If you follow StudentMinistry on Twitter you’ve probably seen a lot of references to Lifeway’s new Known curriculum over the past several months. I checked it out and actually had an opportunity to talk with Scott Stevens about it, the Director of Student Ministry at Lifeway. You can listen to a recording of our conversation at the end of this post or grab it in iTunes.
Not too long ago Lifeway did some extensive research on why 18 to 22 year olds drop out of church and their views on eternity. Generally speaking, they found that teens graduating from high school were pulling away from faith and church due to a host of reasons and influences, including life changes and biblical illiteracy.
So they started asking questions like, “What must a graduating high school student know, understand, or believe in order to take ownership of their faith and remain grounded in God and His Word after high school? How can we help that take place best?” What they came up with is a pretty holistic approach to student ministry that involves a couple key ingredients.
1. The example of Jesus’ life
Lifeway focused on the Sermon on the Mount and Luke 2:52, “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” and broke it down into three main goals they want to see happen in the lives of teenagers.
1. Know: Upward Development. Jesus grew in favor with God. The Sermon on the Mount breaks this down into discipleship and Lordship.
2. Own: Inward Development. Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature. The Sermon on the Mount breaks this down into character and discernment.
3. Known: Outward Development. Jesus grew in favor with man. The Sermon on the Mount breaks this down into relationships and influence.
2. Parents and the Home
Every study I’ve ever seen, both formal and informal, indicates that parents are easily the #1 spiritual influence in a teenager’s life, which makes sense because that’s the way God established the family to work in the first place. Lifeway found this to be true, as well, and wanted to capitalize on it. So as they worked on putting together a comprehensive approach to student ministry, they knew they had to integrate both the home and the church.
The Compilation: Known Curriculum
Once the goals and strategy were set in place, it took on flesh in the form of the Known curriculum. Lifeway has seriously done a tremendous job of packaging an entire six year Bible course for jr. high through high school that flows from their research and their vision for students to “grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.” It pretty much includes a ready-to-go youth ministry, complete with Sunday morning lessons, Wednesday night lessons, games, options for creative ideas, planned events, parent meeting, student journals, worksheets, deeper theological training sheets, devotionals and more. I don’t think they’ve left a single thing out!
Known is split into quarterly packages for fall, winter, spring and summer of each year. Each package spends a month focusing on know, own or known aspects of the strategy that incorporates studies that’s a nice blend between topical and exegetical approaches.
The assumption is that teaching specific content from a stage or in a small group is the answer to all the teen dropouts from church and biblical illiteracy. I agree it’s critical to have solid content, but I guess I’m wondering if our delivery mechanism is part of the problem, not necessarily the content we teach. Maybe we need to teach more through real-life experiences than sitting under florescent lights in church classrooms. Yeah, we all try to help students talk through ways the key scripture passage applies to their life, and then we naively assume that they leave and actually do it. Maybe the way we are communicating the solid content just doesn’t connect with teens. I don’t really have many solutions, just thinking out loud, but I do believe that teaching should become more experiential because teaching through experiences is where real-life and faith can truly intersect. That could be a different topic for a later blog post, though.
Of course, the other thing to be careful of is that it doesn’t become a crutch as a canned “one size fits all” youth ministry. That’s true for any youth ministry curriculum, not just Known. Regardless of what curriculum you use, you must contextualize it for your kids and you must never use it as an excuse to shut off your vision casting and direction for the future. Otherwise, your ministry will definitely get stuck in a rut and become focused on its function rather than its identity. But again, another blog post for another time.
That said, I am seriously considering a switch to Known in the fall for our high school meetings on Sunday mornings. Of course I’m going to run it by some youth leaders and a couple teenagers first, but I do believe it has potential and is definitely worth the $149.95 for a quarterly digital download bundle at least to try it out. It seems to fit in our Deep and Wide strategy pretty well.
For more information
Check out Lifeway’s website for more information.
Recording: Interview with Lifeway
Posted on May 18, 2009