And whoever welcomes a child like this in My name welcomes me. Matthew 18:5

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Curriculum VS. Self Made Lesson Plans

 A major debate among Sunday School teachers is the use of a curriculum versus self made lesson plans. Some argue that curriculums provide more structure for class and they save time. While others say making a lesson plan yourself gives you the opportunity to build a lesson around your class' needs. But we can't seem to break down exactly which one is better. So, I'm here today to give you my take. 


  1. It provides consistent structure to class since most curriculums follow the same basic patterns every class. (Prayer, Lesson, Game, Craft, Snack, ETC.)
  2. If you're not a full time Children's Minister then it can sometimes be difficult to find the time get an entire lesson complete with games, snacks, and crafts every Sunday. In this respect a curriculum is definitely a pro since all of your material is there and waiting.  
  3. They often have really good ideas that we haven't thought of. These people have spent months putting together dozens of lessons before these curriculums are published. So, chances are they've had more time to come up with awesome ideas, versus your often mad rush to get a lesson plan together 2 hours before church because the weekend suddenly got away from you, come on we've all done it. 
  4. They can be reused when kids change in class. Kids grow up and come an go in Sunday Schools. So, I think it's totally acceptable to repeat a Curriculum after some time has passed. 
  5. If you have a sick day, are on vacation, or have an emergency and need someone else to teach your class having someone takeover for a Sunday is as easy as handing them a binder. And you don't have to worry about what the sub will teach or how the kids will react.
  6. Finally, a big perk to curriculums is that they're just easier to use. Everything is always right there when you need it. If you can read you're set. 

  1. Sometimes faster isn't always better. Every Sunday School Class is different. They all have different needs, likes and dislikes, and time frames even. So, with you curriculum you are a little more constrained as to what you can and can't do.
  2. Sometimes curriculums call for you to buy odds and end things, anywhere from a beach ball to clown costume. Which is cool...if your church budget can stretch it. So, be sure before selecting a curriculum to check out what it calls for.
  3. Sometimes curriculums may have been written by people of different denominations than your church. So, things may not always line up with what you like to teach. But don't panic, just grab a pen write a few notes in the margins, and you'll be fine.
Self Made Lesson Plans

  1. With self made lessons you get a more personal feel. You can make it much more one on one with your class.
  2. You get the chance to always minister on what A. God ministers to you and B. What you see the kids needing or dealing with.
  3. You're more flexible with your time frames and your schedules. Curriculums often start their first lesson at the beginning of the school year so lessons will fall right on holidays like Christmas and Easter. With self made lesson you're more flexible.
  4. You always know exactly word for word what you're ministering because, Hello you're the one that wrote it. This makes you more prepared and confident when entering the classroom.
  5. It gives you the opportunity to be creative, and learn some yourself through studying God's Word.
  6. Kids can tell when you're just going through the motions. Often times with curriculums you get the feeling that you don't have to try because it's all spelled out in black and white for you. But with self made lessons you take your time, blood (Paper cuts hurt.), sweat (It's tough carrying all those papers around every weekend.), and tears (Yeah, I'm a waterworks kind of girl when God ministers to me.) to get done every week. Which in all honestly does give you an awesome sense of accomplishment.
  1. It often takes a lot of time out of your week to get a full lesson together, between studying (which honestly we should all be doing every day anyway), searching online for ideas, coming up with games, getting snack and trying out crafts. 
  2. If you have a substitute in your class they usually have to come up with their own lesson unless you have one prepared. So, Note: Pick a sub you really trust if they will be the ones preparing the lesson. If the sub says or does something wrong you will have some angry parents.
  3. It's often more difficult to cater to a larger class if you use a self made lesson plan. Simply because you're the only one getting all the material together, and if you're running 30+ students every week self made plans can not only be expensive, but they can be time consuming. We don't get a dress rehearsal for our classes if a game or craft takes longer than expected then you will have parents tapping their foot at the door and a lesson left unfinished.
  4. Chances are if you are as unorganized with your self made lesson plans as I am you won't be able to reuse them years later because they could be anywhere between your house, church, and the road you took on that spontaneous after church trip to the beach. 

 So, to finish this debate on a personal note...I often use both a curriculum and self made lesson plans. It really depends on my time that week. I'm not a full time Children's Minister so between work, keeping up the house, running errands, and the general craziness some weeks throw at me I'm just glad to get to eat some days much less prepare a full Sunday School lesson so I'm a big curriculum fan. 

 However, sometimes God will minister to me about doing a certain topic in class. And frankly no matter my time constraints, I would rather do what God says. Sometimes I even like to do special days if we've had exceptionally well behaved classes for a few weeks. I will use a self made lesson plan with a few extra games or activities that week.
 Sometimes, I even combine self made lesson plans and a curriculum. Or, I take parts of two or three curriculum lessons and mix them together to make a semi self made lesson plan. 
 In all honesty, the main thing is to follow how God is leading you. We only see these kids on Sunday mornings, but God sees them all week. He knows what they deal with at school, at home, and even in their minds. So, if I can give you one piece of advice it's this, don't listen to cynics and the critics, listen to God. And you will see more growth and joy in your classes than you ever would with just a curriculum or just a self made lesson. No matter what you use, at the end of the day, let it be a God made lesson.

What curriculum is your favorite? Leave your answers in the comments section below.

God Bless,

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