This month, our Bible Fellowship (Sunday School) began using LifeWay's new Sunday School material, "The Gospel Project". Previous to this, our Student and Adult curriculum was from the Life Lessons Series. Our Preschool and Children classes used Bible Teaching for Kids. We made the decision to make a move to the Gospel Project for several reasons.
I liked the idea of all ages, preschool through senior adults, utilizing the same material. While the preschool and children's materials do not follow along exactly with the student and adult materials in the Gospel Project, which I wish they would, the concepts and main ideas are available for families to discuss the lessons together and I hope this will encourage families to do so. Another reason we made the change was the content itself. The Life Lessons material, while satisfactory, was at times repetitive the closer it came toward the end of the month. By this I mean the teachers felt that sometimes the authors stretched the topic just to ensure the whole month was covered, and as a result the lesson was a stretch. The Gospel Project is grouped in Units and Sessions which do not necessarily fill an entire month, but do a good job at covering the big idea without stretching it for another week simply to fill a month. The Bible Teaching for Kids material is a good resource, but with the alternative Gospel Project, I don't believe there is any comparison. The Gospel Project for Preschoolers, Younger Kids and Older Kids is a resource which will guide teachers to engage children of all learning types. It seems to me with this new curriculum, LifeWay is catching up with some of the other innovative producers of children's curriculum. The student curriculum and the adult curriculum follow the same unit and session plan, which again I believe is a good asset and an opportunity for families to discuss what they learned together.
The iPad app for the adult material is awesome! The teachers I have using this app love it and can't stop talking about it. The iPhone app for the student material is ok. I see it being used more by the actual students than the teachers, but I am encouraging the student teachers to use the iPad app for additional resources. I look forward to reviewing the iPad app for the children's material soon.
An early concern I have with The Gospel Project is the delivery method. When we used the Life Lesson Materials, we made the decision to use the on-line version for students and adults. This decision was based on the ease of the delivery method as well as the cost savings. It actually cut our budget in half for Bible Fellowship materials. When I initially began reviewing the possibility of switching to the Gospel Project, I was excited to see the availability of the material in an electronic format for preschool through adults. I made plans to utilize this delivery method.
After ordering the Gospel Project digital curriculum for preschool and children, I soon discovered for a ministry the size we have, this delivery method would not be feasible. There were many pages which needed printed off each week and organized for classes consisting of an average of 10-15 children. LifeWay was great at refunding the order and allowing me to order the pre-printed materials for preschool and children, which has worked out great. While the electronic version for our preschool and children did not work out for us, that does not mean it will not work for your church. I encourage you to consider the electronic version as it will save resources, especially for smaller ministries.
I made the decision to utilize the electronic delivery method for student and adult classes as they were familiar with this system through the Life Lessons materials. LifeWay developed a curriculum manager site where materials can be accessed by leaders and teachers once the license is purchased for the materials. This was a great idea and I was excited about it. However, this delivery system has been very difficult. Initially, the curriculum manager site did not allow the leaders i added to access materials, even after plenty of licenses were purchased. After discussing the issue with LifeWay tech support, they corrected the problem. The site worked for a week, but I have again started receiving e-mails and comments from teachers who cannot access their materials. I also find the site to be very slow at times. To temporarily address the issues, I have all but given up on the LifeWay Curriculum Manager site and have printed off materials for some teachers, provided thumb drives to some teachers with the materials, and created a password protected site linked to our Bible Fellowship web site which I have uploaded the materials to for our student and adult teachers. I reluctantly plan to move back to the hard copies for the next quarter to minimize these delivery issues, which will increase our budget again for curriculum.
Admittedly, some of the issues may be user error. I realize this. But the electronic delivery method for the Life Lessons material was simple and rarely caused problems for teachers and leaders once it was set up. I am hopeful the issues experienced early on with the Curriculum Manager site will be worked out in time and if so, I will consider moving back to this delivery method.
Overall, in the short time we have used The Gospel Project, I am very pleased. The children are enjoying the new materials and I am receiving very positive feedback from teachers across all ages. I am committed to using this material for the three year span and with the exception of some administrative issues, I would encourage your church to strongly consider this material. You can find more information by visiting www.gospelproject.com.