The Surprising Truth About Most Sunday School Curriculum

Can I be gut level honest with you for a minute?

I have a big problem with most Sunday School curriculum I’ve come across. And I’ve come across enough in my more than a decade of teaching to know…

They are all long on unnecessary details and really short on the part that matters most, the actual lesson.

The lesson is a bunch of facts that are going nowhere fast. And then all of a sudden the lesson concludes with… “and here’s what we learned from this story”. The curriculum provided has given me the story from the Bible, verbatim, in sentence form and tacked on a one-sentence summary at the end.

Tada! A Sunday School lesson!

Not that helpful.

My purpose here is not to bash someone else’s curriculum. If you’ve found one that works for you then more power to you.

[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”]My purpose here is not to bash someone else’s curriculum.[/pullquote]

But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been getting ready for Sunday and when I look at my lesson I realize how much I basically need to come up with my own material. What’s provided for me in the curriculum is about 5 minutes worth of talking, and most of that talking will be incredibly boring for the kids.

For example:

“God wants us to live righteously. That means that we need to live in a way that honors God.

Who wants to honor God? I know I do!

See, we all want to honor God, but we can’t do that in our own strength. We can’t live righteously by trying really hard. We all need help.

Tell a personal story of a time you tried to be righteous”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across this. A  bunch of big “Bible” words like ”righteous” strung together in a bunch of sentences we’ve all heard 1000 times at church. It’s not terribly interesting to read but somehow the curriculum believes when it’s spoken out loud it will magically transform into riveting content that kids will love.


The best part is when it says: “tell a personal story of a time….” The curriculum leaves what should be the most interesting part of the lesson totally up to you. I feel like it’s telling me:

“ok, now you come up with a story that is going to fascinate kids and keep them on the edge of their seat . and oh by the way, it needs to fit perfectly with this lesson. and…go!”

Not happening sister.

Not only that, but often when I read what I’m supposed to use on Sunday it sounds like what I’ve heard many unprepared preachers use as their sermon. It’s all the rhetoric we’ve heard thousands of times. But this time it’s said with different emphasis

I might be the exception on this one, but I’m pretty good at recognizing unprepared speakers. And it’s very hard for me not to ‘check out’ on them in two seconds flat. If they didn’t take the time to study, why should I take the time to listen?

This is how I feel about most curriculum these days. If you are going to regurgitate what we’ve all heard before in the exact same way we’ve heard it, then what good is the curriculum in the first place?

Kids deserve a lesson that fascinates them and makes them hungry to learn more about God’s Word. And that all starts with lesson prep.

If you are reading any sarcasm into what I am writing here, you are perceptive. I’m trying my hardest…but the frustration is real.

My greatest point of contention is the lack of focus in each lesson.

Any good communicator will tell you that if you try to communicate more than 1 idea in a talk you are doing too much. People don’t remember 6 different points. Most likely the will just remember the last one.

And yet, every Sunday, it feels like I am supposed to help the kids remember 18 different things. When I read over the lesson from the curriculum every paragraph seems like another ‘point’ I’m supposed to make.

The lesson I’m provided seems to be point after point after point, until finally we reach the last one – which signals the end of the lesson.

Our brain just isn’t wired to work that way. We don’t learn by being force fed lots of information.

Ken Davis, one of the most fantastic communicators I know teaches this idea in his SCORE conferences. You must get a talk, or a presentation, down to one main point.


It’s the only hope you have of actually communicating.

Think about a great TED talk you’ve seen. The presenter didn’t try to wow you with 13 different things to remember. Instead, his or her talk was focused on driving home one major idea. Their whole talk was built around creating energy and excitement for that one big idea.

I believe that is what great Sunday School lessons should do. They should drive towards 1 powerful idea.

And not just in form, by stating the idea in large type at the top of the lesson.

But by actually spending the time to develop a story or a talk that goes somewhere. A lesson where each thing that is said points to, and directs the listener towards, the end goal. Each paragraph, and story, and piece of information points to the big idea revealed later on in the lesson.

You know what this isn’t done a lot?

Because it’s a lot harder to do. It takes more work to craft a talk toward one major idea than it does to regurgitate a bunch of facts. A lot of effort has to go into lesson prep if the goal is motivating the class to believe in 1 big dea. Very little effort has to go into a lesson where the goal is to retell the facts listed in the Scripture for that lesson.

Let me restate, I am not bashing the curriculum that currently exists. It works for some people, and that is great.

But it doesn’t work for me, and that’s why this site exists. If you’ve ever been as frustrated as I have been with not being able to find great lessons for your Sunday School class I’d encourage you to take a look at some of the lessons available on this site. You won’t find stuff like this anywhere else.

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