Is dated curriculum, well, dated?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Some people think dated Sunday School curriculum is sort of, well, out of date. In case you're not sure what I mean by "dated" curriculum, I'm simply referring to the materials that have long been called "quarterlies," learner guides and leader materials that are published four times a year, each including 13 lessons which are scheduled to be used on or around a particular "date," typically a Sunday. But there are several reasons why such materials are still a great solution for most Sunday School classes. Here are a few:

1. Dated materials ensure a balanced treatment of the Bible. The individual lessons in a dated curriculum, while designed to be a satisfying lesson for a given class session, are also part of a larger unit of study -– usually at least a month. In addition, those units are typically a part of a larger framework of study that deals with "the whole counsel of God," providing a balanced coverage of Scripture passages, topics and characters over a period of several years.

2. Dated materials provide a systematic way for members to prepare for class participation. I recently completed some research on discussion as a teaching method. There is a consensus among those who write about this method that the number one variable that influences the quality of discussion is advanced preparation. A class discussion will be only as fruitful as the level of meaningful participation by prepared group members.

3. Dated materials make it easier for newcomers to feel included. Because they are relatively inexpensive, every person who attends the class can be provided a copy of the learner guide on their very first visit. That communicates at least two things to the newcomer: (1) we value your presence and your participation and (2) we expect you to come back again next week!

4. Dated materials are a great visitation tool. It's always easier to make a visit when you have something to deliver. Here's a scenario: A couple visits the worship service at your church. As a Sunday School leader, you receive the contact information via e-mail. You drop by the guest's home one evening, and let them know (a) you don't want to come in, (b) you're glad they visited the church, (c) you'd like to invite them to attend your Sunday School class, and (d) you've brought a copy of the Bible study material so they might know what the class will be discussing on the day they come. That breaks down a significant barrier in the mind of an unchurched person: the feeling that they'll seem ignorant in the class. The material will give them confidence.

5. Dated materials accelerate the development of teachers. Every class -– especially every adult class -– should have an apprentice teacher. You do not want people sitting in your class thinking, "Wow, they are so smart; I could never do that." Rather, you want someone -– a potential apprentice -– sitting in your class thinking, "I think I could do that, especially if they provided me those great resources." In addition, it is a whole lot easier to enlist a substitute teacher if you can hand them some great materials!

6. Dated materials provide a way to reach out to absentees. Back in the olden days of Sunday School work, many churches did "literature distribution" up to four times each year. They would order enough learner guides for everyone on the roll, then divide up into teams and deliver the new books to every class member. The communication was simple: We value you as a member of our class, next quarter would be a great time to give the class a fresh start, and here's the new Sunday School book so you can prepare to participate. Maybe some of those old ideas might still just work.

LifeWay has lots of options for Sunday School, including several lines of dated materials. Click the "Curriculum Guide" link at www.lifeway.com/sundayschool to find out more.


David Francis directs the Sunday School department of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Download Story