Scope and Sequence: the most important thing that no one is talking about
If you're lost in the wilderness and it feels like you're walking in circles, guess what? You probably are! In fact, according to a recent study, walking in a straight line is harder than you might think. During the study, researchers blindfolded participants and told them to try their hardest to walk straight. Without being able to see, though, the subjects of the study walked in surprisingly tight circles. How tight? Less than 66 feet in diameter. Whoa! The researchers aren't exactly sure why this happens, but this much is clear: when void of landmarks or a compass to guide them, people have a built-in tendency to go around and around without ever really getting anywhere. Believe it or not, the same is true in Children's Ministry. Without a "compass" to show us the way forward, our tendency is to walk in circles. Without realizing it, we go round and round teaching the same stories or spiritual truths over and over again. Instead of getting a balanced Biblical diet, kids end up gorging on grace, but starving for compassion. Or gorging on the gospel accounts, but starving for the prophets. Obviously, there's nothing wrong with grace and certainly not the gospel, but without a compass, we tend to walk circles around the stories and concepts that are personally familiar and comfortable to us at the exclusion of others. So what keeps us from doing that? Simple...a good scope and sequence! In case you’re not familiar with the term, scope and sequence refers to the scope of the material being taught and the sequence in which it’s being covered. It’s "geek speak" for saying, “Here’s what we’re going to learn and here’s the order in which we’re going to learn it.” In essence, it's a compass that helps us walk a straight line toward a more complete understanding and application of Scripture. If you're writing your own curriculum, the construction of a scope and sequence should happen before you write a single lesson. It's not an afterthought, it's a plan!
If you're using published curriculum, here are a few things to consider when looking at the scope and sequence:
Does it exist? Not all curriculum have a scope and sequence. If it's not on the website, it may not exist. Often times, curriculum that is sold only by the unit doesn't have one. And even if it does, it ceases to be effective when you choose to purchase some units and not others. Is it comprehensive? A good scope and sequence should cover more than the Bible's "best of." Every curriculum under the sun is going to talk about Noah, and Moses, and Paul, and, of course, Jesus. But what about the Tabernacle, or Deborah, or Ezra, or Stephen? An effective curriculum doesn't need to give equal time to every character or section of the Bible, but a comprehensive approach gives kids a more complete picture of scripture. Does it tell the "BIG" Bible Story? Some scope and sequences are organized by topic or virtue while others are chronological. The Bible isn't a random collection of stories. Those stories all fit together to tell the "Big" story of God's love and redemption for humanity. There's nothing wrong with a topic based, non-linear scope and sequence, but many of them fail to tell the "Big" Bible story. That's a problem! With a chronological approach, the "Big" Bible story is essentially built in. If it's chronological, is it in sync with the Christian calendar? Chronological is a solid approach, but if you're in the middle of the Old Testament come Christmas, you'll have to jump forward in the story to Jesus' birth, then back to the OT again in January. The same can happen during Easter. Jumping back and forth in the timeline can be confusing for a kid. It's not easy to find or create a scope and sequence that fits all of the above criteria. If you want to see how I did it for the GO! curriculum, you can take a look at the 3-year scope and sequence right here. It goes chronologically through the entire Bible one time every year, but it uses different stories and has a different emphasis each year. The scope and sequence isn't the sexiest part of a curriculum, but it's the most important. Without it, you'll most likely be walking in blind circles through the Bible.