Activating the Power of Curriculum in Your Small Church

Small Church

My absolute favorite line in a youth pastor job description is the line that sounds something like . . .

“and other duties as assigned.”

If you are serving in a smaller church, I know you started making a mental list when you read that.

Your list probably includes:

  • Upload sermon to Facebook
  • Stack chairs after worship
  • Empty trash
  • Figure out how to run the soundboard
  • Teach Sunday school
  • Provide tech support for the whole church

Whether you are full-time, bi-vocational, or the volunteer youth pastor, you have a big job. You have an important job. Regardless of how long, or short (but probably not short) your job description may be, you’ve got the important role of leading a generation.

If you’ve chosen to use curriculum, you know it’s a powerful tool to help you lead a ministry rather than try and do it all every week. So how do you get the most from your curriculum and make it work for your unique context?


Use the Power of Curriculum to Make Relationships a Priority

Having a clear plan of what you are going to teach each week takes some of the pressure off. Using curriculum can free you up to do what only you can do, which is building relationships with students, families, and volunteers. I believe that creating those relationships is more important than ever! In years like this, reaching students and fostering relationships with them seems to have a greater urgency than it did before. Curriculum helps you avoid spending the majority of your time writing or searching for something that feels relevant. When in reality, you could use curriculum that has your next year planned out. With a plan and content for every week, you can make relationships a priority in a new way.


Embrace the Freedom to Contextualize in Your Small Church

It’s always surprising to me when I talk to leaders who are afraid to change up how they approach curriculum content. Especially in small churches, your context can be your superpower! You, of all ministries, can actually experience the most freedom to change your approach! Every church has their own culture, their own community, and their own identity. Now, all of those factors make it incredibly hard for me to tell you how you might specifically use XP3 in your context.

But, one of the best parts of Orange (and yes, I do realize that I am biased) is we have specialists who listen, learn, and work with you until you have the best answer for your ministry. You get a trained ministry specialist who is available to you for the entire time you have a license. Orange Specialists are trained consultants who can help you contextualize our content, help you brainstorm issues, or just listen to you vent about having to take the trash out for the one-thousandth time.


It’s Just as Powerful to Pick and Choose

With a curriculum like XP3, you can access some incredible components that can elevate your social media, assist your worship pastor, build a teaching team, and take your devotional strategy to the next level. It’s awesome, but it can be a lot.

So first, remember that you don’t have to use it all every week. The last small church I was serving had about nine students coming each week. It was so fun to get creative on how best to use XP3 with them! (P.S. Orange Specialists can help you brainstorm what this could look like for you!)

The point is, each component is there for you when you need it. Ready to build your teaching team and bring diverse voices in to your ministry? Perfect—the communicator guide is written and ready to go. Have a new leader looking to lead worship? Send them the worship leader guide. A student wants to run social media? Send them the social media guide.

In the meantime, don’t feel like you need to use everything. Treat it like a recipe, and use the ingredients you need most!


Remix How You Lead Small Group Conversations

A program where you meet together for a large group lesson, then break into circles of small groups may not be the best format for your group! With some creativity, you can actually take the same content and try a completely new approach. Here are a few of my favorites.

  • Then take the small group questions, cut them up, and put them in a bucket in the middle of the room. Be sure to study the content and have an idea of how you want the conversation to go. Arrange the chairs around the bucket. Have a student pick a question, read it out loud, and then let the conversation flow. It’s okay if the conversation runs off the rails! Using your knowledge of the script, you can always bring it back around—plus, you learn a lot about your students when the conversation comes more naturally.
  • Using giant Post-it notes, write the small group questions on the top and put them on the walls around your environment. You can set up the talk for the students then turn them loose on the small group questions. Have a variety of markers, crayons, and paint, and let them answer the questions on the Post-it notes. Maybe ask them to answer one of the questions using a drawing. Have fun with this! Play music from our curated playlist—then you can move around the room creating conversation around their answers.
  • Find or create a game that teaches the content. We know that fun over time creates connections. There are so many great game websites out there, or try a screen-type game from our friends at Download Youth Ministry. Students learn best from experience. Using experiential learning techniques gives students a chance to explore learning by processing and developing critical thinking skills.


We Have a Small Church – What About Budget?

This is the part where I feel like smaller churches get really deflated. How do you even afford a curriculum? For context, XP3 costs about $15 a week, which is equal to a large, number-one Chick-fil-A combo with a vanilla milkshake. That might not sound like much, but if you work in a smaller church, you know every penny counts. I remember my first year of ministry, I was given $1,000. I had to be so creative, because trying to make that stretch and do ministry with excellence—it was wild!

At Orange, we’re a non-profit, which allows us to work with every budget (and I do mean every budget). When Orange says they want to partner with you, they truly mean that! They know that the work you do is too important to put a price tag on. Reach out to your Orange Specialist (or, if you’re checking out XP3 for the first time, reach out to Partner Support). We’ll help figure out a plan to help you continue to make an impact with the next generation, no matter the budget.

Leading in a smaller church is such a wonderful experience! There is something special about knowing everyone and really getting to do life with the Church. It’s definitely not easier, but the goal is still the same, regardless of what size church you serve in. When you learn to use curriculum like a tool, it becomes a powerful part of helping you run a ministry every week. It can maybe even knock a thing or two off your (long) job description.



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