News Articles

Children’s changing world prompts LifeWay preschool curriculum changes

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–It’s been almost 30 years since LifeWay Christian Resources (formerly the Sunday School Board) introduced major changes in age groupings and Sunday school curriculum for preschoolers.
And according to Tommy Sanders, director of LifeWay’s preschool Sunday school ministry department, it isn’t so much that children themselves have changed in that time period. Childhood has.
“It’s a totally different world out there than it was in 1970,” Sanders said, referring to the year when the last major changes were made. “We realized if we are going to meet the needs of preschoolers and their families in the 21st century, we were going to have to make some changes.”
Sanders introduced the new preschool materials during the National Preschool/Children Convention, Oct. 19-22, at LifeWay’s headquarters in Nashville, Tenn. More than 650 children’s and preschool ministers from across the country attended the four-day conference.
In two separate sessions, Sanders had groups of church workers brainstorm ways early childhood has changed during the last three decades. Topping their lists was the deterioration of the traditional two-parent family, which is increasingly being replaced by single-parent homes and children cared for by grandparents or other relatives. Also mentioned: escalating divorce rates and the accompanying increase of blended families; earlier involvement in organized sports and other extracurricular activities; and increasing violence which has left many preschoolers in fear.
And then there’s the technology explosion.
“The average child spends between 35 and 40 hours per week in front of a television screen or playing a computer game,” Sanders said. “That’s more time than most spend learning about the Bible all year.”
These types of changes require new materials, Sanders said, adding LifeWay also realized the need to focus more attention on two key groups of preschoolers — babies and kindergarten students.
Recent findings related to brain development in babies reveal their ability to learn “building blocks” of information which can be reinforced in their childhood years. In addition, the number of children in kindergarten has increased dramatically since 1970, with mandatory attendance now required in almost all 50 states.
“We’re realizing the importance of transition years for children,” Sanders said, adding LifeWay also has targeted materials aimed at sixth graders, high school seniors and college students.
In addition to higher quality graphics and design, Sanders said the new preschool resources place new emphasis on the home as the center of Bible teaching.
“Parents have shifted the Bible teaching responsibility for preschoolers to the church. The Sunday school definitely has an important role to play, but the Bible teaches that the ultimate responsibility belongs to the parents. We want to provide parents with resources that help them meet that challenge.”
Toward that end, the new materials will include outlines and resources for quarterly conferences which Sunday school teachers, department/division directors or ministers can lead for parents. All the age groups will focus on a similar topic such as discipline and Bible teaching at home, but the discussion will center on the specific age group needs. The handout and resource material for these sessions will be in the last pages of the parent/pupil magazines.
“The purpose of this conference is to better equip teachers to help parents understand their role as primary Bible teacher for preschoolers,” Sanders said. “It will help preschool leaders break out of the habit of ministering only to preschoolers.”
Sanders said preschool ministers and leaders from state conventions and local churches had input in the design and content of the new resources, adding they will be available for purchase in the fall quarter (September-October-November) of 1999.

    About the Author

  • Chip Alford