One of the most common conundrums for growing churches big and small is: what to do with the kids? And not just: “how do we fill their time?”, but how do we disciple them well and train them in the deep, life-giving goodness of the gospel? Can we teach our kids the real stuff of what it means to be Christ-centred, gospel-driven, biblically-grounded and Anglican? Can we do more with our kids on Sundays than babysit them until the adults are done?
The children’s ministry team at St. John’s Richmond in British Columbia thought so. And so they began to develop a new curriculum for their children and families. They called it God’s Big Story (GBS).
We connected with the Rev. Jeremy Graham, the leader of the Loving Children & Families Priority for the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC) and one of the contributing writers of GBS, to talk about the origins and ongoing vision of the curriculum.
“GBS began at the ANiC parish of St. John’s Richmond (SJR) about 15 years ago,” Jeremy said. “Penny Love and Kimberley Graham are the curriculum’s original creators.” Kimberley is Jeremy’s wife.
“Penny and Kim wanted SJR children to meet Jesus. They believed that the gospel of Jesus Christ is meant for children to hear and receive. It doesn’t need to be dumbed down or sentimentalized.”
But they struggled to find a program that really fit all they hoped their children’s program could be: a robustly Christ-centred, biblically comprehensive, Anglican appreciating, catechetical Sunday School curriculum.
“When they couldn’t find one,” Jeremy told us, “they began developing a new resource week-by-week, year-by-year until voila! an entire curriculum has emerged.”
Now, after 15 years of development, GBS has had no less than 7 different contributing writers and is being used by more than 25 churches. Because of the nature of the curriculum, the instruction and formation of the teachers and volunteers is as important as it is for the children.
“GBS is a training curriculum,” Jeremy explained. “Each lesson is designed to teach and form the volunteers in Scripture and catechesis as they prepare. It’s easy to use through digital downloads and it’s entirely FREE!”
Although the writers of GBS don’t want to “dumb down” the gospel they also know full well that they are teaching children and so the curriculum—though biblically comprehensive, Anglican-appreciating, and catechetical—is also creative, colourful, and hands-on.
“Children learn best when all five senses are engaged,” Jeremy said. “The curriculum includes singing, visuals for story-telling, hands-on arts and crafts, and body moving games.”
Another key principle in GBS is the concept that the family is central to every child’s discipleship. So, as the curriculum continues to develop, the GBS team is looking for more and more ways to not only train the volunteers for Sunday, but also the parents who are with their kids all week long.
“Our hope is to develop companion resources for family catechesis. After all, the family ought to be the primary place for discipleship!” said Jeremy. “Parents need encouragement and support in their God-given responsibility and, with God’s help, we aim to do what we can.”
God’s Big Story has now been written for Nursery, Preschool, Primary, and Intermediate classes as well as a flexible curriculum for multi-age groups.
In the Anglican Network in Canada, loving children and families has been identified as one of our top priorities as a diocese. We want to have parishes that not only have safe, fun places for our children on Sundays but which are intentionally and effectively discipling our families and kids to know the gospel of Jesus Christ and be transformed by it. God’s Big Story curriculum is playing a big part in that priority and perhaps it could for your church as well.
You can find out more about the GBS curriculum and access downloads at: www.anglicannetwork.ca/gods-big-story
ABOUT THE AUTHOR, SCOTT HUNT
Scott is the Communications Director for the Anglican Network in Canada, a diocese of the Anglican Church in North America. He’s a member of St. George’s Burlington and lives in Fergus, Ontario with his wife, Richelle.