Tips for Modifying Your Curriculum Lessons for Non-traditional Settings

We know that ministry looks different right now. Some churches have begun meeting together again, but for others that vision feels a long way off. Some are doing live video calls, others are sending families pre-recorded video lessons, while others are sending lessons for parents to lead with their children. 

These are all great ways to stay in touch with your kids during your time apart! But you may find using your traditional curriculum, which was intended to be used in a live classroom setting, is a challenge during this season. 

Try these tips to make your Sunday School curriculum work in this unusual time! 

  1. Be consistent. Whatever you’re doing, find a consistent time to do it. Maybe it’s when your service usually meets! Whether you’re sending emails, posting to social media, or hosting a live video call, be consistent about doing it every week at the same time. This will keep Sunday school as a part of families’ weekly rhythm. 
  1. Keep it short. You may be used to filling an hour of classroom time at church, but an hour may be too long for this season. Aim for 20-30 minute lessons for a more bite-sized chunk for families to engage in at home. That will also help you feel free to cut the parts of the lesson that just don’t adapt well to your current reality. 
  1. Keep it interactive. One of the things that makes Group curriculum work is that kids are experiencing the Bible story! So, even if you can’t do the same experience from the curriculum, find ways to keep it interactive over video. In other words, don’t simply record yourself reading or telling the Bible story. Are people in the story traveling? Have kids walk around their living rooms! Is there water? Have kids splash in a basin of water at their kitchen tables! Is there food? Let kids grab a snack! Is there building? Have kids build with Legos, pillows, couch cushions…whatever they have! Whatever you can do to engage kids’ senses as they hear the Bible story will go a long way. For live video lessons, you can enjoy watching what the kids do. And in prerecorded lessons, just instruct families to hit pause while they enjoy the activity together.
  1. Don’t cut the discussion. If you’re using a video recording, it’s tempting to cut the discussion questions from your curriculum. After all, you can’t hear kids respond! But kids can share with their families! So keep those discussion questions so kids can process and make discoveries. And, if there’s a question that asks for a personal story, share yours first! If you’re using a live video conferencing platform, kids will love getting a chance to speak and engage with you and their friends.
  1. Consider household supplies. In some ways, you’ll have to cut supplies that are written into the curriculum. Gizmos that were included in your kit, cellophane, giant pieces of bulletin-board paper…these aren’t things families will have. But on the other hand, you’ve got a whole household of supplies to work with! As you modify lessons, think about what you can substitute for those non-household supplies. Were they supposed to make a river on bulletin-board paper? Maybe they can make one out of blankets or couch cushions instead! Think about what most families have, and work with those supplies in mind. 
  1. It’s okay to pause. There will be times where families need to stop and do something—like build that pillow tower or have a discussion. If you’re leading a video, just tell them to pause the video and do it! Or, if you have the video editing capability, consider having a countdown clock come up that tells them how much time they have left to complete your directions. 
  1. Be mindful of current events. Obviously, your printed curriculum kit didn’t mention social distancing, quarantine, or COVID-19. But it’s your kids’ current reality. Don’t be afraid to add in a mention where it makes sense. For example, if your lesson is about not needing to fear, throw in a mention that there are things we’re afraid of right now, but God is in control. Maybe even add in a question where kids can process how they’re feeling. 
  1. Use your resources. If you’ve purchased multiple ages of a product, great! Your job will be so much easier! We’ve found it easier to look at a bunch of age levels of a product and see which one most easily translates to an at-home lesson. Find what will be the least work for you, and use that lesson as a jumping off point! 

Most of all, don’t give up. Be creative, have fun, and keep going!