To buy curriculum or to write your own? This is a debate that never seems to die. The young guns have convictions, the veterans have their experience, the big churches have resources and the smaller ones are simply happy to have someone show up and love kids. In the midst of all these differences there still is the un answered question of whether or not this is a good idea.
Here is the deal, we all come to the table with a completely different gift set and context in which we find ourselves. And because of that, we all need help and support in different areas. However, no matter what kind of ministry you lead, no matter how big or small your context is, you MUST have a curriculum. The real question is what will your curriculum be.
There must be some rhyme or reason to what you teach and when you teach it. Purchased curriculum is great in that it lays out what each lesson is and usually puts it together in a cycle that builds upon itself and reinforces the lessons that have been taught. There are many good options out there for this. My favorite is XP3 by Orange. I have written a little bit about their scope and cycle before.
Who needs curriculum, I have the Holy Spirit!
If you don't buy curriculum then I am sure that you have sat down at the beginning of the year to plan out your lessons so that you too have a scope and cycle to what you are teaching your students. Back when I first started as a youth worker, many of my colleagues, including myself, would think planning that far in advance left little room for the Holy Spirit to lead the ministry. They would trust that the thing that God was teaching them and what they were most passionate about at the moment was the thing God had called them to teach to students.
But what everyone who has been around this type of "spirit lead" teaching for a while knows is that very soon students have only been exposed to a very limited understanding of scripture and limited exposure to the wider experiences and discussions surrounding the Christian faith. On the off chance that you are someone who has never developed their own scope and cycle before, I thought I would share with you how we have developed ours. And if you are a vet and have a much better and more compelling one, please share it so we can all learn.
My Scope and Cycle:
Over the years I have developed a pretty set scope and cycle to my student ministry curriculum. We have a pretty simple motif in our ministry. Our youth group's name is House, and the language we use surrounds being part of the family of God. God is our father and through Christ we are adopted into His family. We use the language of adoption and belonging because I think alienation is one of the main places of brokenness our students experience, and is a place where the good news really is good news.
With God's family as our over arching picture, we can then drop town into our themes, and then our lessons.
Fall: Our Family Story
Every family has stories that they share to communicate where they came from, great things that have been done, love stories, awful failures and how they have overcome, and many more. All of these stories give expression to how this moment around the dinner table is actually part of something much, much bigger. So in the fall we spend these lessons telling the story of God, his love, our rebellion, his grace, our adoption, and the implications of our new family identity.
Winter: Our Family Values
In youth group we have to tackle sex, drugs, and rock and roll. We address these issues too, as well as parents, cheating, lying, gossip, dating, homosexuality, creation care, etc. But instead of simply sharing, "this is right and this is wrong," these topics are placed into a larger context of values, the values of their adopted family. Just like in my family we value things like generosity, education, and hard work. In God's family we value mercy, justice, humility, holiness, service, and integrity, to name a few.
Spring: The Family Business:
For us, Spring is when we gear up for mission trips and focus on evangelism. These are great parts of every youth ministry diet. In the context of this scope and cycle, everything is framed through the paradigm that God has work to do here on earth, and he invites his kids to take up the family business. Just like in the good old days, a black smith would pass their trade onto their kids, God passes on his kingdom work to his kids. And since we are adopted as his children, part of the family story, putting on and owning the family values, we are to now also be a part of the family business making God's kingdom come here on earth as it is in heaven.
What do you do?
All good youth workers need to have curriculum, some plan to what you teach, why you teach it, and when you teach it. You can buy it or develop it yourself. Above is my simply plan. I am sure you have one that is just as compelling and works for the unique way God has created you and serves your context well. Would you be willing to share how you develop your scope and cycle?