by Tori Smit
What will we teach this fall?
For many of our churches, thinking creatively about how and what our Sunday schools will be teaching this fall as we go online, over Zoom, or become parent-led is a huge and overwhelming concern.
As each of us begins to look at the curriculum we’re already using, or perhaps wonders if there is another we ought to consider, we can be assured that the mainline Protestant and Reformed curricula that many of our churches use have our backs. Each publishing house has been working hard to develop resources specific to help you adapt lesson plans for new delivery platforms and circumstances. Some have even developed new curriculum resources that are shortened and easy for parents to use at home with little preparation and materials needed.
What follows is a summary of the most commonly used materials in our churches. Take a moment to find the curriculum resource your church uses and discover what’s available to support your church in its planning for this fall.
Please take care, stay safe, and keep well.
Dwell (Faith Alive, Christian Reformed Church, North America)
To aid leaders in adapting to the many, varied ways in which Sunday school might be delivered this fall, Dwell is producing a variety of resources to fit your specific needs.
First, there will be a new curriculum resource called Dwell Flex, available for September, that has been specifically written for our current circumstances. Dwell Flex will include 36 simplified, one-page, multi-age, multi-setting lesson plans. These lessons can be led using any online platform by Sunday school leaders, or taught at home by parents. Each lesson consists of four parts: Breathe, Read, Wonder and Pray. These lessons require very little advanced preparation and materials to be successful. To view a sample session, go here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/119k2ETSLBW2LojcJZWRrk2_TFSqEsq8e/view.
Once the completed collection of sessions are uploaded, they will be found at Dwell digital here: https://dwell.faithaliveresources.org/digital.html.
If your church prefers to adapt their regular Dwell lessons, Faith Alive has also produced a template aiding churches in adapting any lesson plan to your new delivery context. This template makes use of the same four parts as Dwell Flex. For further information and a sample of the template, visit: https://network.crcna.org/childrens-ministry/template-leading-simplified-dwell-session.
For further information, links to great articles, and helps for planning, go to: https://network.crcna.org/childrens-ministry/coming-soon-resources-using-dwell-covid-19-world.
Feasting on the Word (Westminster John Knox Press, Presbyterian Church (USA))
This lectionary-based curriculum has been written for every age, from children to adults, inviting the whole church to engage weekly with the same scriptures in study and worship. In light of the pandemic, Feasting on the Word has produced a two-page guide for educational leaders and teachers to use as they adapt the curriculum for virtual gatherings. This guide encourages leadership to primarily make use of their Joining the Feast materials that already accompany all small church and total church subscriptions, or can be purchased separately as a nine-month or 12-month subscription through The Thoughtful Christian website.
The Joining the Feast resource includes materials specific for each season of the church year, offers connections and stories with children for worship, provides litanies and prayers for worship, and offers printable children’s bulletins and mission and learning opportunities for the whole church. The Feasting on the Word guide for online curriculum adaptation can be found at: https://www.pcusastore.com/Content/Site119/Basics/14709FOWCGuidef_00000142136.pdf.
Growing in God’s Love: A Story Bible Curriculum (Westminster John Knox Press, Presbyterian Church (USA))
The PCUSA is releasing a brand new curriculum this fall to coincide with the recently released Growing in God’s Love: A Bible Storybook edited by Elizabeth F. Caldwell and Carol A. Wehrheim. This broadly graded, intergenerationally focused curriculum was not designed for use during the pandemic, yet dovetails easily and smoothly with online learning and family faith formation at home.
Growing in God’s Love was designed for smaller churches with few children in each age group, larger churches who want to intentionally teach mixed age groups, and for families to use together at home. Designed for families with children between the ages of five and ten, this curriculum offers an At Home Ideas page with every lesson plan. The publishers are also producing a guide to accompany each unit that will outline how you can put together unit-specific kits to leave on families’ doorsteps for their use at home. These guides will become a permanent item with this curriculum and will be available for download from the product page.
To view an introduction to Growing in God’s Love curriculum, download a sample session, and watch a webinar that gives a great overview to the materials, visit their page here: https://www.pcusastore.com/Pages/Item/13638/Story-Bible-Curriculum.aspx. If you wish to focus on how to best adapt the curriculum to an online or hybrid situation from the webinar jump to the 17:28 minute mark here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dohswAjGISk&feature=youtu.be.
Growing in Grace and Gratitude (Geneva Press, Presbyterian Church (USA))
This fall, Growing in Grace and Gratitude will offer weekly, at-home components for churches to use alongside their regular curriculum materials. Users can choose which components they wish to use each week with families at home. These components will include the children’s adapted Bible story (Grace Sightings), wondering questions, the Bible story audio, and a colouring sheet that captures the grace moment from the story for that week.
There will also be a downloadable guide produced each week to help leaders adapt the previously published, in-person lesson plan to an online lesson for ages 3-5 and 5-10. This guide will be made available each week on the Growing in Grace and Gratitude website. You can download the available Grace Sightings and weekly colouring sheet, and listen to the audio story for home use now at: https://www.pcusastore.com/Pages/Default.aspx?ContentID=10581&Title=GGG-Quarter-Downloads-ENGLISH. Don’t forget to bookmark this page to keep up with these and other resource supports throughout the fall.
Spark, Holy Moly, Connect, & Whirl (Sparkhouse, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America)
Sparkhouse produces a wide range of curricula options. Regardless of which your church is using, Sparkhouse is preparing helpful resources now to aid you in adapting them for a remote context. In early August they will have available 24 videos, each with an accompanying two-page guide, that will assist your leaders in adapting their lesson plans for either a prerecorded, live-streamed, or virtual meeting. The videos and guides will help you prepare to teach the story, review and choose supplies, and adapt the opening and closing times, storytelling and leaflet activities for these new circumstances.
So, if your church uses Spark Lectionary, and you teach the grades 1-2 class, there will be a specific video and guide that will walk you through taking your particular lessons online for your curriculum and age grouping. Likewise, if you teach a specific age grouping with any of the other curricula Sparkhouse publishes (Spark All Kids, Classroom, Lectionary, or Rotation. Whirl All Kids, Classroom or Lectionary. Holy Moly or Connect), there will be a specific video and guide just for you.
To view a sample video and guide, and to sign up to receive notice when all of these resources are available, go to https://go.wearesparkhouse.org/guides
It’s well worth bookmarking the Sparkhouse blog to revisit in the days ahead. Great articles keep popping up with practical ideas and thoughtful reflections. You can find the blog here: https://blog.wearesparkhouse.org.
Then, hop over to facebook and check out the Sparkhouse Facebook page where Dr. Dawn Rundman hosts Wednesday’s With Dawn on Facebook Live. In each of these short video chats, Dawn walks leaders through the process of planning for a remote children’s ministry this fall. Find the video links here: https://www.facebook.com/wearesprkhouse.
Whole People of God, and Seasons of the Spirit (Wood Lake Books)
In speaking with Wood Lake books, they assured me that help for the adaptation of their Sunday school materials for this fall are presently being developed. They told me to ‘stay tuned’ to the website for updates. If you use these resources, keep checking out the sites:
Whole People of God: www.wholepeopleofgod.com
Seasons of the Spirit: www.seasonsonline.ca