Do You Need Curriculum?

By Dr. Terry Hadaway

Yes… and no! Curriculum is nothing more than a roadmap. Seasoned travelers often can get to a destination without a map; however, less experienced travelers might get lost trying to make a trip without a map. It’s the same way with curriculum.

So, you might think that your many years of teaching a Bible study negates the need for curriculum. Not so fast! How many years you’ve been teaching doesn’t affect your need for curriculum; it has to do with study skills.

How you study and prepare is more important than your teaching history. If you don’t have good inductive skills, you really ought to think twice about “flying by the seat of your pants.”

Every Scripture passage has a context in which it originally was set. Yet, in an effort to prove our points, we often twist Scripture and make it say things it doesn’t say. Curriculum publishers use this strategy when trying to make Scripture support their agendas. That’s why some Bible studies jump around and skip verses or passages.

In a presentation about a stewardship campaign, a representative of the fund-raising company was discussing the biblical mandate to give. To legitimize his point, he said, “We should give because God gave. The Bible says, ‘God so loved the world that He gave!’” I watched as heads nodded and the teaching corps collectively agreed with his statement. It is true that God did give, but the context of John 3:16 has nothing to do with raising money; it has everything to do with God’s providing a Savior.

Be wary of the following when selecting your curriculum:

Publishers with agendas. When the agenda becomes more important than the Scripture, the tendency is toward propaganda, not education.

Publishers with no educational direction. If you check the educational qualifications of the staffs of some curriculum publishers, you might be surprised to discover that no one on the staff is trained in adult education. That should be a concern!

One-issue wonders. Everyone has a pet issue and some curriculum publishers seem to make every Bible study come back around to their pet issues. If you find yourself teaching on the same topics over and over, you probably have found your curriculum publisher’s pet issue. If you keep using that curriculum you’ll keep teaching that issue!

Studies of non-biblical content. Certainly there have been many great things written by many great people, but Bible study is Bible study, not “what someone said about what the Bible says” study!

Plug-n-play studies. If adults want to watch TV, they’ll stay at home. Technology should be used to enhance the study of God’s Word, not replace it. Because of the relational aspect of adult education, the attrition rate of “sit and watch” studies exceeds 50%. This means that more than half of those who start a study quit before the study ends.

Scripted studies. These are easy to find. If the material has leadership material, take a look at how many times the instructions give you a statement to make. Teaching is more than parroting the thoughts of someone else.

Quick fix options. OK, so Saturday was busy and you never got around to preparing to teach your class. Aren’t you glad you have curriculum that tells you to grab an item from your kitchen cabinet, read a few verses of Scripture, and consider yourself to have taught a lesson? James 3:1 warns against taking your teaching responsibility lightly. It’s unfortunate that curriculum publishers put profit above educational integrity. The best thing you can do is commit yourself to preparation… and leave the quick fix solutions stacked in the warehouses of the publishers!

So, what’s left? Honestly, not much! Even when publishers introduce “new” curriculum, it’s often nothing more than the repackaging of old ideas. You might not need curriculum, but you do need a plan! Think about it!

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