Check out the new blog post youth specialties. Hope it helps your ministry!
In the final installment of the Youth Curriculum Review of 2015, let’s take a look at some small group curriculum.
Creative Bible Lessons in Job by Doug Ranck. Let me just say this. I have searched and used many youth curriculum, and one of the curricula that I often recommend is the Creative Bible Lessons. Here’s what you get with this curriculum. A starter or icebreaker for the lesson that often comes with multiple options with minimal setup but maximum effectiveness. Then the lesson is dynamic, easy to teach, good foundation of Scripture, and a good challenge. In the end, there are discussion questions and worksheets that work very well in the small group setting.
Serving Like Jesus by Doug Fields & Brett Eastman. This was a good fit for small group, but on a heavier teaching night, it would not work as well. The teaching material is limited and often required some additional work. However, the discussion questions and outlined series were phenomenal. I actually added to the series by inviting people in the church who were serving like Jesus to interview them. That added to the material. The highlight of this curriculum was definitely the plethora of interaction and discussion questions. So if you struggle in the teaching side, this might not be best series. But in a small group setting with shorter teaching and more discussion, this is perfect.
Surrender by Francis Chan. Disclaimer to begin: I’m a huge Francis Chan. I’ve read every book he has written and Crazy Love happens to be in my top 5 books of all time. That being said, this series is a small group goldmine for many reasons. It provides a DVD series to break up your teaching. The subject matters are not fluff, but are very challenging, relevant, and hold the interest well. The lesson is very well put together and Biblically based. The discussion questions provided allow the small groups to flourish and have great follow-up. The only down side is it only 4 weeks. Other than that, it is well worth using for a “break” series during the year, to finish the year, or even in a retreat setting.
As mentioned in a previous blog article “Why You Should Teach Theology to Teenagers”, I decided to bravely go where few youth pastors have gone before…a series on theology. Theology and doctrine are the foundation of our beliefs. And it is what you believe and who you believe in that drives how you will live your life. This makes this theology series called “Theology of a Teenager” a potentially life-changing series. So, realizing the importance of these lessons, I decided to use several resources to enhance my study and prep for each lesson. Below is a review of the resources used…
Curriculum Review: Theology Resources
Clear by Chris Folmsbee. This curriculum does a great job of breaking down each major doctrine in a very understandable way. The writer presents the material in a way that is very teachable with workable outlines. This resource was used heavily in the outline phases of the lessons. It often hit the major points that I desired to discuss and helped me narrow down my discussion points. Also, Folmsbee does a great job of integrating Scripture throughout. Large volume of Bible passages to work with in every chapter was very helpful.
Practical Christian Theology by Floyd H. Barackman. Why is this on the list you ask? While it is true, this is not a teen curriculum. However, this was very helpful in bringing it a notch. I warned the students that there would be challenging lessons throughout. But rather than getting eye rolls, I got enthusiasm and teens who were up to the challenge. With this book, you are able to dive a little deeper and challenge your students. I found the students appreciated me not dumbing down the material, but taking it to a higher level. Those that were still new, I still had balanced lesson with the Gospel clear throughout the series.
Creative Bible Lessons in Essential Theology by Andrew Hedges. Compared to the two above, this resource was not used as much. But, this curriculum was valuable for other reasons. It provided great discussion questions to keep the lessons interactive, rather than a long lecture. Also, each lesson has a “breaking the ice” section which was helpful to bridge a game time or announcements to the lesson time.
I feel bad for even putting this in the bad category because of all that Kara Powell has contributed to youth ministry. But I have to be honest, and it is not entirely her fault. This resource was a hand-me-down from 1999. So the material is a bit out of date. There has been quite a progression of technology since then, and it puts many of the illustrations and teacher resources non-usable. Also, the curriculum is very difficult to use and many of the teaching ideas require prep time and a great deal of materials. This is not a curriculum tool that I would suggest using for a theology series.
Introduction to Series:
Other Illustration Videos:
As I prepared to do a series on Creation vs. Evolution, I discovered there are not many non-DVD series curriculum out there. With my interest in the study, and desiring to teach it myself, I decided to purchase books and develop my own curriculum (most of which were purchased here).
So rather than review each resource in detail, a short review will be given on the multiple resources. Please keep in mind that science was and still is my worst subject, so my puny brain struggled with some of these books mightily.
Curriculum Review: Creation vs. Evolution Resources
Creation or Evolution by Mike Snavely. This was not easy to find, but boy am I glad I did. Most of my material came out of this book. It is designed for curriculum but I would not suggest using this as your only source. Having said that, if I had to choose one resource for my presentations, it would be this one. Great illustrations, easy-to-read explanations, updates facts and information, and very easy to use. I strongly recommend this book for anyone teaching on creation/evolution.
The Lie: Evolution by Ken Ham. A little strong of a title, but true. This book was very helpful for providing a Biblical foundation to your lessons. While I did not use the entire book, I found it very useful. While it is easy to get caught up in the scientific nature of this subject, this book allows you to bring a spiritual emphasis into your presentations.
The Not So Useful:
Evolution Exposed (Earth Science & Biology) by Roger Patterson– What is this like? Me feel dumb. This was way above my pay grade, and way above my head. Was there material in the book that I used, absolutely. But, in teaching a survey class that is more an overview, these books are not for you. However, if you are looking to go into great detail on certain subjects, these are winners.
In the past I’ve written about the value of curriculum, and how to find the right curriculum. So, now that you have reason to use curriculum, and some confidence in how to find it, I’d like to continue the curriculum review series of this past year (seen here, here, and here).
“Apologetics” by RBP FaithBuilders
Bible-based. A curriculum that uses God’s Word properly and frequently is always appreciated. This allows the students to dive into the Bible and use it as a foundation for their apologetics.
Options. Something every teacher appreciates is options. This curriculum provides several options in each lesson for illustrations and group work.
“Confident Christian” by Group Publishing
Worldview. With the growing diversity in our country, it is a necessity for a believer to have an understanding of other religions and worldviews. In apologetics, this is especially necessary. This curriculum does a dynamite job of accomplishing this goal.
Variety. The students really enjoyed the interaction and varied illustration (and so did the teacher). The group work was always effective and the opening illustrations were very helpful.
“Apologetics” by RBP FaithBuilders
Is that it? There were times when I was asking this question. It seemed to fall short at times in terms of amount of content. While the content was strong in quality, it
Dial up internet? This material needs to be upgraded. The material, handouts, and even some content are behind the times. It is time for a new edition. However, it does not de-value to the material itself, just hurts the presentation of it.
“Confident Christian” by Group Publishing
Again? One major problem I had with the material was the repetition. Although review is good, they seemed to stretch lessons to the point of repeating content.
The Grade: B- (RBP), B (Group)
Last week, I wrote a very convincing blog on why you should consider using curriculum. This week is a brief list of websites that will help you find the right curriculum. Even if you already using a year-long curriculum like XP3 or LIVE, you most likely have other teaching times. So, you inevitably have the daunting task of searching the internet for curriculum that will fit your topic, your teaching style, your group size…and the list goes on. Below is a list of websites that I have used in the past.
Quick tip: Open all websites, type in the topic or Book study in the search box provided, and compare the products found.
Youth Specialties. What is nice about Youth Specialties is explained in their organization’s name. They specialize in youth ministry material. Several of these other companies have a wider range of material, which does not make them any better or worse, but I feel Youth Specialties garners trust with their focused material on youth. You will not have to worry whether the material is designed for older or younger audiences, but is tailored specifically for youth ministry.
Group. What I like about their website and curriculum is it is tailored for a specific program. Whether it is a small group setting, mission trip training, sermons, or even junior high or high school material, the resource organization on their website is very helpful. Group also provides a LIVE curriculum that will last the entire junior high and high school years – 72/144 weeks respectively.
Regular Baptist Press. This one might not be as well-known, but it happens to be my favorite. Out of all the curriculum I have used, this is the most user-friendly and creative. If I ever have a guest speaker for a series, I typically will try to give them this curriculum. The only downside is there typically is not DVD-based curriculum, if you are into those, and also the topics are somewhat limited. But if you find something that fits your topic, I would strongly recommend purchasing or at least using it as a supplement material to your lessons.
Simply Youth Ministry. See Youth Specialties description. This is essentially the youth department of Group. So much of what is on this website overlaps with Group and their products. But I still go here to make sure I didn’t miss any resources.
Zondervan. This may have gone under the radar to many of you, because Zondervan is often viewed as a publisher or regular books, not necessarily curriculum. I’ve found some great material here, including some incredibly creative DVD-series that my student have enjoyed. Worth a look.
Word of Life. When a youth worker or a new youth pastor is looking for a curriculum that is already designed, planned, and much of the pre-work is done already…this is where I point them. Word of Life has done a great job at providing curriculum that saves the teacher time in lesson planning, but also provides quality teaching and material for the lesson prep and study time.
So what about you? Why do you use or not use curriculum? Feel free to comment below.
Stay tuned for next week, where I will reveal some of my favorite curriculum that I have used in the past, and will look forward to your comments on what curriculum you have used as well.
This post will be the final installment of the curriculum review series for 2013-2014. My hope is these reviews will not discourage you from using curriculum, but help you find the right fit for your youth or student ministry. Feel free to comment and ask questions to help you make that important teaching decision.
Curriculum Review: The Ten – Liquid DVD Series
Creative. This brought a creative approach to the Ten Commandments, which the students appreciated. Often, when a student hears idols or thou shalt not murder, they don’t believe these commandments have anything to do with them. This series presents these in such a creative way, the student eyes are opened that their lives are impacted by each commandment, every day.
Visual. These videos bring the Ten Commandments to life. It is not just on a stone tablet anymore for the students. But these videos give real life examples of the commandments.
Discussion. Something I always appreciate about curriculum is discussion questions. This curriculum does not disappoint with discussion questions that engage, and encourage interaction with the material.
Act Right. Honestly, got a little weird in some parts. The acting at times struggled, and as a result it brought about some awkward moments for the audience. There may have been some laughter in the audience when things weren’t funny, and some shaking of heads in the attempt of comedy.
Stretch Exercises. Some of the application or visual representation of the commandments were a bit of a stretch. And some were difficult to teach as a result of that stretching. Also, the first two discussions were quite similar, which made things a little confusing.
Smell. The box smelled. Not kidding. No explanation for the smell. But it smelled.
The Grade: B-
Not my all-time favorite DVD series. It had its moments in presenting a creative way to study the Ten Commandments. But there were also times of awkwardness and a need for a teacher willing to work a little harder to make the material work. I wouldn’t go as far as saying this series stinks (although the box really did stink), because it was a fun series for our students. However, it required good discussion afterwards and a willingness to think a little outside the box to make it work.
Curriculum Review: Sticky Faith by Dr. Kara Powell & Brad Griffin (Zondervan Press)
Creativity. The creativity has to be the first thing that stands out to me. You can tell right off the bat that the writers have experience in youth ministry. This is not purely a lecture series, but an interactive teaching approach that is easy for the teacher to use. The illustrations were dynamite, and I was rarely disappointed in the variety.
Purpose. The premise falls in line with my youth ministry philosophy. As it says in Colossians 1:23, the goal in youth ministry should be: lead teenagers to a faith that lasts, that continues, and in this case, that sticks. With so many students leaving church following graduation, there must be something that we could present to our departing seniors that will help change the trend. This curriculum aims to buck the trend, and point the students towards a faith that isn’t tied to youth group.
Easy to Use. No matter the experience level of the teacher, this curriculum was pretty easy to use. Sure, there was study involved, but even if a parent wanted to use this with their upper-classmen, it could happen.
The video clips. I wasn’t too impressed with the content of the clips, and was even concerned at some of the wording for young Christians. Be careful, and do not feel pressured to use the clips. At times they add to the teaching, and other times they are simply not needed.
Activities. Some of the activities or worship practices were out of my comfort zone. It’s good to have creativity, but again, don’t feel pressured in doing something that may cause more confusion than growth. This was rare in the series, but it did appear.
The Grade: B
The variety and ease of use allowed this to be a positive grade. There were some flaws, and the spiritual depth needed an extra boost every now and then, but for the most part, I enjoyed the series. In fact, I was able to use this material for a transition class where I combined junior high, high school, & young adults. Very few curricula could ever be that versatile.
The curriculum did its job in providing valuable lessons for the senior to transition into adult life. It’s an important enough venture to look into this curriculum for a number of reasons: very few curricula out there like this, the epidemic of seniors leaving church after graduation, and the importance of the topics covered. Just those few reasons alone should encourage you to take a look.
FYI: Combining the DVD series and the Bible study provided a good balance of the study of James. Oftentimes, teens can get overloaded with DVD series and become bored or indifferent towards them. I try to provide a good balance of media and formal teaching time.
Live at Five provides a good change of pace in a Bible study. The liquid series always do a great job at providing a different perspective that sparks conversation and discussion. With a visual generation watching, it is interesting to see the students interact with the video. Who wouldn’t want a real live version of the lessons in the book of James? Seriously, the videos provide a real life portrayal of your Bible study. It will provide a great jump-start to your James study.
James by Simply Youth Ministry was perfect for my small group teaching times. It provided a short lesson and in-depth discussion questions at the end of each lesson. That is exactly the format of our small group times. So for our ministry, it fit perfectly. The lessons were well-written and easy to teach. Very few complaints about this curriculum coming from this guy.
If you are looking for a blockbuster movie with superb cinematography, dynamite acting, and two thumbs up from movie critics, you won’t find it in the Live at Five series. If you are comparing this series to Avengers or Godzilla, the special effects are going to fall short. But if you enter with a mindset of content over quality, then you will get your due. The acting is corny at times, and the video is low-budget, but as long as you keep your perspective, it will serve your purpose.
The James Bible study really had few downsides. One could be, if you rely heavily on curriculum for a lengthy teaching time, you will need to supplement. If you are not comfortable doing that, you may need to look elsewhere. Also, a 5 week series may be too short for a series (Thus, the reason for combining with Live at Five)
Live at Five – B
It was great to have a real life portrayal of the book of James. Students need to understand how the Bible is relevant to today. The corny-ness and shallow acting at times brought the grade down a little. You could turn off some of your avid movie goers pretty quickly.
James (by Simply Youth Ministry) – A
This curriculum, as I mentioned before, fit my needs perfectly. Oftentimes, curriculum doesn’t take the time to spell out discussion questions. It simply leaves that task up to the teacher. This James Bible study provided everything a teacher needs. Sure it was only 5 weeks and was a little on the short side, but if you need something for a small group context, it fits perfectly.