by Sharon Ely Pearson
Time and time again I hear a plea for good resources to use with youth – middle and high school students. While there isn’t a plethora of curricula “out there” that is compatible with mainline, progressive theology (for example, Group Publishing often publishes from a more evangelical “being saved” prospective), there are some great resources to “tap into”.
And “tapping into” is the key. For most of us, our groups of youth have a variety of characteristics, interests, and skills – not to mention maturity level and sequential age. Any ONE curricular resource will probably not fit your whole group. Which is why you may have to tap into several resources and tweak them to fit your (and your group’s) needs.
For high school students, topical studies that are short term as well as those that involve action and living out their faith, delving into an issue and exploring their experience or feelings about it is a key for choosing a resource. Allowing them to provide leadership (with your support) will give them tools for the future and empower them to take responsibility for their own learning and participation. Some resources to tap into:
- The Power of Youth is an 8-session DVD (with leader’s guide and participant handouts on a CD-rom) features Roger Nishioka giving a presentation to an audience of youth, along with footage of other contemporary news items. Your group also gets to hear other youth respond to Roger, then you can further the conversation with your youth. There is no need to show this for eight weeks in a row – mix it up!
- Living In Christ (LinC) and FaithLens are both resources that are updated weekly. So they are timely. LinC is topical, usually following a world event, contemporary issue, or pop culture (music, movie, sports). FaithLens follows the lectionary.
- On Being is based on the popular American Public Radio program hosted by Krista Tippet. There are eight individual modules in which you can listed to downloaded MP3 files of a portion of an interview, then a session plan for delving deeper in experiential ways. Topics include Islam, Judaism, science, mathematics, spiritual practices, and heroes of society. Tap into their interest in contemporary studies!
Middle schoolers are just as varied as high schoolers, even more so. They need to move around a lot and won’t sit still to discuss things for long. Even though they are older, they still enjoy art projects (age appropriate – not cut & paste) and may not get a chance to use paint or clay very much anymore. And they love mystery – mystery in the spiritual sense too! Use candles, music, and ancient practices to learn new ways of praying than perhaps they experienced as a child. It’s time to get them to dig deeper into the biblical stories, now from a more age-appropriate perspective. Pull apart the story, read it in its entirety from the bible (not a children’s bible). Help them to start thinking theologically.
- Weaving God’s Promises for Youth was built on the same stories as Weaving God’s Promises for Children, but delves into them in a way middle schoolers can resonant through a unique session plan format – REACT: Reflect/Relate, Express/Engage, Ask, Answer, Conceptualize/Create, Translate/Tell.
- Connect is for 5th & 6th graders focusing on the Old Testament and the New Testament, exploring the connections between several stories each week. The curriculum includes 10 units, with six lessons in each unit. There is a video component for those who need to have a multi-media approach.
These are just a few of many new resources. There are plenty more ideas to use with youth right here on Building Faith. Just click on the youth tab on the home page, or put the word “youth” in the search engine and you’ll find over 250 articles!