How do you know when to write your own Sunday School curriculum?
As plans get made for this fall and bible study materials get ordered, the conversation will bubble up again for some churches about writing their own materials. Whether the impetus for change is one of budgets or frustration with content, the desire to do your own thing can be a tempting one.
For almost seven years my congregation, First Baptist Wilmington NC, produced their own adult Sunday School materials. During that time over 700 individuals contributed a weekly lesson or a daily devotion. It was an impactful, rewarding and labor intensive endeavor. And while such an undertaking is not for every church, there is, I believe, one great reason why you may want to consider this avenue of ministry.
Inviting members of your congregation into a process of writing curriculum and devotional material is an amazing discipleship opportunity.
The world is changing every time we turn around today. The flexibility of being able to write curriculum that addresses important events as they unfold allows more intentionality in seeing and responding to our world through the lens of faith. Likewise, if there is a particular issue or topic that bubbles up in the life of your congregation that needs directed and widespread discussion, you can design a lesson series around it.
Spiritual practices do not always come naturally to many people yet they are essential to discern and to respond to God’s voice. They take, well… practice. We can help folks to understand and not be intimidated by spiritual disciplines by including them as a corporate activity in the teaching guide or as an individual exercise in the student lesson, when it is appropriate to the text.
Encouraging One Another
When individuals are asked to write material that will be used to build up the body of Christ, it affirms in them that they have something unique and important to offer the Church. It’s a tangible reminder that we are a priesthood of believers. God is at work in each of our lives and that gives us a word of hope and a story to share. It’s my experience that this truth comes as a surprise and a privilege to many and the invitation to write unleashes God’s Spirit in wonderful and unexpected ways.
While writing your church’s curriculum is one way to deepen the discipleship ministry in your congregation, it is far from an all or nothing proposal. If you want to dip your toe in the creative waters, consider one of these possibilities:
- Tailor your existing curriculum. There are many good curriculum options out there. Invite some folks to review upcoming lessons in the material you are already using and craft questions tied to current events or write illustrations from their own faith journeys. These additions personalize the material for your church context.
- Create a special series. Once or twice a year create a four- to six-week series on a topic that is important to your congregation. Invite folks to write lessons and gather teachers together to develop teaching strategies and resources.
- Write a devotional. Use an existing season of the church year as an opportunity to invite church members to share part of their faith experience in the form of a devotion. Advent, Lent, even summer all provide natural windows for trying something reflective and new.
In the end, curriculum is just a tool. It doesn’t matter whether we buy it, borrow it or create it, as long as we use it to point one another to God and to shape what we think, say and do in the likeness of Jesus.