Curriculum: Writing VS Purchasing
A LIST OF PROS & CONS
Over the years I’ve gone back and forth on what is a better choice- purchasing the curriculum you use OR writing it yourself. I have done both and here’s my thought: they are both good options. The question is what is best for you and your ministry personally.
Here are some pros and cons of both options to consider as you are planning your next small group study, Sunday School lesson, or large group talk.
Writing your own curriculum:
If you decide to write your own curriculum, you’ll likely create something that is personalized to your group. You know better than anyone what your students need to hear, the kind of questions that will challenge them, and their level of spiritual maturity. You can also adapt the length of each lesson to fit your schedule and use personal references that those in your group will understand and relate to. You may even feel more confident to teach and facilitate since you wrote the material yourself.
Some youth ministry curriculums come with a substantial price tag, and depending on your budget, you may or may not be in a position to purchase all the curriculum you need. Writing your own curriculum may be a more cost-efficient option.
Writing your own curriculum is also a great way to sharpen your writing and communication skills. Each of my summer interns spend time learning how to create and write the curriculum we use for Sunday school and our Wednesday night youth group Bible study. I want them to have the skills in place to be able to create their own curriculum if they so choose to once they are in ministry.
Writing your curriculum may help you save on your budget, but it will definitely be more time-consuming. The time you spend writing is potentially time that you could be devoting to other areas of your ministry. (This can especially be true if you are in charge of both Jr. and Sr. High and need to write multiple lessons each week.)
As much as you may want to write your own studies, writing may not come easily to you. We are all gifted differently and while you may be an amazing speaker and relator, writing may not be in your gift set. This can create unnecessary frustration and stress and may not provide the best studies for your students.
These days there are lots of options for pre-made youth ministry curriculum. You can find studies available for every book of the Bible, topic, and student age or gender. Many studies can still be purchased in physical form from local book stores or shipped from an online retailer. And most curriculum is now available in digital download form.
Many resources for purchase are very accessible and easy to use. The formats are clear and flow logically with opening questions, activities, Bible study questions, and application questions. They often will even provide a script that you can use as is or as a guideline on what to say as well as background information on Scripture passages. This tends to be a great help when you need to hand off responsibility to an adult volunteer leader who is short on time and may not have a lot of training or background in leading Bible studies.
Most notably, purchasing curriculum saves time. There is prep time still as you prepare to lead the study, but you save a lot of time with not having to write, edit, and prepare the lessons themselves, allowing you to use that time on the many other tasks of ministry.
As with anything today, you pay for convenience, and paying for a curriculum can get expensive. There is a wide spectrum out there for studies that range from fairly affordable to fairly costly. For some youth workers and their budgets, purchasing curriculum won’t break the bank, but for others it could mean having to choose between curriculum and some other youth ministry activity.
Purchased curriculum is not tailor-made to your group. Studies are often written broadly so that they can connect at some level with a broad audience and can be relevant for many different groups. Lessons often need to be tweaked by changing/adding/deleting various questions or activities to better fit the needs of your particular group.
Online previews are limited. Some curriculums provide an online preview or lesson download, but it may not be enough to give you a clear idea of what the rest of the material is like or if it will really work for you. Sometimes that sample might be a good lesson, but some of the rest of the material isn’t quite as good and you end up with not all you hoped for. It can be a risk to not have the ability to preview completely the curriculum and it can leave you with buyer’s remorse.
These are just a few of the pros and cons to each option, but hopefully it gives you some things to consider and wrestle with as you determine for you and your ministry what is the best option to take!
About the Author
Frank Newburn is a husband and father of three. He has been the youth director for Wesley United Methodist Church in Bloomington, Illinois since 2006. Before that Frank worked for LeaderTreks as a Leadership Specialist and Trip Leader. His ministry focuses include mentoring and discipleship, student leadership, and missions. He has over 25 years of youth… Read More