Writing curriculum is one of the most challenging endeavors a youth worker undertakes. (I have found that it is hard even writing the word curriculum, mostly because I am a horrible speller.) As hard as writing curriculum can be, what really makes a curriculum great or awful is its scope and cycle. And this is where Orange's XP3 Student ministry curriculum hits it out of the park!
It is often confusing cruising through a website and trying to figure out what is going on, why they do what they do, and how it all fits together. I get that 90% of that confusion is because I don't pay attention and skim read. So, I really enjoyed sitting down and having the creators of this material, Jeremy Zach and Jared Herd, explain it to me.
These two guys and their team put together some really great material. But what is even more compelling is the values they begin with as they write their curriculum.
Here are a few values that form the foundation of how this curriculum is put together.
- They understand that student ministry is truly cross cultural missionaries to this unique context. They get that our kids are more familiar with Karma then they are of Sin. Because of this they are going to approach biblical ideas and concepts full of truth, but in a way that can be translated to this culture.
- No matter how great the script is or the teacher is, they genuinely believe that "the best teaching happens in a circle, not rows." This approach means that leader training and small group questions are critical for the success and spiritual growth of our students. Because of this understanding, Orange makes sure they do both well.
- XP stands for experience. Jared reminded us that all of us don't remember one youth talk, but can all recall the ways God showed up on mission trips, service projects, camps, etc. And it is the XP that makes this curriculum so much more. Instead of simply passing on information, the core of this curriculum is providing opportunities and space for students to actually put it into practice, experience it, and be changed by it.
- The picture at the top of the post shows how this annual scope and cycle work. "XP3 is designed as a comprehensive student curriculum that helps students experience their faith in three areas: Wonder, Discovery, and Passion. Every series falls under one of these areas, but because these are big concepts, we have identified core insights within each to help explain the focus of the series."
This is an annual scope and cycle that is biblical, comprehensive, culturally astute, and takes the gospel and the transforming power of Christ seriously.
With that summary, I would like to offer a few thoughts . . .
1) You are not supposed to use everything that is in a curriculum. Youth pastors love being angsty and contrarian. For whatever reason we love looking down our nose at curriculum and scrutinize it throw out all the things that don't work. What is so great about curriculum, is that chucking what doesn't work is what you are supposed to do. You are paid to contextualize the material so it is applicable to your group.
2) Don't be a lone-ranger. There is a large community of XP3 users who are sharing how they are contextualized material in their context. Be a learner, see what others are doing ask questions. This is put together by great people. We often think that curriculum comes down from "the man," some faceless group of people just trying to take our money. But the truth is that every page is written by godly women and men who want nothing more than for your students to experience and be transformed by the love of Christ. The most amazing thing is that Jeremy is one of the smartest and most accessible people I have met in the Orange system. Any problem or issue, you simply need to call him and he will actually pick up and walk with you through whatever the problem is.
3) If you don't use XP3 to help shape your scope and cycle to have a balanced and intentional ministry, how do you come up with your scope and cycle? Most curriculum does a good job of this. But if you don't use any curriculum, how do you make sure you have a balanced curriculum? If you are not planned a year out, then please consider buying a curriculum that works for you and your context, or do the hard work of developing a complete scope and cycle, but it must cover at least 1 year, 2 is better, and 3 is best.
4) When you have a curriculum plan for the entire year you get the privilege of showing that off to parents. This plan builds trust and respect for you and your ministry. And that allows you more and more access to the parents and their children. There has to be a plan! Use curriculum that does, or come up with it yourself, but must have a plan!,
I am so thankful for XP3 and their amazing staff for continually providing such excellent content that is intentional, thoughtful, and truly helpful. Your hard work raises the bar for us youth workers, and then equips us to get there! I would strongly encourage you to check it out!
If you don't use XP3 what do you use? If you write your own, would you be willing to share your scope and cycle?
As you contemplate these questions, also consider being encouraged and equipped this year at the Orange Conference! Won't you consider joining me and 6000 of my friends in Atlanta, GA this April for the Orange Conference. This is an entire conference designed to wrestle with the intentional partnership between the church and the family, and will be refreshment for your soul!