To Curriculum or Not?

Youth Specialties
August 1st, 2011

It's an age-old argument in student ministry. A conversation that I've sat through many times. To use curriculum or not use curriculum? That is the question.

Before I was in the thick of student ministry, I was always in the “write your own stuff” camp. It somehow seemed more holy. Then I got hired full time and started sharing every Wednesday night. BAM! Circumstances can changes one's mindset pretty quickly.

Here's some of the more common thoughts expressed about using curriculum or sermon outlines in ministry…

  • The writers of the material don't know my students and therefore the content won't be as relevant to them.
  • I want to allow the Holy Spirit to “breath” life into my weekly talks. If it's scripted, that's not going to happen.
  • If I use a “canned message”, I will spend less time preparing my own heart and pouring into the scripture.
  • I want to use my own stories as illustrations, not someone else's.
  • I'm saving a lot of money by writing my own stuff.
Where am I at now? First of all, let me say this. I don't think any one way is right for everyone. To each his own because we don't all come from the same mold. But would you allow me to unpack how I tackle preparing messages and offer my opinion on some of the common ideologies expressed above?
When I start preparing for a message or an upcoming student message series, I start with prayer. I want to see where God wants to take us. I absolutely don't want to just pick a topic out of a hat. A conversation with God is the first thing.
From there, I'll generally go to my list of resources. Some of them online, some of them purchased and in my office. I'll see if there's any resources I can use to help get my flow started.
I know this isn't for everyone, but for me personally, I like to begin research with a trusted person's outline and work from there. Here's some things I do as I use this kind of a resource.
  • I read through it – the WHOLE thing.
  • I edit out irrelevant or unnecessary content.
  • I make all sorts of notes and scribbles: adding, updating, fixing, illustrating, etc.
  • I replace stories with personal stories from my own life.
  • I edit for length.
  • I do all this early enough in the process so that I can let it marinate in my head and go back and read and polish it a few more times before I share.
This accomplished a few different things for me.
  • For whatever reason (it's the way I'm wired, I guess), this process takes a whole lot less time than if I were to start from scratch.
  • It allows me to take someone else's content and shape it to fit well in my local ministry context.
  • It allows me to stretch and use my creative gift with created content.
  • It allows time for me to spend quality and deep time with the message and related scriptures so that it's not just a drive-by experience.
The last thing… as I present the message, I try my best to stay open to the Holy Spirit's leading. That means leaving even my edited script if I hear His still small voice. Because there's one thing I know for sure: He knows better than I do the message that needs to be communicated at that time and space and to those specific students.

So, I guess I pretty much sit on the fence for this one. I can see pros and cons with doing it only one way — either way. My preference is to do a little bit of both. It's what works for me. What about you?

Youth Specialties

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.