Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Forcing It

I've become familiar with some Christian curriculum recently that made me scratch my head. It used some alliteration in order to assist us in remembering the key points. While I understand this is sometimes helpful - better yet, I've found mnemonics to be very helpful - I found this to be, rather forced. In fact, it took my wife to explain to me a couple of the words (not the meanings, just why they were used). And it made me reflect again on the whole Christian curriculum industry. Because, as much as we might hate to admit it, it's an industry. And it leads me to two completely separate thoughts.

First, I heard recently someone reflecting on a Christian publishing company, someone who should know. They said something to the effect of Rocking the boat is not exactly what brings in the money and at the end of the day, they need to print materials that will sell. I didn't put up quotation marks, because it's a paraphrase, but it's pretty accurate to the conversation. And it's just one example of our culture/society/economic system trumping the gospel. And people still think Rome is the beast?

Second, I've heard from and read on more than one occasion, a myriad of big-wig Youth Ministry writers and gurus, say it's a waste of time to reinvent the wheel. [Not a reference to my friend Lars] Essentially, don't worry about writing your own curriculum - spend time with kids and just regurgitate someone else's stuff. After all, the best stuff is someone else's anyway, right? And part of me says, yeah, spend time with kids/youth/adults. Be in relationship... But part of me also says - THINK CRITICALLY ABOUT WHAT YOU'RE TEACHING! Don't just buy the hot selling book or curriculum. Read it, digest it, ADJUST IT, if it's not good. Don't just pass it out like some kind of advertisement for a "gentleman's club" in Vegas.

It comes back a little bit to what I said about a living and active faith with you. If you're not working on yours, you can't model it for others. And if all you're doing is passing out second-hand information, you're not really getting anywhere. I think, over the years, I've become much more of a fan of writing my own stuff. Read wide, take the best of what others have to offer, critically engage it, let the dross hit the floor and come up with the integrated whole yourself - then teach it. That way, you don't come away saying "What's with that funky and forced alliteration...?"


Lars Rood said...

Thanks for not lumping me in.....:)

Higgins said...

Allow me to be a little raw here:

I think most curriculm sucks :)

Most of the time, it's too hard to read the lesson someone else has planned, understand what they are trying to get at, and convince myself that it actually speaks to my specific audience.

I prefer to speak out of my own devotional life and relationship with God. What is God saying to me throughout the day as I walk with him and as I meditate on his word? What is the prophetic message he wants me to convey to my audience on a given day, over a number of weeks, over a number of months, etc? Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth will speak kind of thing.

Okay, so that was raw - but I really have never connected well with curriculums and I was just waiting for an opportunity to blast 'em... sorry :)

Incidentally, this is the very issue with my teen Sunday school right now - frustrated teachers who have nothing to teach, so a curriculum may be in order to bring stability to the classroom. Or, would an awakening of the teacher's soul to the word of God and to each other as a group committed to discipling God's young people be another angle we need to consider?

Don said...

Higs - another track, which hits somewhere in the middle, is to find some kind of book to go through with your teachers and use that as the fertile ground for teaching from. Certainly, the older the kids, the easier it is to form something out of a book you're doing personally.