FAQs: Family Worship for a Child Under 2?

UncategorizedJared Kennedy2 Comments

One parent recently wrote our office with the following question: As our child grows older, we want to be very intentional about family devotions and sharing the gospel with her. Right now she is 13 1/2 months old and her attention span isn't quite long enough to read the Big Picture Story Bible or the Jesus Storybook Bible. What are some practical things we can do now to begin to share the gospel with her and incorporate a devotional time? Are there any devotional books for younger kids that you would recommend, or any types of activities we can do?  I pray that the short answer that follows is helpful both for this family and other families who may be struggling with the same kind of question: I'm so thankful for your desire to be intentional with your daughter. Here are some resources that I really like for children under age 2 and then for toddlers. The Lindvall Read-Aloud Story Bible books for toddlers have shorter and easier stories than the Big Picture Bible, and our girls really loved them. I think that your daughter would enjoy them soon--possibly even now. The stories are short and repetitive, so they are easy for young kids to memorize.

For infants (under age 2):

For toddlers (ages 2 & 3):

Josh, we also have prayed a nightly blessing over our girls since they were really young. When they were really young, we did this without much reading. Some nights now, we just pray the blessing and nothing more, because the girls are just too antsy or tired to listen to a story or memorize anything--particularly if we get in late from a training event or community group meeting. Our blessing goes something like this: "Dear Jesus, please help                          to grow up to be a girl who loves Jesus and trusts in Jesus. Please protect her from Satan and his schemes. Help her to have godly friends and a godly husband when she gets big. In Jesus' name, Amen." Children Desiring God has a book of blessings for fathers (A Father's Guide for Blessing His Children by David Michael) that includes the Scripture blessings written out on notecards. You can download a PDF version of the book for $3. The printed booklet is $7.50, but the extra few bucks is probably worth it if you think that you'll use the notecards.

Curriculum FAQs: If you weren't using Gospel Story, what would you be using? The Top 7.

UncategorizedJared Kennedy2 Comments

Over the past two weeks, I've written an article on how we've selected curriculum at Sojourn and one on the curriculum we use. But what if we weren't using the Gospel Story curriculum? What would we be using?  Here is list of my top 7: 1. Treasuring Christ by Providence Baptist Church (Raleigh, NC)-- an excellent curriculum driven by five distinctives: (1) Gospel-centrality, (2) Connecting Church and Home, (3) Unified Lessons, (4) Teacher-friendly lesson plans including games, original songs, creative ideas, and teacher devotionals, (5) Mission--curriculum is free for the nations (ministries outside the US), church plants (under seven years old) and missionaries. Check out their website. Download Samples.

2. Show Me Jesus! by Great Commission Publications-- We actually did use this curriculum for several years. It was the one originally chosen in 2007, and we have only recently moved away to the Gospel Story curriculum in the last year. The curriculum is not unified like Gospel Story or Treasuring Christ, but this is a philosophical difference not neglect of family-equipping.  It is clear in the title of all three curriculum sets that Jesus is central. Show Me Jesus! is built around a classical model of education as described in Susan Hunt's Heirs of the Covenant: Leaving a Legacy of Faith for the Next Generation.  Following this model, Toddlers learn a vocabulary of faith. Preschoolers learn about God's covenant promises and how he keeps them. Then, Elementary students learn to respond to God by trusting, obeying, and worshiping Him. Check out their website. Download samples.

3. The Little Village / Kid's Village by Village Church (Flower Mound, TX) The Village Church curriculum is also pre-publication. It is incremental as well.  However, Village has done an excellent job putting together their lessons, and they give it away free to church plants who contract with them to use it. In each lesson, the Little Village preschool curriculum teaches one of five foundational truths: (1) God Made Everything, (2) Jesus is in charge of Everything, (3) Jesus Came to Save Sinners, (4) God is Good, and (5) God wants to talk with us. In each lesson the Kid's Village grade school curriculum teaches one of four primary truths about God: (1) God is wise. God knows what is best. (2) God is generous. God gives what is best. (3) God is loving. God does what is best. (4) God is Good. God is what is best. Visit the Little Village website. Download Little Village Samples. Visit the Kid's Village website.


4. What's in the Bible? Church Edition is a 52 week digital video curriculum based on the new 13 DVD series by Veggie Tales creator, Phil Vischer. The curriculum as a whole is designed to walk through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation with grade school kids presenting it as the story of God and what He has done for us. The stated goal of the curriculum is to help kids know what they believe and know what it is like to live those beliefs in front of the eyes of a watching world. Check out the website. Download samples.

5. Generations of Grace by Grace Community Church (Sun Valley, CA). Generations of Grace is a unified, digital, biblically-based and God-centered Sunday school curriculum designed for children three years old through the sixth grade. Over a three-year period, this curriculum covers the Old Testament historical books, the life of Christ, and lessons from Acts and Revelation. The basic outline is very similar to Gospel Story. Check out their website. Download samples. **Note Generations of Grace is more polished than the pre-publication Gospel Story curriculum, but they are also more convictional/close-handed about some doctrinal issues on which Sojourn does not take a firm stance. Issues include young earth creationism, the cessation of miraculous spiritual gifts, and a generally dispensational view of the relationship between the Old and New Testaments and the end times. We chose not to adopt this curriculum for this reason.

6. Children Desiring God by Bethlehem Baptist Church (Minneapolis, MN). CDG's aim is to impart to children a vision of God, who He is, and who we are in relation to Him, and to establish them with a foundation of doctrine and truth. CDG wants to see kids biblically grounded, seeing God as the hero of every story, with a God-centered world view and a faith that will hold them when the days of testing come. They want to seek kids love the Lord their God with all their heart, and to delight in Him forever. Like Show Me Jesus!, CDG's curriculum is incremental rather than unified. Unlike most curricula, the CDG materials begin in the church nursery! Their nursery and parenting resources are some of the very best available. Their conference resources (seminar notes all past conferences online) are amazing as well.Check out their website. Download samples.

7. Praise Factory! by Capitol Hill Baptist Church and 9 Marks Ministries (Washington, D.C.) This curriculum is designed to teach systematic theology and church history to kids through big questions and answers and music. The curriculum is digital and incremental. All of the Praise Factory curriculum is free of charge for those using it for non-commercial, educational purposes. 9 Marks asks for a one-time $150 tax-deductible donation from those who can afford it. Check out their website.


Curriculum FAQs: How did you choose your curriculum?

UncategorizedJared Kennedy3 Comments

One question that we get fairly often at Sojourn is, "What curriculum do you use and how did you land on it?" That is a really great question. My first year on staff at Sojourn was 2007. At that time, Sojourn's elders weren't satisfied with the curriculum that we were using, and we began to look for something new. Here is the process that we adopted at that time. Step #1, Research. A research team was formed, and we worked to amass as much information as possible about children’s ministry curriculum. In 2007, the primary researchers were Maggie Ainsworth (now part of the church planting core at Covenant Community Church in Pearland, TX) and me.

Step #2, Evaluation. We set out to judge the curriculum based on the following criteria:

  1. Gospel-Centrality. In our research, we found that children’s Bible lessons were typically designed to teach children what to do—“Be joyful!  Be courageous!”  But this is rarely the main point of the Bible story.  The Bible was written to show us God—who He is and what He has done to rescue us through Christ Jesus. We wanted a curriculum that kept God and his gospel central.  We also wanted a curriculum that reflected the core values of Sojourn.
  2. Attractional for Outsiders. We want to have a children's ministry that creates attractional environments for building relationships with kids and their families. So, the curriculum should not be so incremental and dependent on previous lessons that it fails to embrace kids that are new to the program. And it shouldn't alienate children that are seeking with legalistic standards/application points (after all, this is anti-gospel). Most of all, the curriculum should be fun!
  3. Family-Equipping. We believe that parents are called to be the primary faith-trainers in their kids lives.  So, we want a curriculum that reaches and equips parents in this role. So, "How well does the curriculum connect with parents?" was a key question for us.
  4. Listens to the Bible text. Sojourn is a Gospel church, and Sojourn is a Bible church.  We believe that our spirituality is informed and transformed by the Scriptures.  We want a curriculum that majors on the Bible. So, we looked for one that begins with prayer--asking God for understanding. We looked for a curriculum that helps children observe the text and understand the author’s expressed meaning. We looked for a curriculum that helps children apply what the text says by asking searching questions, and providing relevant application points.
  5. Educationally Sound. We want a curriculum that is educationally sound. We want one that accounts for learning styles and the age-level abilities of students (more on this in a later post). We also wanted a curriculum that would help kids retain key Bible doctrines and stories through memorization and review.
  6. Simplicity in Execution. In 2007, we had one part-time children's ministry staff person.  We recognized then that we needed a curriculum that was "out of the box." Now, we're writing and producing nearly 40% of what we teach. Things have changed. Nevertheless, I think some simplicity is essential.  You should never adopt more than you can execute with excellence.  So, here are a coupe of  good questions to answer.
  • Do you have more money or time? Pre-printed curriculum is usually "out of the box" and ready to go each week, but it is also more expensive.  Digital curriculum that comes via download or CD-ROM usually requires more prep and printing time, but it is less costly on the wallet. Would you give preference to a curriculum that uses the same supplies each week in creative ways or one that provides lots of options?
  • What kind of facility/equipment is required by the curriculum? Do you have audio/video equipment? This may be necessary for video-based curriculum. Do you have classroom for every age group or are you more dependent on a rotational format or large assembly setting? Knowing what your facility or the size of your team requires will help you to see what curriculum fits best.

Step #3, Selection. Based on these criteria, we scored each curriculum then presented our findings to Sojourn's elder counsel.  The elders gave solid feedback, and we went with the research committee's second choice (more on that later). Today, Sojourn is larger, and a small group of staff members/pastors would make this decision rather than taking our findings before the entire elder board. The final selection will work differently in different churches based on size and church polity.  However, I think there are two indispensable lessons from our final selection process.  First, score the curriculum based on the criteria.  Here is a sample score sheet. Second, have a community speak in. We would not have landed where we did without a multitude of voices.

So, where did we land?  I'll answer that question in a follow-up post.

FAQs: Children's Ministry Safety

UncategorizedJared Kennedy1 Comment

Here is a list of solid articles I've found while doing some research on children's ministry safety.  These are super helpful for us as we train servants and leaders, and I hope they are helpful for you as well: From The Inclusive Church Blog:


Other Resources: