The Gospel Project for Kids Curriculum Questions & Answers

I wish I could say that I am always writing better, higher quality content for storiesbystephen.com, but no matter what I write these days, there are some older posts that continue to draw the most attention. Two particular posts from over 2 years ago still gets more hits than just about anything I have written since then, and I still get loads of emails and Facebook messages from people asking for more details about selecting or creating a children’s ministry curriculum, particularly The Gospel Project for Kids and the Jesus Storybook Bible. People LOVE the Jesus Storybook Bible, and I am contacted almost weekly with questions about my post “Creating a 1-Year Curriculum With the Jesus Storybook Bible.” I am working on putting together and improving all my old materials for the Jesus Storybook Bible and creating something that can easily be used at home and church.

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My other post that still garners lots of attention is titled “Chronological 3-Year Bible Curriculums for Children’s Ministry.” It appears that many other children’s ministers and volunteers have been frustrated by the same struggles I went through when looking at the dozens of different children’s ministry curriculums available on the market. The market is full of shallow junk, and there are only a handful of really high quality options. The problem is sorting the good from the bad. Two+ years ago I did extensive research on all the curriculum options, and after many discussions with other key leaders in my ministry and much prayer and consideration, we decided to use the Gospel Project for Kids Curriculum. Click here to read my post “1 Month With The Gospel Project For Kids.”

Since writing about my search for the right curriculum, I have had many inquiries from other churches asking more about my experience with the curriculum. I have had long phone conversations and traded long emails with children’s ministers, and since there seems to really be a continuing interest, I have decided to finally post a follow-up to this curriculum decision over 2 years ago. This follow-up is based upon a recent inquiry I had from a children’s minister, so I am basically just reposting their questions and my responses about the Gospel Project. These types of questions are common, so hopefully this will be of use to other churches in the future as well.

2 IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW

I want to be up-front and clear about 2 things before you consider my experience and opinions with the Gospel Project for Kids Curriculum.

  1. I am in no way affiliated with Lifeway. While I do use affiliate links and ads on my website, Lifeway does not have an affiliate advertising program. I get no commission or referral revenue for anyone who decides to use the Gospel Project based on my posts. Anything I say about the Gospel Project is based on my own research and experience as both a Children’s Minister and a father.
  2. When I originally wrote about the various children’s ministry curriculums, including the Gospel Project for Kids, 2 years ago, I was working as a full-time children’s minister in Kokomo, Indiana. One year ago, after almost a decade of working with youth and children’s ministries and after earning both bachelors and masters degrees in Bible/Theological Studies, I took an indefinite break from full-time church ministry to become a stay-at-home dad and move my wife and 3 young kids close to family in northern Alabama. With that said, I may be a little rusty when it comes to some things children’s ministry related, but I am still very familiar with the Gospel Project for Kids Curriculum. Before I stepped down from my children’s ministry position in Indiana, I had worked through a full year of the Gospel Project. I had also worked ahead on several more months of the material with the person who was preparing to takeover as the interim children’s minister last year.

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1ST EMAIL

I came across your blog comparing chronological 3 year Bible curriculum options for kids which has prompted a search for new curriculum in my church! We have been using FaithWeaver Now/KOW and have narrowed it down to the Gospel Story for Kids and the Gospel Project. I know at the time you had gone with the Gospel Project. We have some specific questions for churches actually using that curriculum. Can I send you those questions for your feedback? Thanks!

MY REPLY

You can certainly send me questions, and I will do what I can to help you. I’ve done that for some others before. You should know that I left my children’s ministry job a year ago to be a stay-at-home dad. When I left I had worked through a full year of the Gospel Project for Kids. I had also worked ahead some on year 2 with the person who was taking over as the interim children’s minister. So I have not done all 3 years, and I am a bit rusty on some of the stuff.

GOSPEL PROJECT CURRICULUM QUESTIONS

Thank you so much for being willing to share your experience. Here are my questions:

1) Our classes are divided into three age levels: Preschool is 2 yrs-4 yrs, Lower Elementary is 5 yrs -2nd grade and Upper Elementary is 3rd-5th grade. The curriculum was written with a slightly different age division in mind (3 yrs -Kindergarten, 1st-3rd, 4th-6th). How did this work out in your setting? Do you think the intended age division is flexible to our situation?

2) How much preparation time do you think the teachers need each week to plan for the lesson, gather supplies, etc? Do the teachers tend to make many changes to the way they teach the lesson from how it’s written?

3) What did you like best about the curriculum?

4) What did you like least about the curriculum?

5) Any other thoughts?

MY ANSWERS (in bold)

1) Our classes are divided into three age levels: Preschool is 2 yrs-4 yrs, Lower Elementary is 5 yrs -2nd grade and Upper Elementary is 3rd-5th grade. The curriculum was written with a slightly different age division in mind (3 yrs -Kindergarten, 1st-3rd, 4th-6th). How did this work out in your setting? Do you think the intended age division is flexible to our situation?
1) Our children’s ministry divided age groups as follows: 

Nursery (did not use Gospel Project)

Toddlers & 2s (participated in Gospel Project to a lesser extent than older preschoolers), 

2 Preschool Groups: 3s & 4s & 5-K: These groups both used material from the Gospel Project preschool lessons. We kept them at “Preschool” level through Kindergarten because our elementary level groups did reading and writing activities at a level where it was best to wait till kids were completely done with Kindergarten before moving up.

Grades 1-2 & Grades 3-5: Used  “Lower Elementary” and “Upper Elementary” materials from the Gospel Project.

The issue I would see with putting 5-year olds – 2nd graders together is like I mentioned above. The curriculum includes lots of handouts/printouts for each age group, and the Lower Elementary material from the Gospel Project for Kids really is better suited for readers and writers. Also the memory verses (and corresponding songs for memorization aid) are shorter for preschoolers. The elementary versions are often a bit too long for 5 year-olds.

2) How much preparation time do you think the teachers need each week to plan for the lesson, gather supplies, etc? Do the teachers tend to make many changes to the way they teach the lesson from how it’s written?

2) My Sunday morning format was not at all traditional, so the way lessons prepared were not typical either. I created a system I called “Rotation Stations,” and you can read about this format here: http://storiesbystephen.com/2014/05/15/rotation-station-sunday-school-format-for-kids/ and see what our Sunday mornings looked like here: http://storiesbystephen.com/2014/05/07/what-our-sunday-morning-kids-program-looks-like/ 

UPDATE: I wrote another follow-up post explaining in great depth how we specifically used The Gospel Project For Kids curriculum with the non-traditional Rotation Stations format for our Sunday morning children’s ministry program. Click here to read that post.

What was nice for the teachers (and time-consuming for me as the Children’s Minister) was that all activities were decided ahead of time for each of the rotation stations, and I had all supplies requests sent to me by a certain day each week so that I had time to go buy all the supplies at once, or order them on Amazon Prime. I had certain teachers (preschool worship leader and Imagination Station leader) that had to spend a fair amount of time looking over the lessons/activities each week, but then I had other teachers (Memorization Station and Narration Station leaders) who had to do zero prep-work each week because I provided the material in the classroom, using the same setup every week. It totally depended on which station they were working. I cannot say how preparation would work for a more traditional Sunday School format where 1 teacher has to prepare the Bible story, craft/activities, etc. all on their own each week.

3) What did you like best about the curriculum?

3) What I liked best about the curriculum is the vast amount of options it included for every single Bible story. We had a full 2 hours of programming, Sunday School for every age group plus 2 different Kids Worship services (1 for preschool and 1 for elementary), every Sunday, and we were able to get almost all of our teaching material directly from the curriculum with 2 exceptions. I personally created memory verse puzzles and handouts each week for Memorization Station. We did not use the worship song videos from the Gospel Project for Kids, but we used Group Publishing kids worship videos (mainly VBS worship songs) for our Kids Worship service music. Besides those 2 things, we got basically all of our material straight from the curriculum.

In this digital age, I am extremely picky about graphics and videos being high quality, and the next thing I loved about the Gospel Project for Kids curriculum was that it provided really high quality Bible story videos and graphics (including coloring pages) for each Bible story. Lastly what I loved about the curriculum are the same reasons I picked this curriculum in the 1st place. It goes in chronological order, and it is much more extensive (lasting 3 years) than many other “through the whole Bible” children’s curriculums.

4) What did you like least about the curriculum?

4) What I least liked about the curriculum is that it did not provide more material for memorizing scripture, and that the worship song videos were not very good. To be fair, the Gospel Project did provide memory verses for each age group, along with memory verse posters and memory verse songs/videos. The memory verse songs were actually usually pretty good, but what was strange is that they did not always use the same Bible translation. Lifeway typically pushes their own HCSB Bible translation, but many of the memory verse songs seemed to be based on NIV or even King James. You just never really knew which translation the songs would follow, and sometimes the songs seemed to be loosely based on the memory verse. While that can make for a good song that reinforces the lesson, it does not help kids memorize the exact words of the verse, which was slightly annoying.

The worship song videos from Lifeway are just not very good, and this is true of both the Gospel Project and of the annual VBS programs released by Lifeway. This particularly bugs me because I doubt there is any Christian publisher in the world (except maybe Zondervan) with more customers, money and resources than Lifeway, yet they continue to put out sub-par worship song videos for kids year after year. Group Publishing is my favorite for worship song videos, and Orange/Amber Sky Records also has some really great stuff. So even if you buy the Gospel Project for Kids curriculum package that includes worship song videos, I would advise you to look at better alternatives in this area if you have kids worship services.

5) Any other thoughts?

5) Finally, I am a huge fan of the Gospel Project for Kids curriculum. I have personally worked with multiple kids curriculums from Group Publishing, Shout Praises Kids (Integrity Music) and Standard Publishing that ended up just being really low quality. I have looked VERY CLOSELY at other curriculums that appear to be pretty high quality (read about those here: http://storiesbystephen.com/2014/05/01/comparing-chronological-3-year-bible-curriculum-options-for-childrens-ministry/). But from what I could see in all of my experience and research, no other curriculum was as extensive and high quality as the Gospel Project for Kids. It is not perfect, but it is very, very strong. As far as I could tell all my teachers and volunteers LOVED it compared to curriculums they had previously used. With that said, any curriculum is only a set of tools and resources, and real life-changes will occur in the kids at your church based on the hearts and attitudes of your teachers and volunteers. If parts of the curriculum do not fit with what you and your teachers want to do, throw those parts out, but overall, I think you will find this curriculum to be among the best you will find right now.

I wrote another follow-up post explaining in great depth how we specifically used The Gospel Project For Kids curriculum with the non-traditional Rotation Stations format for our Sunday morning children’s ministry program. Click here to read that post.