So, I don't write curriculum. Some people think I do, but I haven't. What I have done is content editing and discussion with people who do write curriculum. So my learnings have come through conversation and observation.
Until I participated in a conversation on the future of Sunday school a number of years ago, I thought curriculum came from...well, I don't know exactly where I thought it came from. Kind of like some city folk who think milk comes from the refrigerator, I thought curriculum just appeared in my Sunday school room, created by some amorphous entity. I had absolutely no understanding of the process that is involved in creating curriculum, and even less understanding of the people.
But I think I'm learning.
Since that time I've learned that curriculum is written by people. Real, live, human beings. The kind that you meet at the store, the kind that pick up their children from school, the kind that sit next to you on the pew at church. The kind that have feelings. So when I'm sarcastically throwing around criticism like it's going out of style, I'm taking pot shots at the dedicated work of individuals, not just some publishing label. And yes, I used to do this, and mostly don't anymore, I hope.
I've learned that these people work REALLY hard. Writing curriculum isn't just something that you sit down to do one day and write for a certain number of hours and then you're done (at least not from what I've seen). It's the kind of work that follows you all day. Ideas percolate and you end up frantically scribbling them in your day planner, or on an old envelope, or discussing them ad nauseam with folks who think you're insane to be thinking of how to engage a group of Jr. High kids in a spiritual practice while you happen to be grocery shopping.
I've learned that whatever question I have about the material, they've probably already asked it...twenty times. That doesn't mean I shouldn't ask it, but it does make me more aware of how I ask it, because there's probably a reason that they made the decision that they did. I still might not agree, and that's fine, but I need to respect the tremendous discernment that's already been done too.
I've learned that they're not in it for the money (not that I ever really thought they were). Contract work done for the benefit of non-profits. Need I say more?
I've learned that these people love the Bible and love the church. People simply don't put in all the time and energy to create Bible lesson after Bible lesson without a passion for the biblical narrative, and a passion for faith formation in the congregation.
And I've learned that writers of curriculum love, love, love to hear from the people who use it. They love to hear the stories, whether they are insightful, hilarious, or challenging. Because after all, they don't just write this material to sit on a shelf, it's written to be used! The hope is that the stories and the questions and the activities will spark conversation, will create space to encounter God, and will inspire life-long faith formation. So it's pretty awesome when we can share the stories of when these things actually happen.
So here's to curriculum writers! May they continue to inspire and form congregations!