How do you choose what materials to use with your children's or young people's group week by week? Are the decisions made only on cost, or colour, or ease of use?
If we want children and young people to be nurtured in the Christian faith and grow in their knowledge and understanding, we should give careful consideration to the materials we use. Sharon Ely Pearson, Children's Ministry Specialist from Morehouse Publishing, suggests the following questions that should be asked of any materials we are using with children, young people - and adult leaders!
- Purpose: Why was it written? Does it match our needs?
- Theology: How is God depicted? Who is Jesus? The Holy Spirit? The People of God? Is it in keeping with my church’s / denomination’s theology? How is creation, sin, judgement and redemption explored?
- Type: Is it lectionary-based, Montessori-approach, Rotational/Learning Center, Thematic? What type will support our goals?
- Lessons: Is there supportive material for teachers? Engaging and a variety of activities for learners? Special supplies or typical on-hand materials needed?
- Bible: How is the Bible used? What version? Are Old Testament stories told? New Testament? Gospels? What is left out?
- Worship: How is prayer included? Is it important to have lessons on the sacramental traditions? Creedal statements? How is Baptism and Communion explained?
- Publisher: Is it affiliated with any particular denomination that may impact the lessons and theology?
- Cost: Does it fit in my budget? Is it reusable? Dated? Extra pieces that need to be purchased for the program to work?
I'd also add a couple more:
- Illustrations: Are there a variety of ethnicities in the illustrations? Will your children and young people find images with whichthey can identify? How are Jesus and the disciples portrayed? Are the illustrations faithful to the text?
- Inclusion: Does the material recognise additional needs and disability? How is this shown in the illustrations? Are healing miracles dealt with sensitively? Is gender portrayed in a stero-typical way?
Take time in making your choices. Don’t do it alone – assemble a team to research, study, and hopefully try a test run with a sample or two. When looking at each resource, look at several lessons if possible, as well as different age levels. If you want a little more to think about, download Sharon's full article from the links on the right.