Curriculum Isn’t a Dirty Word

Curriculum Isn’t a Dirty Word

A growing debate in church leadership circles is the usage of profanity in the pulpit. People debate whether it is ever appropriate to use what some consider dirty words in preaching. While some debate it others just go ahead and do it. The purpose of profanity in preaching is the topic for another blog, another day.

Dirty words in sermons are one thing. Metaphorically, there are certain things that church leaders treat like dirty words behind closed doors. In meetings there are things that no one wants to talk about. Let me give you the short list.

  • Marketing vs evangelism
  • Need for more church announcements
  • Capital campaigns
  • Recruiting more volunteers
  • Child care for events

Anything from this list that may come up in meetings could make church leaders shudder like congregation member hearing their Pastor using profanity in a sermon. There are certain “dirty words” in the church world. Another word that could easily be added to the above list is curriculum.

You may ask yourself why is curriculum a dirty word to church leaders?

Curriculum could be considered a dirty word for many reasons. First, it can be very expensive. Church leaders who are already pinching pennies don’t want to spend money on materials that they probably aren’t happy with in the first place. Second, there are often very limited options and availability could be an issue. Third, curriculum often needs customized to best fit unique people groups. Curriculum typically doesn’t come in formats that lends itself to easy customization. Finally, it is hard to find any one curriculum that meets all the needs of any one group.

Disability Ministry Curriculum
Ryan Wolfe has a group of volunteers participate in an overstimulation exercise at Southeast Christian Church. Great curriculum will encourage participation and interaction.

What makes curriculum great?

For this blog we will be looking specifically at disability ministry curriculum. There are 11 things that we believe make great curriculum.

  1. Easy to facilitate
    • One thing that all church leaders come to grips with is the fact that volunteers are busy. Rare is the volunteer who takes home the curriculum and spends multiple hours in preparation during the week. If you have a volunteer like this celebrate them! It is probably more common that a volunteer is picking up the curriculum for the first time 5 minutes before the group enters the room, than they are taking it home to study it.
    • Because of this reality curriculum must be created so it can be facilitated. Notice I didn’t use the word taught. There is a big difference. One of the universal issues that churches run into is difficulty in recruiting volunteers. The word teaching is terrifying to most volunteers because they don’t feel equipped. Teaching something often means that you have already mastered the content you are delivering. When you ask a volunteer to teach material you may be making your job harder than it needs to be.
    • What if you asked your volunteers to facilitate a lesson rather than teach it? When facilitating you are helping to lead a discussion. When you facilitate you are actively involving others using material that has already been prepared for you. A facilitator doesn’t have to be a master of information. It is a much less intimidating ask.
  2. Deals with real life issues
    • Great curriculum is relevant to the learner. It has an easy application to life. It makes a difference in every day living.
    • When curriculum isn’t relevant the learner has an incentive to disengage. Behavior problems can result of disengagement.
  3. Bible based
    • This one goes without saying, but let me say it… Great curriculum goes beyond just being relevant. It must take the learner to find the answers in Scripture. Thankfully God has given us his word. We can find answers to our experience in this life in his word.
  4. Highly interactive
    • Any lesson that is purely lecture based is doomed to fail. Student retention rates are less than 10% on lectured based lessons. Yet so much of education and preaching is nothing but lecturing. The more we lecture the less we retain. Beware.
    • A great curriculum will have multiple forms of interaction built into it, such as reading, audiovisuals, opportunities to act things out, discussion, competitions, learning in different languages (sign languages), memorization techniques, and videos.
  5. Lots of visuals
    • This was touched upon in the previous point, but bears repeating and extra focus. Multi-sensory learning is key to both attention and retention.
    • When it comes to Disability Ministry Education Resources having a visual to go with text is a must. There will be some learners who will not be able to read. Reading is not a pre-requisite for learning. A good visual can often communicate more clearly than words can.
  6. Large print
    • Visual impairments in Disability Ministry environments are very common. That is why having classroom tools that help with learners overcome obstacles is very important.
    • A great curriculum will not be one that is text heavy. A great curriculum will be one that has less words and larger words. The can be easily seen in the context of PowerPoint presentations and other visuals.
  7. Challenging
    • A mistake that some would make is that Disability Ministry curriculum cannot be challenging because of the typical learner’s IQ score. Expectations are often far too low when it comes to working with individuals with developmental disabilities. If we expect less, we will inevitably get less. If we expect more, we may just be surprised by the abilities that people possess. Always expect more.
    • A great curriculum will challenge its learners to achieve more than they even think they can accomplish.
    • Examples: Memorizing scripture, learning scripture in multiple languages (sign language), finding scripture in the bible, setting life goals, empowering the learner to use giftedness, empowering the learner to have community impact
  8. Sign Language Videos
    • Public schools are now recognizing sign language as foreign language that students can take. This is a huge positive for our society.
    • Many in the disability community use sign language as a primary form of communication. If not a primary form of communication basic sign language knowledge can be used to help individuals communicate.
    • A great curriculum can accomplish multiple things at once. This can be done, for example, by teaching the monthly memory verses in sign language.
    • This gives primary sign language tools to everyone, helps with integration & inclusion, promotes better attention and retention of scripture truths, challenges the learner, and makes learning both more fun and easier
  9. Encourages discussion
    • When lessons and sermons are done in lecture form retention is less than 10%. When discussion is involved in lessons retention rates jump to 50% according to the National Training Laboratories, in Bethel, Maine.
    • A great curriculum will have multiple points of discussion built into each lesson, not just one section for discussion. Learners must be encouraged to ask questions and join the conversation. Learning shouldn’t be a spectator sport.
  10.  Promotes prayer
    • Prayer is something that is too often just left for those officiating services. Prayer is rarely something that people are invited into participating in. This may be because people are often uncomfortable praying in public. Prayer is something that should always bring comfort, rather than discomfort, because it is how we connect to God.
    • A great Disability Ministry curriculum should always include prayer. The only to get over being uncomfortable with praying in public is to practice praying routinely. If curriculum promotes weekly prayer it will become more natural.
    • Prayer connects us to God. Each time of prayer should start with an outpouring of thankfulness. Times of prayer within the scope of curriculum should help to bring the learner back to what was just discussed.
    • Prayer should never be conducted like a Christmas wish list. Prayer isn’t all about me. Prayer should always be about God and others. There should always be an outward stance within our prayers to keep us from growing to inward.
  11. Easy to customize
    • Finally, a great curriculum is one that is easy to customize. No one group is exactly like another. Curriculum should be easy to adapt to meet the individual needs of the group.
    • For curriculum to be easy to adapt it must be in a format that is adaptable. Curriculum coming in print form or PDF format is not easy to adapt. Curriculum coming in digital form, PowerPoint, or Word format is much easier to adapt.

After reading through this you will likely agree that we are more alike than different. What makes a great special needs curriculum would help to make any curriculum great. There is little to no difference.

At Ability Ministry we work hard to make our curriculum great for all learners. To learn more about curriculum watch this short video:

New disability ministry curriculum is produced monthly and is available for sale.  If you are interested in a free consulting session or even having custom ministry curriculum created, please contact us here.

Ryan Wolfe

It is Ryan’s passion to equip and empower churches, organizations, and individuals to reach their disability communities for Jesus. Ryan, Director of Program Development, comes to Ability Ministry with 15+ years of ministry experience. He previously worked at First Christian Church in Canton, Ohio as their full-time Disability Pastor. He also worked as a Church Consultant for Key Ministry. Micah 6:8 and Proverbs 31:8 best describe Ryan’s commitment to life and ministry.

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