We all like things that are easy. The only evidence we need to support this claim is that they put peanut butter and jelly into the same jar for us. Come on, really? Is it that difficult?
Quite often, when I see people looking for new curriculum, one of the criteria they have is that it is easy. But should it be? Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with easy, but when it comes to teaching kids the Bible, easy might not be that great after all.
Curriculum should not be easy, but simple.
For something to be easy means that it requires little to no effort. But teaching the Bible should never be easy like that. Teaching requires some level of effort. Even the best curriculum will not be plug-and-play because every church context—indeed every kid in a group—is unique. A teacher has to work, and work hard at times, not only to understand what is being taught, but how to help it connect to each kid and for each kid to apply it to his or her life.
But at the same time, a good curriculum should not make life needlessly difficult for a teacher to prepare. Rather, it should be as simple as possible. The leader guide should not be difficult to follow. Hours should not be needed to gather obscure supplies. Activities should not need elaborate set-up. All of these things should be as simple as possible so that the teacher’s prep time is invested where it should be—praying earnestly for each kid and working hard to customize the content for his or her unique setting.
Curriculum should not be easy, but clear.
Not only should curriculum be simple, but it should also be clear. I have in mind the Bible content itself here. Each session should have a main idea that is not difficult to understand. And everything in that session should connect to that idea. A teacher should not have to wonder what an activity has to do with the Bible content or how the main idea is connected to the Bible story. A good curriculum will take even the more complex teachings of Scripture and present them in a clear and compelling way.
Curriculum should not be easy, but effective.
Good curriculum should be simple to use and clear to understand. But more than anything else, it should be effective. We want all three of these, of course, but if something has to give, that something should never be effective. A curriculum that is simple and clear but fails to point kids to the gospel is not going to foster discipleship. We can’t forget our goal of discipleship. There isn’t anything easy about discipleship. It takes time and energy. It can be disappointing and even frustrating at times. It requires that we repeat ourselves over and over. But it is what we are after in partnership with parents.
When it comes to curriculum, then, give me simple, give me clear, and give me effective, but you can keep the easy.