus, on a practical note, keeping them separate gives the junior highers something to look forward to. Having said all that, there are some incredible opportunities when you keep these groups together. The older students can disciple and model what younger students can become over the next few years.

• Do you have separate ministries for junior and senior high?
• Why or why not?
• What are other pros and cons of dividing up these age groups?
• What would happen if you made the switch?

BEST PRACTICE: Small groups being the primary method of discipleship and fellowship.
Most youth groups meet once a week for a large-group time of celebration, fun, and worship; and then either as part of that gathering, or at another time during the week, divide up into small groups for fellowship and discipleship. The overwhelming model has been for groups to work through a curriculum and also share life and Christian community together.

• Does your church have small groups, Sunday school, or just large group times?
• Why have you chosen this strategy?
• What is the weakness of this model?
• Sunday school used to be invincible; now it has largely been replaced by small groups. What’s next?

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

Where did flannel-graphs go? Do you remember being in Sunday School and getting your turn to put Jesus or the disciples on the picturesque flannel meadow? I remember loving when it was my turn to put the stuff on the board. Sure part of it was because I was a little hyperactive and it gave me something to do, but it also helped me connect with the story.

I know we have gone a little more high tech these days, we have powerpoint and apps. My question is what way are you helping kinesthetic learners? How are you helping those students who need some hands on aspect of learning?

So much of ministry these days is talking. We like to preach and teach in our church culture. A smaller slice of our teaching involves visuals. We might use a funny video or a powerpoint game, even better that dreaded photo we have of ourselves in Junior High or High school. But what do we have for those students who are tactile learners? The students who need to use their other senses for learning?

Lately, I have been trying to bring the messages of the Bible to life. I know that should always be our goal, but I am trying to do something very different. I am trying not to just talk or give a visual but to let people feel, smell and taste the Bible.

We are currently doing a series I am calling A Walk Through Exodus. We are looking at the story of Moses, and what we can learn from the 10 commandments, the ark and the tabernacle. So to bring it to life I am trying some different things. I am currently constructing models of the Ark and the Tabernacle. Students will be able to visually see what they were like, but they will also be able to touch and feel the things inside.

Now some people might think this stuff is for little kids, but I encourage you to think again. When you are learning how to do something would you rather just be told, shown or walked through while you do it? I know for me I would much rather have my hands involved.

I have a couple ideas for different contexts:

  • Small to mid-sized groups: Have something students can get involved in. This might mean they act out a role in a skit, perhaps you have a piece of a model or display that each student has to put in the right spot.
  • Mid-sized to large groups: Give each person something they can hold onto. When we hold something, we often feel a connection to it.

Maybe if you give your students something to hold onto or to do during your next lesson they might feel a connection with it. And hopefully, through that connection they will find a connection with Christ. Even if only a small percentage of your students learn by touch, isn’t it worth giving it a shot once in a while?

What are some hands-on lessons you have succeeded with?

Kyle Corbin has been serving youth as a volunteer or pastor for over 10 years. He is currently the youth pastor at the Bridge Church in North Vancouver B.C. You can follow his blog at: or Twitter: @CorbinKyle

A few weeks back we posted a question on whether or not to build a dedicated youth ministry space in the Church. The general consensus was, if you can do it, do it! So it begs the question, if you are going to build a youth ministry room or building, what are the non-negotiables as far as outfitting it? If you have a space, what could you not imagine living without, or was there something that you wished you put into the original plans?

  • Creative Space?
  • Foosball?
  • Ping Pong?
  • Stage?
  • Tortilla Maker?
  • Chocolate Fountain?
  • Fridge?
  • Lazy River?
  • Fixed Mount Projector?
  • Emergency Eye Wash Station?

Let us know what your must have elements are AND what are the things that you would not include if you could do it all over again?

GS – Twitter

I liked the blog post over on Holy Soup yesterday – talking about a lady who was recently introduced into the Sunday School Hall of Fame (which I didn’t know even existed and could easily nominate some of the shapers of my faith as well). Thom lists out some great thank you’s to people whose amazing contributions to the kingdom are largely overlooked in the church. Here are a few thank you, hit the link above for the rest:

  1. Knowing my name, and the names of my family members.
  2. Urging me to call you simply by your first name.
  3. Spending time with my son, providing him with a formative adult Christian friend.
  4. Demonstrating, through your life, how to keep the faith in tough personal times.
  5. Praying for me.
  6. Refusing the temptation to pass along gossip.
  7. Your thoughtful hand-written notes.
  8. Doing what’s right, rather than what’s denominationally correct.
  9. Allowing volunteers to run with their ministry passions.
  10. Your eagerness to learn–even from non-ministry voices.


From time to time I post a youth ministry question that I’ve received and leave it to you, the MTDB youth ministry community, to answer it. This one from a youth worker in Pennsylvania, but it could be from anyone since it applies to so many. Chime in with your wisdom, response and best practices. Go!

I’m a youth pastor that is considering a move from Sunday School to in-home small groups. I wanted some advice on how to make the transition, and if it was the right decision at all. It seems like a good move for us, but there are so many variables. Would appreciate any help – thanks!