3 Simple Guidelines to Maximize Curriculum Impact


I remember yelling this to our youth leadership team one time when we were meeting.  Everyone was frustrated with the small group curriculum that we were using.

There seems to be almost a limitless amount of curriculum on the market. You would think that some of it would be good. Probably a more accurate statement would be that there’s no perfect curriculum.

In fact it has nothing to do with the curriculum, we are the problem.

These lesson series are created in a bubble. It was either created for another church context or an author created it at the request of a company. Even if you make your own curriculum it will never fit the needs of everyone in your group.

Here’s the key. If you follow these 3 simple guidelines it will make any curriculum much better.

Its a Guide on Your Journey

I have thoroughly enjoyed The Lord of The Rings books and movies.  Think of this fellowship of characters on the journey to destroy the one ring that rules them all.  Gandalf is this fellowships tour guide.  Could you imagine how boring the story would be if Gandalf pulled out script and told everyone exactly what they had to do and where they had to be.

When your leaders ask every question and say every word that the curriculum says you are just as boring.  Curriculum is not meant to be a script but a guide.  It directs you in the direction you are supposed to go.

Read over the lesson ahead of time.  Circle the questions you want to focus on.  Highlight the areas of teaching that you are going to focus on. But by means possible be flexible to your group.  Remember the curriculum is a guide not a script.

The Fellowship Talks

One of my favourite scenes from the first Lord of the Rings movies takes place at Rivendell.  This is where elves, dwarfs, humans, hobbits and wizards are gathered to decide the fate of the one ring.  This is when the fellowship is created.  There is a lot of commotion, but there is also a lot of conversation.

When your group meets, if the leader is doing more than 50% of the talking, then you’re doing something wrong. One key to using curriculum is conversation.  The goal is getting the students talking and interacting with the material.  We have to fight the urge to be the expert and do all of the talking.

Become a master of asking open-ended questions.  Allow for awkward silence until someone talks. Wait to find the right questions that will engage your students.  Use silence as a tool.

One Thought to Rule Them All

Frodo and his fellowship had one goal. Destroy the one ring that ruled them all.  This was the focus of every member.  It’s this focus that allowed them to accomplish their goal.

The common mistake when we use curriculum is that we say too much.  Your students walk away and they will say they had a good time but remember nothing.

When you start your time together with your students, you must know what the one thing you want them to remember. Be focused on the one thing.  Have them going home with that one lesson burnt onto their hearts and minds.

How about you, how do you use curriculum effectively?

Share this:

Tyson Howells

Tyson is the associate youth ministry director for Vanguard Youth Ministry Institute. He has been a youth pastor for many years in Winnipeg as well as in Edmonton. Tyson is passionate in seeing relational youth ministry that results in youth that are passionate about following Jesus. He still leads a small group at the youth group in his home church.