image via: onmogul.com
Do you remember the movie "The Wizard of Oz?" (Answer: Of course you do!) Good! Then maybe you remember the part where the Tin Man asks the Wizard for a heart. Here's a little piece of the exchange: The Wizard: [To the Tin Man] As for you, my galvanized friend - you want a heart! You don't know how lucky you are not to have one. Hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable. The Tin Man: But I-- I still want one. The Wizard: Back where I come from, there are men who do nothing all day but good deeds. They are called phila-, er, er, philanth-er, good-deed doers! And their hearts are no bigger than yours. For all of his shortcomings, the Wizard realized one important truth. People can have the courage to do good deeds (like the Lion), and brains filled with knowledge (like the Scarecrow), but still be lacking in heart. As KidMin leaders, we should think about that. I mean, seriously think about it. Are we cramming kids heads full of Biblical knowledge, infusing them with the courage to apply that Scripture through the doing of good deeds, but then failing to help them develop a heart-felt relationship with Jesus? Or, put another way, are we raising up a bunch of little tin men for Jesus?
Obviously, there's nothing wrong with teaching Biblical truth and practical application. A good KidMin curriculum should be chock-full of both. But if we stop there, we're missing what's at the heart of following Jesus.
In geek-speak, these 3 areas of formative growth are known by the following terms: cognitive (head), behavioral (hands), and affective (heart). When you're evaluating a KidMin curriculum, look for something that has all three. Cognitive (the head): a good curriculum should teach the truth of Scripture in a way that is understandable and memorable for a kid. More than that, it should place God (not people) at the center of each story.
Behavioral (the hands): a good curriculum should help kids understand how to apply Scripture to their every day lives. As with all things, balance is key. Some curriculum falls on the side of moralism while others are purposefully void of all application. Find the middle.
Affective (the heart): a good curriculum should give kids space and direction for developing a heart-felt relationship with Jesus through the spiritual disciplines. Ask yourself, does this curriculum give kids space to hear from God through scripture reading and to talk with Him through prayer, art, journaling, etc. This is the piece that most curriculum is missing.
4 years ago, as I first began developing GO! curriculum, I knew we had to hit all three. More specifically, I had to wrestle with how we were going to meet the affective needs of kids. In the end, the answer was as simple as it is effective. And best of all, you can incorporate it into your KidMin no matter what curriculum you use. Try this:
Set up a variety of response stations around your KidMin room. For example, create a prayer station with note cards that kids can write their prayers to God on, then hang them on a clothesline attached to the wall. Create a journal station where kids can write letters to God, then put them in a mailbox. Create an art station with butcher block paper where kids can draw, paint or sculpt a praise picture to Jesus. Create a Bible reading station where kids can sit quietly and read straight from God's Word. When the time comes, tell the kids to be very quiet. Tell them that this is a time between them and God, not them and their friends. Then release them to quietly move about.
If you've never done it before, you might be amazed by how responsibly the kids use their time. And just a heads up: be prepared for some truly holy moments in your KidMin. Best of all, moments like these teach the kids that being a follower of Jesus is more than being a tin man. It's more than simply knowing and doing stuff. It's also about having a heart for God and a relationship with their ever-loving, ever-living Savior.