Monday, November 5, 2012

What I am using now

This year in Sunday School, we've mostly been using the "On The Way" curriculum put out by Christian Focus.  The age range is 3 - 9 years.  We have run it from aged 3 to Year 6.  It wasn't ideal for the Year 5 & 6s but we've only ever had one person in that age range so we made do.  You do the teaching part all together as one big group, and then split off to small groups to do the crafts.  This made it much easier to manage having three groups within a small church - we only needed one "teacher" and then when the three groups split up we just needed a couple of extra "craft helpers".

Good points:
*  One book contains everything - all the crafts are photocopiable.  So at about $16 a term it's very cheap.
*  The theology is very good and it covers details in the Bible other curriculums might skip over.  See this review by the Vicar's Wife.
*  There are three crafts offered per lesson - preschoolers, lower primary and middle primary.  You photocopy off the appropriate number and you can have something age-appropriate for everyone!

Not-so-good points:
*  There's no script to follow for telling the Bible story.  They give you instructions for an introduction and conclusion, but leave you to work out how to tell the story itself based on the notes for the passage they give in the teacher's introduction.  I didn't mind this on the whole, but sometimes the story covered a couple of chapters of the Bible and it took a fair bit of effort to study the passage and then chop it down into manageable content to memorize and deliver.  The real problem was that this really scared off other people from having a go.  Lots of people were happy to be craft helpers, but no one wanted the up front stuff, especially those who didn't feel confident without a pre-written story to follow.
*  The visual aids are a bit average and a bother to photocopy.
*  The crafts are mainly paper crafts and some of them require an enormous amount of preparation beforehand in terms of cutting out pieces ready to glue etc.  Depends on the size of your groups but on the odd occasion, it took me more than an hour to cut everything out on the Saturday night.

Would I use it again?

Yes, I probably will.  The content is really good and for the size of our Sunday School it was an excellent solution.  I think if I end up using the Jesus Storybook Material, I may use the On The Way for 9 - 12 year olds with the older group.

Thank you, Cardsasgifts, for asking about the Sunday School material I was involved in writing.  Regrettably, I can't use that because it's for high school students.  Otherwise I would because it's well written, excellent quality and gives students a thorough grounding in the faith (shameless plug).  But you've given me a nice chance to mention it again.

So, what are you guys using with a large age-range and a small church?


Gary Ware said...

Have you checked out Kidswise?

Deb said...

Thanks, Gary! That's a very interesting option. And mighty cost-effective. Also very interesting because I've heard Sandy Galea does NOT like the Jesus Storybook Bible! See the comments section of this blog post:

CardsAsGifts said...

Glad I could help you plug See For Yourself!!

Deb said...

Yeah, Karen, I did think a lot of the Kidwise activity suggestions were fairly ambitious for the average Sunday School teacher. And some of the equipment called for might not be easy for a volunteer to find if they don't have kids of a similar age: i.e. if you don't have kids who are using wooden blocks or a paddle-pool or something like that. That's a big issue for me because I'm aiming to have a roster with lots of people on it so that we get regular time in the service hearing the preaching. If the material is too hard for a non-teacher with limited preparation time to get their head around, I won't be able to find people willing to take it on.

Gary Ware said...

I could probably understand her opinion.
I think I remember hearing her say that giving younger children's lack of capacity to think in abstract that object lessons which require a transfer of one principle to another situation have very limited effectiveness. It's one of the reasons why adults love object lessons, but children are more fascinated by the object you've produced.
A hermeneutic which says Issac and Abraham is about Jesus obeying God doesn't spring from the text, and any attempt to make it leap from one to the other relies on the child simply taking your word for it.

Deb said...

Yeah, I'm still trying to decide what I think about the Jesus Storybook Bible. But I'm not sure the Sandy's reading of the text of the Abraham & Isaac story is the same as mine. I agree that I don't think Isaac obeying Abraham is about Jesus obeying God. But the Jesus Storybook Bible doesn't exactly say that. Here's the text:

"...God helped Abraham and Isaac understanding something. God wanted his people to live, not die. God wanted to rescue his people, not punish them. But they must trust him.
'One day Someone will be born into your family,' God promised them. 'And he will bring happiness to the whole world.'
God was getting ready to give the whole world a wonderful present. It would be God's way to tell his people, 'I love you.'
Many years later, another Son would climb another hill, carrying wood on his back. Like Isaac, he would trust his Father and do what his Father asked. He wouldn't struggle or run away.
Who was he? God's Son, his only Son - the Son he loved.
The Lamb of God."

The JSB probably overemphasises Isaac's role in the story, but I think the statement at the end is okay. I probably have more of a problem with the earlier part about God helping them understand that he wanted them to "live, not die". It's all a bit touchy-feely and vague for me. Why not just come out and explain it clearly?

Gary Ware said...

Yep, you sound right. I'd based by bit on the comment, not the text. (mea culpa)
I'm not up on enough Moore College style theology to know if that's where the problem comes from.
While you're taking in all things Jesus Storybook Bible, here's the soundtrack:

Deb said...

Yeah, I am just in two minds. The JSB comes with some Big Name recommendations like Challies and Tim Keller. On one hand, the text departs from the literal story of the Bible quite a lot. It sort of feels weird to have a whole year of Sunday School teaching not using an standard Bible. On the other hand, the text explains the message of the Bible really well. And, let's face it, when Sunday School teachers tell the Bible story, they are rarely reading directly from the Bible anyway. They usually have a kiddie version either memorized or scripted for them to read. Perhaps the older kids could go off afterwards during the craft time and read the same passage directly from a real Bible and discuss it. That might do it!

Deb said...

I ought to add, if case anyone is wondering why I don't just chew this all over with our minister, that we are without a minister at present, and the new bloke doesn't arrive until about a week before Sunday School starts next year.

Gary Ware said...

Glad to hear you've got a new bloke.

Anonymous said...

There's a new bloke???? I think we need to talk! J

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a solid plan Deb. We've had the JSB recommended to us by a lot of ministers in our area and rather conservative denomination. J

mattnbec said...

I'm in the process of considering Sunday School curriculum at our church at the moment. Our situation is very similar to yours. I found a bunch of this material in a cupboard at church and it seems as though it hasn't been used for about 10 years, so it's not going to be stuff the kids have already done. On a quick glance, it seems pretty good to me and good that it doesn't require purchasing a whole new set of materials. But I have a couple of questions/concerns, which it would help me if you can answer.

1) How long did you find the activities take? I'm slightly concerned that it mightn't fill up the time enough.
2) Given your comments about doing the Bible bit being a bit tricky and about the papercrafts taking time, could you tell me how long prep usually took?
3) Did you use the accompanying games etc books? If yes, how did you find them?


Deb said...

1. Our kids only went out to Sunday School half-way through church so the material only needed to cover about 40 minutes. It varied a bit, but I found the whole material usually took about 30 minutes, including craft. We didn't have any singing so if your Sunday School does then you may find it long enough. I would run the lesson and craft and if we still had time (because the congregation hadn't sung the last hymn) we would play a memory verse game. I like loud, fun memory verse games and the kids would really look forward to them. They could be stretched to fit whatever time we had left (and of course you could do the same kind of stretching with singing if that's your thing).
2) The prep. for the story usually took me about 30 minutes. The way I would do it was basically like this:
a) read the passage
b) read the teachers' notes in the book
c) cut and paste the passage (using into a word document
d) edit the passage down to a reasonable size and comprehension level for me to re-tell to the kids
e) in the editing process, I found I learnt most of the key points. But the night before and the morning of the lesson, I'd sit for 10 minutes and mentally "say aloud" the story a couple of times to make sure I didn't need to read it. I often used the drive to church to do one last mental run through (while my husband was driving obviously).

The paper crafts varied a lot in how long they took. We did have a couple that took an hour to cut out! At the start of each term, I photocopied off all the crafts for that term for all the groups and put them in plastic slips in a folder. That way I at least wasn't trying to find time to photocopy them each week. It also meant I could give the folder to another helper and have them do the cutting work for at least some of the crafts. Some weeks, it would be 10 minutes max. Other weeks, it was really time consuming. Quite a few times, they have lots of pieces for the crafts to be stuck on by the younger kids. If they tell you to cut those pieces out beforehand, they really mean it. We got caught a couple of times where we thought, "Oh, we'll just have the kids cut their own pieces out," and then the whole thing went pear-shaped. And some of the more complex crafts you need to have a quick practice of at home. The instructions are okay but sometimes if you haven't had a trial it's really hard to understand how it all fits together.

3) Didn't use the accompanying games book. Didn't know there was one until we'd already been using the material for a while. If you want my super-dooper list of memory verse games, email me (see the Contact Me tab at the top) and I'll send it to you.

Hope that helps. Ask me more if I've not been clear enough.

Deb said...

I forgot to add, that their suggested visual aids were a bit lame. I sometimes drew my own stick-figure cartoons on the board. Otherwise, I scanned their visual aids into Photoshop and coloured them in and enlarged them a bit to give me better figures to work with.

mattnbec said...

Thanks - these comments are really helpful. We've ended up running with this material and the extra books. So far, so good (and I like the extra material - the warm-up ideas/intro ideas seem like fun)

The Bible gateway idea is good! And would allow a similar editing down idea if you wanted for the kids reading the Bible text too.

Like you, I'm thinking of trying to help the kids into the passage by using lego/little people/stick-man sketches etc to help act out or illustrate. Or getting the kids to act it out etc. Hadn't thought of scanning and enlarging stuff from the book, but that's a good idea!

Now that we're in-swing, I'm keen to hear about ideas for memory verses too - thanks for the kind offer of your list! I've got a few ideas, but more would help me heaps! Will email you now.