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One of the unique features of Orange curriculum is that it is highly customizable.  It’s why each week there are multiple resources that a leader can choose from in order to make that week’s lesson the best fit possible for the children, the volunteers and the facility of their own church.

We love to hear when our partners are doing just that.  Today we want to share this post by Mark Ryan, of Christcity Church in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada:

When my church first switched to the Orange curriculum, it was exciting. It was exciting to have something new, something comprehensive, something that focused on worship and the Word. However, as a brand new group leader, it was also a time of uncertainty, a time of fear and thoughts that it may be too much to squeeze into the 45 minutes that we have.

See, I’m a linear thinker, when something is set out before me; it must be followed in that order—this led to more fear and uncertainty of the curriculum. My immediate reaction was to question: How am I going to memorize that script? Where am I going to get all those props? The curriculum says I have to do this, that, and the other, so I have to do this, that, and the other.

As exciting as it was to have shiny new curriculum to share with my class, the day the curriculum showed up in my email for me to prepare for the upcoming Sunday became one of the most feared days of the month. It impacted my confidence as a group leader—also, it didn’t help that it was my first year as a leader.

This is now our third year of using the curriculum. Over time, I have relaxed and learned that I don’t have to be like the other group leaders. I don’t have the same skills as they, and I’ve learned to adapt the curriculum in a way that works for the kids I lead. The key in all of this has been for me to be myself. To love the children because Jesus loves the children. To let down my guard and allow my own inner kid to come out of the box and have fun—whether it is pretending to be the love bug or talking about my awesome orange shoes.

In addition to the freedom I’ve realized in using the curriculum to its best potential, I thank God for amazing leadership that equips their volunteers and staff. They give the group leaders freedom to run their classes—to allow me to be me, yet with just enough framework that I am not struggling over what to do each time I teach. The leadership of Christcity emails out the curriculum at least two weeks before I teach, which gives me plenty of time to prepare for the class. While it has been a transition for everyone in our children’s ministry, we have successfully navigated the waters as a unified team. Plus, we all pitch in to help each other and meet on a regular basis to build unity among our teams.

I have only a short time with these kids. My age group is 4- to 5-year-olds. I have a limited amount of time to pour into their lives and teach them about God’s love. The longer I do this, the more I learn about the kids and the more I learn about myself.

As the group leader, I get the honor of telling the story and closing us in prayer each time. During “Make It Stick,” I move from table to table, talking to kids about the memory verse and the story. Given the short time period that we have, I take my time at each table to talk and understand where the kids are at.

As you work with the First Look curriculum, I encourage you to implement the pieces of the curriculum that work best for your environment, the children you’re teaching, and that accommodate the strengths of your team.

Mark Ryan is a follower of Christ, husband to one wife and father to three beautiful girls. Mark serves at Christcity Church as a group leader for ages 4-6. Mark is a regular contributor for NewReleaseTuesday.com. He blogs at themarkcryan.com and tweets as @theMarkCRyan.