Stick to the Curriculum:
Occasionally church leaders will give their Bible teachers a “stick to the curriculum” mandate, limiting teachers from bringing outside information and special events into their weekly classes. I understand teachers need guidelines to follow, and the leadership needs to do what’s necessary to prevent false information and unexpected accidents from entering their Bible classes. Leaders are also responsible for being watchmen over their flock, and protecting them from dangerous activities, incidents and people. Our church leaders should be respected because they have a big responsibility.
At times church leaders will allow their teachers some flexibility with the curriculum and their class presentations. As a teacher, I began by loosely following the curriculum. I took the basic lesson plan—the theme, scripture passages, and Bible story—and used them to construct the main part of my lessons. At times, I chose to use activities in the curriculum and at other times I brought in my own activities, usually because the activities in the material didn’t go well with the lesson, didn’t work in my class situation, required items I didn’t have on hand or didn’t appeal to me. Having the freedom and flexibility to do this helped me a lot.
As a person who loves doing arts and crafts, I generally had a supply of materials on hand in my home. Having the freedom and flexibility mentioned above allowed me to come up with craft projects for the students and bring them to class. At times, I also used object lessons, games, and even food items to create activities. After years of teaching Bible, I was eventually allowed to write my lesson plans and use them in class. Personally, I think having a little flexibility and freedom can be a good thing.
For inexperienced or brand new teachers and for those who come into a church from another church body, I believe the curriculum lesson plans are good. However, some flexibility to choose between activities in the curriculum is needed because curriculum activities may not work for the class because of room size, the number of students attending, lack of supplies on hand, and other various issues. There are also times when the teacher must choose between activities because of the time allotment he or she has for class.
Also, I believe teachers who have opportunities to bring special activities, events, or speakers into their classroom should go to their leadership and get approval before allowing these to come into the classroom. This can be as simple as making a call to the Sunday School Supervisor or Pastor, and it protects everyone involved.
As I taught, I had a few occasions to bring in special events and speakers. On one occasion, one of my student’s mothers wanted to bring in cupcakes and party supplies because it was her daughter’s birthday. The girl wanted to share her special day with her classmates. Another time, one of the mothers enjoyed dressing up as a clown and entertaining people. She wanted to come to class as a clown and entertain the children. We finally agreed she could come to class with her clown costume on and ask the children questions about the Bible story we read that day. Everyone enjoyed the activity and the children paid attention and answered the clown’s questions. On a few occasions, I also invited pastors from our church body to speak and a missionary, from our congregation, to share about her trip. Though the speeches were simple and short, the students asked questions and learned from these experiences.
With a “stick to the curriculum” mandate the teacher and students won’t have any freedom and/or flexibility to change their class agendas. This can discourage teachers and helpers from using their own gifts and talents in class. It can bring frustration, trying to work with activities that may not work with their classroom. Also, it can cause the students to miss out on special events, speakers or other opportunities because the teacher doesn’t want to bother the leaders with these small matters. Sometimes it’s easier to just say “no,” especially if the teacher and leader have had previous conflicts or the teacher is new and doesn’t know his or her leaders.
However, if church leaders, teachers, and other Christian workers can communicate freely with one another, everyone will be blessed. Effectively establishing boundaries and/or guidelines can help teachers and other workers know how to handle problems and/or whether or not they can take advantage of special opportunities presented to their classes.
In my opinion, a “stick to the curriculum” mandate may not be the best choice for the teacher or the students. However, this is a decision each group of church leaders must make because they know the circumstances their congregation and the individuals who attend their church are facing.