The Resource Well Blog

Reaching God’s Children

by admin  |  February 2, 2012
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The Bibles are worn. Yellow highlights and pencil underlines mark the pages and dirty smudges tell the story of little hands that have held and used and searched to find chapter and verse, week after week.

“We want kids to know that the Bible is for them, not just grown-ups,” says Eleanor Tracey, Director of Children’s Curriculum Development at Northland Church in Longwood, Florida. “We want young hearts to fall in love with the Word of God, to find amazing stories, and to memorize passages of comfort and truth that will carry them for the rest of their lives. We want them to know their way around the Bible. We want to raise biblically-literate believers.”

The Worship, The Word & The Way is a Bible-centered children’s curriculum that’s been under development by a small but inspired team of writers, educators and web experts at Northland for the past eight years. The curriculum is only found online, and is used by churches around the world to take children through the Bible in three years. Written at four distinct developmental levels (4-5 yrs, 6-7 yrs, 8-9 yrs, and 10-12 yrs). The curriculum is designed to ensure that children who stay with the program from ages 4-12 will circle through the entire Bible at least three times during their childhood, each time experiencing the stories at deeper levels, with life applications that make sense at their stage of development.

“No matter when they jump in, at every age children will encounter an experience that uses music, art, drama, poetry, games and fun, and at the same time, it challenges their thinking, guides them to find answers in the Bible, and focuses on worship and the wonder of a great and loving God,” Tracey adds. “We create the environment, God brings His Spirit to make it come alive.”

Another goal is that children see the Bible as one big story with Christ at the center. Each lesson includes a “Christ Connection,” an additional passage from “the other side of the Bible” than the story featured that weekend, to bring a fuller understanding of the teaching aim. For example, the story of God feeding manna to the hungry Hebrews in the desert is illuminated further by spotlighting Christ’s words in John 6:33 reminding the crowd that “the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

One of the favorite aspects of the curriculum is the way memory verses are learned. Every five or six weeks, children are introduced to a new “memory verse song,” composed by Tracey herself (a vocalist and composer with over 20 years of professional experience) and then produced by members of the Northland adult worship team. “Words to the music are straight out of the Bible so children are memorizing scripture, not just great songs,” says Debbie Blahnik, Director of Children’s Ministries at Northland a former Children’s Music Director at another church. “They’re learning tons of verses, but never complaining about it. They just love the music!”

Worship leaders, actors and classroom teachers are all trained to emphasize the priority of the Bible throughout the children’s church experience. “It’s why we decided to write our own curriculum in the first place. We could find great stuff out there for children, but we couldn’t find curriculum that emphasizes the premiere place that scripture holds in the Christian faith, one that drives children to the Bible for answers, one that lifts up the Word of God as the first place to go for ‘teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness,’” Tracey points out. “We want the kids to know about the Bible as a powerful spiritual resource, and that they can have access to it – first by leaning about it, and then by using it.”

But if it sounds too dry and lofty for kids, be assured: it’s not. It was decided from the beginning that the curriculum would be written to follow a developmentally sound academic framework based on current learning theory. “Paying attention to how children learn at every stage of cognitive development isn’t just for math, science and history. Why not use what we know about learning when we teach kids about the Bible?” says Tracey. Teaching is delivered through experiential learning, sensory activities, movement, art, strategy games and drama, but all of it with careful attention given to developmental ages of the children, covering multiple learning styles and geared toward a diverse audience.

Is it working? Children’s ministry workers in 22 different countries around the world and in 14 states across the U.S. think so. And that’s just the churches Northland knows about; because it’s a free online resource available to anyone, there could be many more users out there.

“We love replacing those dirty, worn out Bibles,” Blahnik notes. “Proof that kids are being exposed to the Word of God is a priceless value we don’t mind paying for. It’s the very best we can give them.”


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