Curriculum thoughts, part 1 – 252 Basics.

I thought I’d post my thoughts on various children’s ministry curriculums. Here at Emergence, I’m considering taking the approach of writing our own curriculum to suit our unique needs and desires. It’s a massive project, and it probably won’t happen in full for at least a few years, but it’s on my radar for a few reasons.

1. No curriculum has exactly what we need.

It’s also highly likely that you’re in the same boat if you’re in children’s ministry. You can’t seem to find one that fits all your needs.

2. My undergraduate degree is in writing and publication.

I happen to have the skill set necessary to complete this project. I also happen have on my children’s ministry team a former curriculum writer. You probably don’t have these luxuries, so writing your own curriculum might not be a good option for you. That’s part of why I’m writing these posts.

3. Our church is very different.

This is probably going to apply to you as well. No two church communities are alike. There’s diversity in the Church, and that means that curriculums probably won’t work exactly the same way in one place as it will in another.

But before I can even get to the point where we’re writing our own curriculum, Emergence Kids has to get to a certain point of maturity as a ministry. I don’t know when that is, but I trust that God will make that clear to me.

In the meantime, here’s what I’ve seen from some curriculums and my thoughts on each. For the sake of these pseudo-reviews, I’ll be discussing elementary curriculums primarily.

252 Basics.
252 Basics is probably the curriculum that I’m most familiar with among the three curriculums that I’m highlighting in these posts. It’s published by the Orange Group and based loosely on the themes found in Luke 2:52, referring to children’s growth in wisdom, faith, and friendship.

252 Basics is a virtues-based curriculum. Essentially that means that each month focuses on a new virtue and uses various stories and passages from the Bible to connect to the month’s virtue. It’s pretty much topical preaching for kids.

252 Basics employs a large group/small group format pretty heavily, so if your ministry isn’t designed that way, you’ll have a difficult time tailoring it to fit your format. It can be done, but it’s not easy.

Here’s what 252 Basics does well: it provides a ton of resources for teachers and leaders to use. Everything is scripted and prepared by the curriculum developer so that as a startup, or if you have too much on your plate to be able to customize lessons, you can use it pretty much out of the box.

The curriculum does an excellent job of breaking down the age-appropriate lessons and provides completely different activities for K-1st, 2nd-3rd, and 4th-5th grade levels while still maintaining a unified message across all the grade levels.

Where 252 Basics misses the mark: it’s virtue-based so it leaves much to be desired theologically. The curriculum uses eisegesis to teach the Bible (as opposed to exegesis), so you’re often left with Bible passages that are twisted to make sense within the prescribed month’s theme rather than left within the context of the large passage from which they’re taken.

Another drawback is a disturbing tendency to lean towards moralism. The full impact of the Gospel is often weakened by a sense of “here’s how you should live.” Jesus is rarely the focus of the lessons and is more often painted as our “good deeds enabler” or even “circumstance fixer.”

(Final thoughts and score below Scope & Sequence)

Scope & Sequence
252 Basics is a three-year curriculum. Here’s the scope and sequence for the three years.
2011-12
SEPTEMBER
Knowledge—Discovering something new so you can be better at whatever you do
OCTOBER
Creativity—Using your imagination to do something unique
NOVEMBER
Gratitude—Letting others know you see how they’ve helped you
DECEMBER
Generosity—Making someone’s day by giving something away
JANUARY
Self-Control—Choosing to do what you should do, not what you want to do
FEBRUARY
Honor—Letting someone know you see how valuable they really are
MARCH
Conviction—Standing for what is right, even when others don’t
APRIL
Hope—Believing that something good can come out of something bad
MAY
Responsibility—Proving you can be trusted with what is expected of you
JUNE
Trust—Putting your confidence in someone you can depend on
JULY
Love—Choosing to give someone your time and friendship no matter what
AUGUST
Contentment—Deciding to be happy with what you’ve got
2012-13
SEPTEMBER
Respect—Responding with words and actions that show others they are important.
OCTOBER
Individuality—Discovering who you are meant to be so you can make a difference
NOVEMBER
Cooperation—Working together to do more than you can do alone
DECEMBER
Compassion—Caring enough to do something about someone else’s need
JANUARY
Determination—Deciding it’s worth it to finish what you’ve started
FEBRUARY
Peace—Proving that you care more about others than winning an argument
MARCH
Honesty—Choosing to be truthful in whatever you say and do
APRIL
Friendship—Spending time with someone you trust and enjoy
MAY
Patience—Waiting until later for what you want now
JUNE
Stewardship—definition not available at this time
JULY
Service—Lending a hand to help someone else
AUGUST
Obedience—Trusting those who lead you by doing what you’re asked to do
2013-14
SEPTEMBER
Wisdom—Finding out what you need to do and choosing to do it
OCTOBER
Initiative—Seeing what needs to be done and doing it
NOVEMBER
Uniqueness—Learning more about others so you can know more about yourself
DECEMBER
Joy—Finding a way to be happy, even when things don’t go your way
JANUARY
Discipline—Doing what you need to do now so you can grow stronger
FEBRUARY
Kindness—Showing others they are valuable by how you treat them
MARCH
Courage—Being brave enough to do what you should do even when you’re afraid
APRIL
Humility—Putting others first by giving up what you think you deserve
MAY
Forgiveness—Deciding that someone who has wronged you doesn’t have to pay
JUNE
Faith—Trusting in what you can’t see because of what you can see
JULY
Perseverance—Refusing to give up when life gets hard
AUGUST
Grace—Getting something great you don’t deserve

Final thoughts:
Unfortunately, I don’t think I can really recommend 252 Basics. While I agree that the “Orange Strategy” is an extremely helpful tool (and was employed heavily at the church I served at previously), I’m wary about their aim in teaching children. The curriculum may be extremely well designed, packaged, and executed, but the lessons teach kids a kind of therapeutic, moralistic deism, and it’s because of this that I can’t recommend 252 Basics.

Packaging and ease of use: 9/10
Lesson content and Gospel-teaching effectiveness: 2/10
Biblical and narrative accuracy: 2/10
Age appropriateness and breakdown: 9/10
Activities: 7/10

Final Score: 5.8/10

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2 thoughts on “Curriculum thoughts, part 1 – 252 Basics.

  1. “you’re often left with Bible passages that are twisted to make sense within the prescribed month’s theme rather than left within the context of the large passage from which they’re taken.” That’s my concern! Thank you for addressing this. Can I ask if you have found anything else that effectively uses small groups like Orange does? Thank you!

    • Alice,

      I apologize for the delay in responding to your comment. My brain doesn’t always focus well.

      We’ve been using The Gospel Project by LifeWay. While the small group time is slightly different, it still follows the same format, and in many cases I would argue it’s just as effective as 252 Basics.

      Another curriculum we tested (and that I personally liked a lot, but it didn’t quite fit our ministry’s culture) was TruStory by David C. Cook. That curriculum also follows a large-group/small-group format.

      Both of these curriculums offer free samples of their material for you to try.

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