At the behest of Synod 2016 (the annual general assembly of the Christian Reformed Church), staff is exploring options for providing distinctively Reformed curricula for children and teens. The CRC’s Faith Formation Ministries (FFM) prepared an extensive report for the September 2016 Board of Trustees meeting.
The report included a brief history of the CRC’s publishing efforts, which began in 1937. Some of its most popular curricula included Bible Way (produced in 1972); LiFE (produced in 1994); Walk With Me (released in 2004); and Kid Connection (released in 2007). The most recent curriculum, released in 2011, is Dwell. As a result of financial constraints, it was never properly launched or fully marketed.
The report noted that when Synod 2013 dissolved Faith Alive Christian Resources, it intended to continue the publishing ministry’s core functions, including producing curriculum for children and teens. But no plans or resources were put in place. In the year following, the report stated, “the few remaining Faith Alive curriculum editorial staff either retired and were not replaced, were not re-hired after maternity leave, or were reassigned.” Additionally, only one editorial staff member with an intimate, experienced teaching knowledge of Walk With Me, Kid Connection, and Dwell remains on staff. “Staff with that level of familiarity with resources for middle school and up (including grades 6-8 of Dwell, catechism resources, and profession of faith resources) are gone,” the report noted.
The report laid out some options for the board to consider. Creating an entirely new curriculum would require a mandate from synod and the board, as well as significant funding—in the neighborhood of $2-3 million. It would also require three to five years and increased staffing. The FFM reported that, given the resources available, it is “virtually impossible to plan a new curriculum at this time.”
Another option, the report authors said, is to focus on communicating Reformed distinctives by providing other tools to help churches communicate to children, youth, and adults what being Reformed means and why it matters. Ideas include accessible online tools for explaining the Reformed worldview with children of various ages; A “Sunday School Toolkit” to help church leaders select, revise, and/or write their own curriculum for their church, which could include a “benchmarks” assessment document; and age-appropriate Sunday school sessions titled “Why Is Our Church Called Christian Reformed?” For teens, there could be resources for new catechism models or youth group sessions.
The report also raised the question of what would happen if the CRCNA stops offering distinctively Reformed children’s ministry curricula. To what extent would that contribute to the erosion of Reformed identity in the CRC?
The board asked the Faith Formation Ministries to further explore these options:
- A refresh of Walk With Me or Dwell.
- A Sunday school tool kit.
- A vetting process for existing curriculum available from other sources.
- Partnering with other curriculum providers.
The board asked for an update for its February 2017 meeting.
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