We have been using the Jesus Storybook Bible for almost a year, taking the kids through the Bible narrative over the course of 44 different stories. This has been a great experience for everyone, but I see the need for a deeper look at the Bible. Basically 44 stories is a nice quick glance at the Bible to help kids see how the Bible is one HUGE story centered around Jesus saving the world, but using only 44 stories leaves out pretty large gaps from the Bible. So I would like to take the concepts that I used to select the Jesus Storybook Bible and expand those to a 3-year program that covers much more of the Biblical text with a chronological curriculum.
See my previous post about the difficulties and frustrations of selecting the right children’s ministry curriculum, and also read about my experience creating a 1-year curriculum based on the Jesus Storybook Bible. All of these experiences brought me to a good place where I feel confident and excited about some of the things God is doing in churches through some pretty awesome curriculums. This is a review of the best options, and at the end I will share which curriculum my ministry team has selected to use for at least the next 3 years.
CRITERIA FOR THE CURRICULUM
I have looked at countless different curriculum options over the last couple months, and as I consider the future of our Sunday morning program, I have come up the following criteria for selecting our next curriculum:
- 3-year program
- Studies the Bible chronologically from Genesis to Revelation
- Has a good Storybook Bible or Kids’ Bible that families can affordably purchase to read the same stories at home throughout the week
- Has good resources to enhance our presentation of the Gospel on Sunday mornings. For example, a curriculum that comes with videos for each story.
- Includes material for preschool, lower elementary and upper elementary, and this material must all cover the same story each week.
- Includes material or ideas for parents to further teach the Bible story at home during the week.
- Includes material for both large group and small group formats that we can adapt to fit the various group sizes and learning styles that we use on Sundays.
DO NOT SOLELY RELY ON ANY CURRICULUM
Even with these criteria, it is important to note that any curriculum we use will be a collection of resources that help our children’s ministry teach God’s story, but we will never find ourselves totally reliant on a curriculum for what we teach. A solid curriculum gives us a strong base for our program, but we will also change and personalize things to fit our own structure and to put a deeper emphasis on certain areas that may be lacking in any given curriculum.
As I looked at curriculums from every Christian publisher I could find, I found that my criteria quickly limited our options. There are only a few curriculums that teach the Bible chronologically, and even fewer do so over a 3 year period. Unfortunately, most children’s curriculums are theme based instead of putting the main emphasis on teaching the whole Bible and helping kids see how it all fits together.
Altogether I found about 5 different curriculums that met most of the above criteria.
WHICH CURRICULUMS TEACH THE WHOLE BIBLE TO KIDS OVER A 3-YEAR PERIOD?
- Answers Bible Curriculum (ABC)
- The Gospel Story Curriculum
- The Gospel Project for Kids Curriculum
- Faithweaver Now Curriculum
- Tru Curriculum (sort-of)
Tru Curriculum by David C. Cook has some great lessons, but it is way too expensive ($3,000/year). It also goes through the whole Bible in about a year, and then repeats this for 3 years in a row, each year slightly changing which stories it teaches. The back-and-forth could be a little confusing for kids.
Answers Bible Curriculum is a solid apologetics based curriculum from the makers of Answers in Genesis. It teaches the Bible very well over 3 years, but it does not have a storybook Bible that families can keep at home, which I feel is pretty vital to our plans of promoting home discipleship. It also does not have story videos, which are important to me because videos help our program tell the story several different ways each Sunday.
Faithweaver Now teaches the Bible in a weird order, and it does not let you order old quarters to start in Genesis.
That narrowed my choices to 2 very solid curriculum options.
The top 2 curriculum for the above criteria are “The Gospel Story Bible Curriculum” and “The Gospel Project for Kids.” These both meet most of my criteria and have beautiful Storybook adaptations of the Bible for families with kids to use at home. A couple different factors had me leaning heavily toward one over the other.
AND THE WINNER IS… THE GOSPEL PROJECT FOR KIDS
“The Gospel Project for Kids” is the only curriculum on the market that meets every single criteria listed above. It has 2 major advantages over “The Gospel Story Bible Curriculum.” First, it has story videos for all 146 stories. This is important because on a given Sunday morning, we teach the same Bible story in about 6-8 different ways for kids who are there at both Sunday School and Kids Worship. These kids already hear the story read aloud by teachers during Sunday School, so at Kids Worship I like to give that visual representation of the story that you get with a good video adaptation. The Gospel Story Bible curriculum has no video resources at all.
Secondly, the Gospel project curriculum has a very affordable Storybook Bible for families to purchase. The hardcover copy costs $10-15, and the ebook version is a VERY affordable $3-$4 depending on the store. With those prices, it will be very easy to convince every family to buy some form of this book to use at home. The other curriculum has a hardcover Bible that costs over $20 and 2 other devotional books that go along with it, and these devotional books would cost about $10-20 per family. While a $40 investment per family is not that much considering they can use these resources for the next 3 years, I feel we are much more likely to get the more affordable Bible in every single home.
In addition to the video resources and affordable Bible for home, “The Gospel Project” also has numerous iPhone and Android apps, great graphics that we can use on our website and to print posters promoting our program. It is by far the most extensive chronological Bible curriculum available for kids today.
IS THE GOSPEL PROJECT TOO SOUTHERN BAPTIST?
Initially, there was a very slight concern because this curriculum is produced by Lifeway, the flagship provider for Southern Baptist churches. This did not bother me, but I was a little worried that some parents might not like it. Some may think it is too “denominational” for a non-denominational church to use Also, there is a bit of controversy online about the Gospel Project being too Calvinistic, but many others claim that this is false. I really had no doubts about using the curriculum, but I needed to make sure the senior minister and elders at my church would approve it. None of them seemed too concerned about it being a Baptist curriculum.
This Christianity Today blog entry by Ed Stetzer, the chief editor of this curriculum, helped ease any minor concerns. He mentioned how this curriculum was being used by so many different denominations (over 10,000 churches total). The largest church using the curriculum is a Restoration Movement church, the same as my church.
Once again, any curriculum will just be one resource that we use in our children’s ministry. If there are any teachings that we are uncomfortable with, or if it leaves out some things that are important to my church, then I will make the necessary adjustments. Right now I feel confident that the Gospel Project for Kids will be an excellent resource for us to use for the next few years.
UPDATE: I HAVE CONTINUED TO GET EMAILS ABOUT THIS POST FOR THE LAST 2 YEARS. CLICK HERE TO READ MY POST “The Gospel Project for Kids Curriculum Questions & Answers” WHICH ANSWERS SOME OF THE QUESTIONS I STILL RECEIVE FROM CHURCHES