Creating a 1-Year Curriculum With the Jesus Storybook Bible

Our children’s ministry just wrapped up a year with the Jesus Storybook Bible. Let me first say that I LOVE the JSB as a children’s Bible. British author Sally Lloyd-Jones writes the stories beautifully. The way she phrases things draws you into the story, often with an emotional tug, even for adult readers. Highly acclaimed children’s illustrator Jago brings the stories to life in a captivating way. This storybook Bible is a must-have for families with kids. That is exactly why I chose to use the Jesus Storybook Bible as the centerpiece of our Sunday morning kids programming at Fairfield Christian Church.

USING JSB AT CHURCH

Rather than using an established curriculum, I chose the daunting task of creating our own curriculum because I wanted our program to connect with what I hoped parents would be doing at home with their kids. We were able to get the Jesus Storybook Bible into the homes of just about every kid at our church, and then I figured out how to use it on Sunday mornings.

JESUS STORYBOOK BIBLE CURRICULUM IS LACKING

The Jesus Storybook Bible does offer a curriculum, but it is not overly useful. It has some good activities that I would use during large group worship with elementary school kids, but beyond that it offers very little in the way of written resources. It offers no coloring pages, no lesson plans for different age levels, no crafts or hands-on lessons. To be fair, it only costs about $80, so you should not expect much at that price. However, it would be nice if Zondervan put forth a little more effort and made a well-rounded curriculum to go with this fantastic children’s Bible.

Story Videos and iBooks Read & Hear Edition are Fantastic

What makes it worth buying the curriculum (or a separate DVD collection) are the story videos. Perhaps Harry Potter has made kids accustomed to British accents because every kid loved hearing David Suchet’s voice narrate the stories when we watched the story videos each week. The elementary school kids would sometimes applaud after the story videos finished!

Suchet’s voice also provides the voiceover for the Read & Hear Edition of the JSB on iBooks. This version highlights the words as it reads them aloud, so it is great for kids who are learning to read. [edit: For some reason, the Jesus Storybook Bible is no longer available in the iBooks store. You can get the Kindle version, but it does not have audio or interactive elements. I believe there may be some other ebook retailers may have the Read & Hear Edition.] Ok so back to the curriculum…

CREATING A CURRICULUM FROM SCRATCH

We used the Jesus Storybook Bible for the following age groups: toddlers & 2’s, preschool/early childhood, lower elementary (grades 1-2) and upper elementary (grades 3-5). Anyone who works with kids knows that what works with 4th graders does not necessarily work with 4-year-olds. As I was brainstorming about how to make this work, I was also previewing our Kingdom Rock VBS materials. After a few years helping to lead VBS programs, I knew the format very well. You start with a large group for the welcome and opening worship, and then you divide into small groups and rotate around to a few different stations for things like snacks, games, crafts and story time. As I was considering this, it struck me that even though this seems to work great at VBS, I have never seen a church using this rotational model for Sunday school.

ROTATION STATIONS

As I considered creating a Sunday school format that I like to call “Rotation Stations” at my church, I thought about what we would do at each station.

3 Stations

  1. Narration Station – “Hear the Word of God”

    • The kids hear the Bible story read to them, followed by small group discussion.
    • Originally I let the leaders use the questions from the Jesus Storybook Bible curriculum, but after they became comfortable with their roles, I allowed them to make up their own questions and discussions topics. This allowed them to be more creative and passionate, and it was an opportunity for these leaders to grow.
  2. Imagination Station – “Experience the Word of God”

    • Crafts, science experiments, hands on activities…
  3. Memorization Station – “Remember the Word of God”

    • Learn the weekly memory verse and the Books of the Bible. This involves music, games, puzzles, etc.

I also thought about the positives and negatives. Looking back after a year of this teaching model, I can say that the positives far outweigh the negatives.

The positives of Rotation Stations:

  • Teachers can master one area of teaching instead of being expected to perform 5-6 different roles over the course of an hour. This means that they can perform their given tasks extremely well.
  • Kids do not get bored. They don’t have time. They stay at each station for 18 minutes, with 3 minutes between each station to potty, get water or finish up a craft that took a little too long. Just when they get restless or bored, it is time to get up and move to the next station.
  • We hit several different learning styles. Kids who stay for Preschool or Kids Worship services learn the Bible story in even more ways. Those who stay for both hours probably learn the story in at least 7 different ways.
  • Different kids connect better with different adult leaders (and vice versa), so this allows kids to learn from several different adults.

The negatives of Rotation Stations:

  • Because they rotate among different stations with different adult leaders, kids do not get to develop super close relationships with the teachers. While this is an unfortunate side effect of this teaching model, we also teach and encourage parents to be the main spiritual leaders or disciple-makers of their own kids.
  • Sometimes there is a cool activity or idea that goes with the story, but it just does not fit the format of the rotation stations. However, these ideas can often be carried over to large group worship the next hour.
  • Because of the exact timing of this system, there are certain messy crafts or experiments that would be amazing and fun, but they would simply take longer than 18 minutes at Imagination Station.
  • Somewhere in the New Testament, the craft ideas started to run dry. During the popular Old Testament stories, it was easy to find plenty of ideas for Imagination Station just using Bible craft books, but during the ministry of Jesus, the craft books just were not cutting it anymore. Pinterest helped quite a bit, but eventually I had to start making up crafts on my own. This was fun and rewarding, but it was much too time consuming during the busy week.

ROTATION STATIONS WERE A HIT

My volunteers loved the rotation stations. The kids seem to love them, and they never really seem bored. When I was looking at a new curriculum to start this year, I asked the teachers if they wanted to keep the rotation stations or switch back to the more traditional Sunday School format, and they overwhelmingly agreed to keep the rotation stations.

WEEKLY PREPARATIONS

Creating this learning system and curriculum from scratch, these are the things I had to do each week to prepare for the Sunday morning program:

  • For Memorization Station

    • Pick a memory verse. I try to keep these verses close to 15 words.
    • Create a full-page printable copy of the memory verse. I would print 3 copies on colored cardstock, and I would tape/pin these up at different spots in the Memorization Station room.
    • Create various types of puzzles: letter scramble, word search maze, etc. Print enough copies for all kids grades 1-5.
    • Create a word scramble puzzle/game that each group would use as a race to see who could put the scrambled words in the right order the fastest.  I would print this on cardstock, a different color for each team. This has 2 words per page, so I also had to cut all the pages with the paper cutter.
  • For Imagination Station

    • Search through craft books, Pinterest, blogs, etc. trying to find good crafts and hands-on activities that reinforce the story for the week.
    • Communicate with my volunteers to see what they think will work or not work. With 3 different age groups (preschool, lower elementary & upper elementary) coming through this station, all activities had to be easy enough for preschoolers but interesting enough for 5th graders.
    • Pick a craft or creative lesson, and often times, create my own craft.
      • When I created my own crafts, I would make a sample, taking pictures of every step. I would then create an instruction guide for the teachers.
    • Communicate with my volunteer supplies coordinator, and she would come over and help me prep Imagination Station each week. This often involved lots of pre-cutting, pre-punching holes, etc. More advanced crafts needed parts to be partially prepared beforehand to make it easy enough for preschoolers and to make it manageable for the 18 minute time-frame.
    • Drive to Wal-Mart, Hobby Lobby or the grocery store and get whatever supplies we did not already have in our resource room.

  • For Narration Station

    • Luckily, this station needed little prep-work after the first few weeks because the leaders made up their own discussion questions.
  • For Elementary School Worship

    • Pick out worship songs that fit well with the theme of the story that week.
    • Create a weekly Keynote presentation with all the song videos, the story video, memory verse slide, etc.
    • Create my own lesson plan for large group teaching. This usually involved a game or group activity, maybe an object lesson, etc. There would also be a segment with a short sermon-style lesson.
    • Gather any supplies I need for these activities.
  • For Preschool Worship

    • My ministry assistant is a previous early childhood minister, and she handled much of this for me. She would pick out games, activities, crafts, etc. for our preschool worship rooms. I did not have time to do this on top of all the other things I was doing for Sunday School and elementary school worship.
    • I would pick out worship songs, convert the video files to work on Microsoft Powerpoint (the only computer in our church that is not a Mac).
    • I created the Powerpoint slideshows every week for preschool worship.
    • I would also pick up any supplies at the store that preschool worship needed.

  • For Toddlers & 2s Room

    • Since the JSB Curriculum did not come with any coloring pages, I had to hunt down decent coloring pages for every single story. When it comes to coloring pages, or anything that involves graphics, I can be overly picky, so for some stories it was a chore to find something that worked well.
      • I tried to create a “coloring book” of 3-6 coloring pages for every story. I often had to edit coloring pages or clipart I found online and add text/Bible verses to the pages so that the coloring book would retell the story very briefly. This would help volunteers and parents quickly tell the story, and it gave the kids something they like to take home for every story.

To get an idea of what our Sunday morning schedule for kids looks like, check out this entry.

Don’t Curriculums Give You All That Stuff?!?

YES! That is why churches buy curriculums! I am very proud of the work that I did, with much help from volunteers and my ministry assistant, but looking back I think I was a little bit crazy to create our own curriculum for a year. It was a great year for everyone involved, but it wore me out sometimes.

Want some of the resources I created to use with the Jesus Storybook Bible?

I spent countless hours over the last year creating these files, and I am giving them away for free! Why would I do that? These resources are not only useful for a children’s ministries, but also for home-school lessons and home Bible studies. I created these resources to help kids understand the story of God better, so I hope others can use them to do the same thing.

I will be uploading dozens of Free Resources, so check out my Jesus Storybook Bible Free Resources Page.

  • Beth Borbon

    Wow- thank you for taking the time to share this! It is really helpful. I look forward to finding the JSB resources.

  • moe morris

    Thanks for this! I am a stay at home dad as well and I am also looking into to a position as a part time children’s pastor at a small church. I love the rotation station ideas! I look forward to any other info you will provide as I hope to use a little of what you have created as well as add some of my own! Thanks again!
    Moe

  • Kimberly Kovach

    I am so thrilled to have found this post because I am taking a Haitian Creole JSB down to Haiti in May to be used at an orphanage school. I was going to have to write a curriculum for it, but you’ve done so much work that will help me with that. Praise the Lord for you!!

  • Celia Hammond

    Hi Stephen, thanks so much for providing an alternate resource for teaching children using the Jesus Storybook Bible. My husband and I are huge fans of the JSB and we love how you turned it into a curriculum that fits so well with our children’s ministry model. Would you be willing to provide me the rest of the memory verse pages, word searches, links to coloring pages you used, etc? Our church’s email is: ministryteam@mckinleyparkchurch.org Again, thank you so much for all the time and work you put into making this. You’re a blessing to advancing God’s kingdom! ~ Celia Hammond

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  • Brooks Rice

    Stephen! We are probably going to start doing JSB at our church soon….and I’d love to not have to reinvent the wheel. Any help you can give would be welcome! Could you send me whatever you can? Thank you! brooks@westsidefaithcenter.com