Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) educators were abuzz with talk about the newly-renovated We Believe curriculum at the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators annual event here last week.
The walkways and meeting rooms of APCE — which drew more than 1,000 church educators from around the country — were full of: “Have you seen the new We Believe?” “Head to the marketplace and check out the new curriculum.” “I’m so impressed with the new We Believe; I can’t wait to try it.”
Launched in the fall of 2009, this major revision of the denomination’s curriculum is based on the voiced needs of educators, pastors, Sunday school directors and youth workers. As General Editor for Congregational Ministries Publishing (CMP) Mark Hinds puts it, “we listened.”
CMP — a department of the General Assembly Mission Council’s Theology, Worship and Education ministries — did a survey over the course of 18 months, asking what people needed in curriculum.
“What should we keep? What should change? What is helpful? We really listened to the people who use the curriculum,” said Hinds. This has led, he added, to a renewed connection between CMP and the educators and pastors they serve.
Hinds found the curriculum’s reception at the APCE event enthusiastic. “People are raving about it. One person said to me it is the best thing the church has ever done,” he said.
And it’s not just all talk, either. Sales are up 15% from 2008 — a huge increase in difficult economic times. And, at about $5 per child per quarter, it is one of the most economical curricula on the market, Hinds said.
The new curriculum is deeply Presbyterian, he emphasized, noting that “it was developed on a mandate from the General Assembly.”
Curriculum writer Krista Lovell, who is assistant director of children’s ministry at First Presbyterian Church here, also stressed the strong ties to the Reformed tradition. She worked on the elementary materials and says, “our hope in is that we can creatively engage children in God’s story. These materials utilize teacher’s gifts, they are accessible for the lay leader but it is substantive and reformed.”
In addition to what was launched in the fall, CMP is working on new adolescent development resources, including new human sexuality curriculum. There is also brand new curriculum for adults coming in the fall of 2010. It is called Being Reformed.
This emphasis on the reformed tradition is not by accident. Historically, Presbyterian curriculum has been seen as liberal-leaning. “This We Believe is traditional,” said Hinds, noting its basis on scripture and the PC(USA) Book of Confessions.
“In education, there is a place for handing on the Reformed Presbyterian tradition. The writers, editors, and designers of this curriculum all take this seriously. This is the thing I am most proud of with this new We Believe,” Hinds commented.
The Rev. Janet Tuck is director of communications for the Synod of Living Waters and a frequent contributor to Presbyterian News Service.