Why Pay, When I Can Get it For Free?
They say "the best things in life are free," and I love to get stuff for free as much as the next person. In my first semester at college, I never missed a free dinner. It was always pizza, but that worked out for me since I love pizza.
As the semester progressed, I quickly realized that there's also "no such thing as a free lunch." I was paying with something every time I made the trek over and sat through whatever presentation was being given. I was paying for my free pizza dinners in other ways.
Do you know what’s free? Most Sunday school curriculum. You can find one from nearly every diocese and every country. They have been put out by priests, deacons, and subcommittees, and they are very good.
However, these curriculums come with a hidden cost: your time.
In order to present these lessons well, your time is spent reading and researching. Your time is spent putting together slideshows and finding a game to play together. (And that's if you're really putting your all into it.)
That is not to say the time is not well spent. I learned a lot planning lessons through the years. But what about those weeks when you're pressed for time? When you can't make that slideshow? When you can't find that activity? It's a terrible feeling to show up in front of your Sunday School students unprepared or underprepared, even if you "wing it" well. And if we’re honest, how often are we winging it?
The point is: the time comes from somewhere.
It may come out of the time you could have been visiting your youth, or time spent planning a retreat or fun fellowship activity, or time spent coming up with opportunities for youth to volunteer in the Church.
Sunday school gives us 1 hour with our youth per week, if we are lucky. If we use all our precious time planning for this 1 hour per week time, we miss out on so many other opportunities to serve our youth.
When Shereen introduced me to her curriculum two years ago, I was blown away. Shereen’s lessons pick up the slack in creative presenting. They are detailed and engaging to teens.
Using the curriculum as a tool, our primary job as a youth ministry servant becomes living the lesson and connecting with the kids.
You trade research time and "finding the perfect activity" time for the text message, the phone call, and the home visitation that really connects kids with the Church and with Christ. You can invest time in creating fellowship groups, retreats, community service projects, parent discussion groups, and other ways to help our youth connect to the Church in a personal way.
You pay for a Bridges to Orthodoxy curriculum, you get time back — and the hope is, you’ll reinvest it in the kids.
I know that every one of us who serve is fighting tooth and nail for the kids who are trying to slip through our fingers. That when they graduate Sunday school, they don’t feel as though they graduated Church. A curriculum that teaches while being practical and engaging? I am not sure how to put a price tag on that. Take my arm, take my leg. Lord, let the kids You have entrusted to me come out on the other side loving You and Your Church.
When we spend money on the church building, we are investing in infrastructure. It is a beautiful and important act. When we pay for stained glass windows and new woodwork for the iconostatis or the lectern, I always picture it as washing the feet of Christ with costly oil. It is never wasted.
Our children INSIDE the Church are similarly worth the investment. We should not hesitate to find the best quality possible for their education, lest we become whitewashed tombs.
When they say, "the best things in life are free," they don't mean things you can pay for. They mean the things you can't pay for: love, time, connection, kindness, peace of mind.
Our hope at Bridges to Orthodoxy is that with these pedagogically-sound, theologically-sound, kid-centered curriculums in hand, you can face the other problems in youth ministry with confidence. You can even give these curriculum lessons to the kids to prepare and present!
If you try out a Bridges to Orthodoxy unit, I'm betting you'll see what I did: that you get WAY more than you pay for.