“And please don’t let the kids touch the cellos.”
When I was a children’s ministry leader, that was a sentence I had to include in our curriculum as a reminder for our volunteers. We were a mobile church that met at a local high school. The children’s ministry happened in the band, orchestra, and chorus rooms.
Every piece of curriculum we used had to be modified in some way to fit our context.
Now, I’m a children’s ministry volunteer at a church that has its own building. But our children’s pastor still has to modify the lessons based on materials, service times, and the needs of the kids and families we serve.
No matter which curriculum you use, you’re probably modifying it in some way to meet the needs of your families too. As technology continues to advance and provide new ways for us to communicate and share information, there are more and more options for creating lessons that allow us to share the gospel in every ministry context.
One tool that continues to grow in prevalence is digital curriculum. Digital curriculum at its most basic level is not that new. However, the ministry world continues to expand its offerings of digital curriculum that makes our roles in ministry more effective and efficient.
What is digital curriculum?
Because of the ever-changing nature of technology, the term “digital curriculum” doesn’t offer us a clearcut definition that encompasses the details of all the curriculum offers. Instead, digital curriculum tends to fall into a progression of formats.
The earliest forms of digital curriculum provided leaders a way to purchase and access files through a provider’s website with the option to download the files to the leader’s computer. This level of digital curriculum often allows leaders to share the files digitally with their team through the provider’s website, sometimes even creating accounts for their volunteers to access the curriculum online too.
Other curriculum providers expanded the definition to include video-led teachings and presentation elements within the teaching files. This allows leaders to use the files on-screen while teaching.
Recently, curriculum providers have started exploring a new form of digital curriculum. Leaders can access the lessons and media within the provider’s website, application, or portal. Rather than merely downloading the document and media files, the lessons can be manipulated, edited, and formatted within the leader’s account on the provider’s site.
This option provides a seamless way for leaders to modify the lessons for their context. It also maintains the overall professional formatting (and doesn’t take up a lot of space on a hard drive).
How can I prepare for my context?
This last option of digital curriculum offers leaders the ultimate control in preparing lessons for their specific context. A leader can make adjustments to the individual activities included, easily rearrange the order of activities, adjust the overall time length, and even type their own wording right into the professionally formatted document.
It’s almost like leaders are given all the main pieces of a puzzle they can fit together in any number of ways to form a unique picture. The leader has the capability to maneuver and adjust the puzzle pieces to create a lesson plan most compatible with their preferences.
After leaders have edited the content to be exactly what their kids and volunteers need, the options for sharing include downloading the files to their computer, emailing them to their team, adding team members to the portal itself, and even sharing directly to a screen with a presentation view that allows leaders to see their notes while projecting the media on-screen for kids.
Choosing a curriculum that offers this new level of digital accessibility allows leaders to adjust lessons as much as they need to without losing the professional look of the formatting. And this approach doesn’t require lots of time to make the changes.
As with any new technology, there is a learning curve for interacting with a new interface. But leaders who take the time to learn will save time in the long run. You’ll be able to use that time to build relationships and do ministry—all the things that you do best.
Why should I go digital?
No matter what type of digital curriculum you use, leaders can reap the benefits of digital curriculum. Digital curriculum in all forms allows for easier sharing with your volunteer team. You can share the lesson files with them digitally through email, scheduling systems, and even private social media groups.
This digital access gives volunteers the chance to preview the lessons ahead of time and sometimes even teach the lessons from a digital format.
Digital curriculum can often help leaders save physical space and resources. You print only what you need—no piles of extra booklets from stacking up in your office or storage closet.
Digital curriculum is becoming easier and easier for leaders to use.
Ultimately, digital curriculum allows leaders to create lessons and provide worship experiences that best fit their ministry context. I’ve never met a leader who used a curriculum or lesson plan exactly the way it was provided. We all modify the activities or wording to reach the kids in our ministry. And that’s a good thing!
God has placed the families we lead in our care for a reason, and we know them best.
Digital curriculum provides leaders the opportunity to modify the content to best serve the kids and families we serve.
Is it right for my ministry?
As you explore options and the feasibility of using digital curriculum in your own ministry, consider these key aspects:
Can you afford the digital curriculum options? How do they compare to your current budget for curriculum, including printing and material costs?
How time consuming is your lesson prep each week? In what ways could using a digital curriculum decrease your time spent on modifying lessons?
Are your volunteers ready and willing to explore digital options? Do you have a few key leaders who would be willing to “test drive” digital curriculum options with you so they can share feedback and suggestions?
Digital Curriculum: The Way Forward
As the world at large streamlines processes and systems for sharing information, our processes and systems for communication in ministry will continue to adapt too. I foresee more and more curriculum providers offering digital curriculums exclusively over printed materials.
As ministry leaders, we can embrace the tools of digital curriculum to help us better equip and empower our teams. Let’s teach kids about Jesus in the way that works best with the flock God has called us to shepherd.