Here at Orange Students, we help produce a curriculum for middle school and high school ministries called XP3 Middle School and XP3 High School. Spoiler alert: we have a bias.
You might think because curriculum is a huge part of what we do at Orange Students that we’re just going to automatically say, “Yes, of course you need a curriculum when your ministry is digital!”
End of blog post.
Resume important work.
But it’s more complicated than that, isn’t it? In a season of pandemic digital ministry, many churches are getting creative and trying to figure out different ways to program and cut back financially. (No, your church isn’t alone in having lots of conversations about budget.)
Maybe as a youth leader, you find yourself looking at the ministry you lead to determine if there is any expense you can cut. Or, maybe it’s leadership asking if you really need this [insert budget item here]?
To even start to answer that question, you have to take a step back and ask: What should a curriculum even do for a church?
We think it should support a strategy and a mission.
In a pandemic world, I’m guessing we’d all agree that our mission hasn’t really changed.
It’s probably still something like . . .
- help students become everything God created them to be.
- help students develop an authentic faith of their own.
- help students know, love, and follow Jesus.
But mission alone doesn’t build a great ministry. That’s where strategy and systems come in. We’d point to three important strategies that help you become the most effective in fulfilling your mission.
- Partnering with parents. What happens at church is important, but what happens at home is more important. How we communicate with, build bridges to, equip, and partner with parents will play a huge role in fulfilling our mission.
- Creating a small group culture. Important things can happen from a stage, but discipleship happens in relationship. Life-change happens in community. How we develop and equip small group leaders to lead healthy, safe small groups will play a huge role in fulfilling our mission.
- Designing phase-specific environments. Truth only matters when it can be understood and applied. We must be intentional to teach concepts that are relevant, applicable, and understandable at each phase of life. How focused we are about reaching each phase will play a huge role in fulfilling our mission.
At this point, we’d ask . . .
- Has your mission changed?
- What is your strategy to fulfill your mission?
A lot has changed about ministry, but maybe not all that much has changed about our mission and our key strategies.
After identifying what the mission is, and identifying how you’ll leverage systems and strategy to make it happen, there is one more question that needs answering:
What resources are you employing to increase your effectiveness?
This is where curriculum comes into play. A mission and a strategy are essential, but without the resources and plan to mobilize that mission and strategy, they can end up just being good intentions.
But if you’re wondering how curriculum fits into a non-normal world, here are a few questions to ask yourself to help determine what’s best for you all:
- If you have used a curriculum in the past, why were you using it initially? Think about why you initially started using curriculum in the first place: Do those reasons still exist? If they do, should you stop using curriculum just because the way you all are connecting these days looks a bit different? If you do stop using it, do you have a plan to fill the gaps that the curriculum filled?
- Do you have any dreams for the youth ministry that having a curriculum could free you up to accomplish? We all know that youth ministry is a church within a church. Most of the things that “big church” has in place, youth ministries have also. However, many youth ministries do not have the staffing or support to accomplish them. Having a curriculum can free leaders to expand their capacity. Is this true for you too?
- What does your weekly programming look like? How is curriculum helping you to execute it? Think about how you’re using curriculum within your current structure. Are you maximizing its use? Or would you benefit from brainstorming more creative ways to use it? What about delegation? Are you delegating programming responsibilities to really expand what you’re able to do with it? For more on this topic, check out this blog on How to Use XP3 Curriculum When Youth Ministry Is Digital. Or, you can connect with an Orange Specialist to have a detailed conversation about your context and how to incorporate XP3 into your current programming.
- What’s your backup plan? Do you have a plan in place to develop lessons and communicate with parents? Do you have a strategy in place when it comes to when you’re going to talk about what? Think also about your Small Group Leaders—do you have a plan for them and how they will be equipped to lead conversation?
So yes, it’s no surprise we believe in curriculum. We believe in having a Scope and Cycle. But to be more specific, we believe in having a strategy to increase our influence and using resources that allows our strategy to be more effective in fulfilling our mission.
What we’re all experiencing right now is that we have to be flexible and adaptable. At times that’s . . .
Every. Single. Week.
That’s why we also believe that what is planned should be adaptable and contextualized amid a crisis and the needs of the students. In fact, everything we do as ministry leaders should be adaptable based on the climate of our church to the state of the world.
It might be helpful to process some of these questions with a team to figure out what’s the best thing for you to do in this very unique season. Regardless of what you decide, we at Orange are cheering you on and are constantly trying to determine new ways to support leaders amid our current reality. If you have any feedback on how we can better support your youth ministry, let us know here. Also, if you’re hesitant about renewing because of financial reasons, you should reach out to your Orange Specialist. They help churches navigate this quite a bit!