The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Your Children’s Curriculum
Growing a healthy church with committed members devoted to taking the Gospel to the world is a goal upon which all leaders can agree. We work tirelessly to think of new and inventive ways to get more people in the door—and keep them coming back Sunday after Sunday.
After you’ve tweaked the Adult ministry offerings, added a few more fellowship dinners to the calendar, and started a community group in another area of town, you may want to take a look at your children’s ministry.
Even though it may not seem obvious at first, understanding the kids’ experience at your church is crucial if you want to achieve a thriving congregation full of members who know and love God. Choosing your children’s curriculum is a key first step in your journey.
Choosing Your Children’s Curriculum Is Important to Growing a Healthy Kids Ministry
Research shows that “nearly six in 10 highly engaged Christian parents … say children’s programming is the primary reason they chose their current church (58%), proving that even though children may be small, they carry big weight when it comes to family decisions about where to worship. This suggests that, for churches to attract and retain strong Christian households, children’s programming must be a key part of holistic family ministry.”
Structuring your children’s ministry, planning special kids events, and recruiting volunteer helpers and teachers are just a few pieces of the puzzle. The children’s curriculum you choose plays a crucial role in setting the tone of your entire ministry, equipping your leaders for success, building a strong foundation of faith for kids, and ultimately, creating a healthy church full of members ready to share the good news.
No pressure, right?
Choosing the right children’s curriculum doesn’t have to be intimidating, though. Follow our suggestions here that will help you discover the best children’s curriculum for your ministry program.
Five Questions to Ask When Choosing Your Children’s Curriculum
As you pray for God’s leading your ministry to the best choice, gather and consider the feedback from those with informed opinions. As you do, consider these five questions to help you make a decision:
- Who are you teaching?
- What do you want to teach?
- How does the curriculum support your teachers?
- How do your kids learn best?
- What gets your kids’ attention?
Who are you teaching?
This question may be answered easily and quickly or may take a little bit of research, depending upon how well you know the kids in your ministry. You need to understand the children whom you’ll be teaching—their needs, knowledge levels, ages, and so on.
If you are coming into this task pretty cold or your congregation has shifted substantially recently, you may want to take a quick survey of your children’s parents and department volunteers about ministry expectations and outcomes and their knowledge level of faith matters.
- What are the ages and grade levels of the children?
- How many children total will you serve? How will you divide the classes?
- How much do these children understand about the Bible (have they been in church all their lives or are they new to the faith)?
- Where do they attend school? How may their school experience and/or school relationships affect the way they learn in Sunday school?
- What time of day will they gather for class? How will that affect their attention span and learning?
- What special needs or circumstances should be considered?
- What do parents expect them to learn?
- What do church leaders expect the children’s ministry to accomplish?
What do you want to teach?
Children’s curriculum is written from a variety of perspectives with multiple goals for the learners. The material can focus on different aspects of growing in faith with different emphases on acquiring knowledge, personal reflection, life application, and acts of service.
Consider the non-negotiable characteristics that you need in your curriculum; theological and pedagogical integrity and appropriateness should be two obvious ones. Beyond those, define what’s most important for your children to learn and choose curriculum accordingly.
- On what theological assumptions is this curriculum written? How does it align with our denomination/church/church leadership beliefs?
- Is this curriculum age-appropriate?
- What key concepts do we want children to be able to articulate at different milestones of their growth: entering Kindergarten? By third grade? By sixth grade? Entering high school? By high school graduation?
- If a child were to be involved in our children’s ministry from birth to high school graduation, what are the expectations for his or her faith education? How does this curriculum meet those expectations?
- If a child enters our program during the elementary, middle school, or high school years, how will our curriculum support his or her journey?
- What type of teaching resonates best with our kids and helps them grasp lessons, which will ultimately meet the goals of our ministry?
- Where are the learning “gaps” for our children? What type of curriculum will help us close those holes?
How does the curriculum support your teachers?
Most churches have volunteers working in children’s ministry—many of whom have limited time to prepare to teach their lessons. These volunteers may run the gamut of older teens to senior adults who have varying degrees of comfort with teaching kids or working with children. Some may be new believers with little knowledge of the Bible or theological matters, while others may have been in church for more than fifty years.
How will you ensure a uniform learning experience for all children? You need a customizable and robust curriculum that supports your goals, while also being highly accessible to and supportive of volunteer teachers, no matter where they fall on the spectrum of faith or life experience.
- How is the material organized? Is it user-friendly? Are the directions clear?
- How much outside-class time prep is needed? Is that amount of time doable for your volunteers?
- How customizable is the curriculum? Are there enough options that the teacher is able to adjust it to fit the needs of his or her class?
- How are activities timed throughout the lesson? Is the schedule reasonable and the lesson well-paced? What accommodations will your volunteers need to make for timing issues?
- Is there enough material to fill the allotted class time? Is there too little material? What will the volunteer teachers do if they run out of time or have extra time at the end of the teaching?
- Does the curriculum provide enough supporting information (Bible background, historical context, etc.) for the teachers so that they are well equipped to teach it to the children?
How do your kids learn best?
We all learn in different ways. Great children’s curriculum should offer a mix of presenting the material and applying it so that all types of learners’ needs are met.
Educational experts generally agree that there are four broad categories of learning styles: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and reading/writing. You will inevitably have students representing all of these learning styles in your children’s ministry. Therefore, you need to find a curriculum that offers a combination of activities that teaches to all the different learning styles. The more active learners will become bored easily if every week they only sit in a circle, listen to a story, and fill in a worksheet; whereas the reading/writing learners won’t retain much if they never do have the opportunity for seated work with words on paper.
- How many learning styles are reflected in this material?
- What types of object lessons are given each week? Are they applicable and memorable for the learning?
- Are the activities varied from week to week?
- Does the curriculum feature the latest in educational theory and practice?
- What tools or equipment do you need for the curriculum?
- What type of audio-visual capability do you need (do you want to play a DVD or is streaming content a possibility)? What type of screens, monitors, or projectors do you need?
- Do the audio-visual elements support the overall lesson and help kids make connections?
- What books, supplies, and other resources do you need?
- Does the curriculum print Scripture passages or ask the kids to read their own Bibles?
What gets your kids’ attention?
Even though you’re teaching about the same book (the Bible) as they always have, children—and their attention spans—have changed since the 90s. It may be tempting to recycle old curriculum, but trying to use lessons with dated references and stale approaches will likely fall flat with today’s tech-savvy kids.
Choose a curriculum that’s created with 21st century children in mind. Your students are a digital generation, raised on YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok. Keeping kids engaged requires teaching the classics from a fresh perspective that speaks their language.
- When was the curriculum written? Is it fresh and relevant?
- Are the activities engaging? Will they capture and hold the kids’ attention?
- Who are the writers and what are their credentials? Do they have experience working with children in ministry?
- Do the lessons meet the children where they are and then take them “deeper” into a learning experience?
- Are the lessons faithful to the greater biblical truth but tied into real life in a meaningful way?
Cokesbury Kids Can Help You With Choosing Your Children’s Curriculum
We know choosing your children’s curriculum can sometimes feel overwhelming. We hope the questions here will help you and your team evaluate your options and lead you to the very best solution for your children’s ministry.
Cokesbury Kids can make your decision a whole lot easier. Our products check all of the boxes for quality, relevance, and theological integrity. All you need to do is choose which one is best for the children in your church.
Check out these popular resources to find the right one for your children’s ministry:
Celebrate Wonder honors the spiritual life of children—their natural sense of awe, wonder, imagination, and curiosity—and helps shape their growing faith. Leaders will guide children through engaging experiences, spiritual practices, and opportunities for reflection, giving them a safe space to ask big questions and helping them claim their spiritual identity as children of God.
- Extremely volunteer-friendly; minimal setup required, 10 to 20 minutes of prep time
- Carefully-selected Bible stories, songs, videos, and hands-on activities
- Easily customizable; leaders can choose activities based on their class
- Works well with churches of any size
- Three-year approach gives a spiral learning opportunity that covers the Bible from Genesis to Revelation
- Ideal for visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners
A simple age-level structure makes Bible Story Basics straightforward and uncomplicated for leaders while providing age-appropriate lessons for kids. With a focus on Bible stories and biblical literacy, Bible Story Basics helps kids realize that the Bible is more than a history book and that it's relevant to their lives today.
- Easy to teach and Bible-driven
- Kids get basic tools for reading and learning the Bible
- Scripture memory, music, games, puzzles, prayer
- Works well with churches of any size
- Ideal for reading/writing, kinesthetic, and auditory learners
One Room Sunday School is ideal for churches where children of various ages learn together as a group. Everything needed for Sunday school is included in one convenient kit for children ages 3-12.
- Convenient for teachers—everything you need is included in one kit
- Coloring pages, creative writing prompts, visual aids, storytelling, music
- Works well in smaller churches where children of various ages are learning together
- Ideal for all types of learners
If you’re looking to supplement your current curriculum with video teaching, you’ll find a wide variety of contemporary, relevant, and effective children’s videos at Amplify Media. All of the content at Amplify Media can be easily streamed through your laptop, desktop, or smart device; no DVDs or players are necessary!
If you’re using Cokesbury’s Celebrate Wonder or One Room Sunday School curricula, you’ll be able to access videos that correspond to each session. You’ll also find a Live TV stream, seasonal videos related to the Church calendar, animated shorts walking through the Old and New Testaments, live action shows, and more.
You’ll need your church’s Amplify Media channel website address (URL) and access code. Go to their URL page and select the button “Click here to enter your code.” From there you can create a free amplify subscription and access your church’s Amplify Channel.
- Easy and convenient; supporting video content is just a few clicks away!
- Videos are engaging, relevant, and age-appropriate
- High production quality for the tech-savvy, digital generation
- Ideal for visual and auditory learners
An Important Decision: Choosing Your Children’s Curriculum
Choosing your children’s curriculum will likely take time, so give yourself several months for research. Ideally, you should work with other church leaders, teachers, parents—and perhaps kids themselves—to determine what materials are best for your group. Most publishers offer free samples of their products; you should definitely download or order those and give them a try.
Once you’ve evaluated several products using this guide, you should feel confident in your decision. And when you choose Cokesbury Kids’ curricula, you’ll be using a product line of the highest quality. You can trust Cokesbury Kids to nurture the hearts and imaginations of your children.