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ARTICLE: How to Decide Which Bible Stories to Teach? and "My 5 Year Plan"

Updated 2020

This topic has five subjects:

1. Frequently Asked Questions about Scope and Sequence

2. How to Create Your Own Scope and Sequence.

3. Neil's Original Five Year Scope and Sequence

4. An article about why "Lectionary" based curriculum is not a great idea.

5. Neil's Revised 5-Year Scope and Sequence

The "How-to" and original scope and sequence first appeared on Rotation.org in its early days and has been updated and improved many times by its author, Neil MacQueen. It is intended as a guide, not a prescription. The author is one of the founders of the Rotation Model, this site, and is currently the Lead Writer for the Rotation.org Writing Team. He is a Presbyterian minister specializing in Christian Education.

You can also find 5 and 6 year plans posted by other Rotation churches here.  Many of them are quite similar to Neil's Suggested Five Year Plan, and there's a reason for that! There is a general consensus among most Christian educators and pastors about the top 30 or so major Bible stories kids should know. Stories from Genesis, Exodus, and the Gospels, for example. After that, you'll see some interesting variations in the plans.

Questions?
Registered and Supporting Members can post questions in the Teacher's Lounge.


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Frequently Asked Questions About Scope and Sequence


A "Scope and Sequence" is the list (scope) of stories your Sunday School will teach over time, and in what order or sequence you will teach them in (what month/year).

Who Decides What Stories to Teach in the Rotation Model?

You and your church do. It's not hard, and it creates ownership and excitement.

For details and a rationale, read the article below about Creating a Scope and Sequence of Bible Stories for Rotation.

How many stories do I need?

How many weeks do I spend on each story?
How many years should I plan before repeating Year One stories?

Most Rotation educators believe four to five weeks per story is about right. There are certain stories, like Exodus, or the Cross where you can do special 6-week rotations if you have the need.  (Some stories can be taught twice over several years too.)

40 Sundays per year divided by 4 weeks per story rotation = 10 stories per year you will teach. If you teach through the summer months, add 3 more stories for a total of 13 stories per year. Some summer rotations only last 3 weeks. Depends on your story and schedule.

We say "40" weeks because most churches need to leave certain Sundays for other things, like special programs, or taking the summer off.

If you have identified 40 or 50 key stories/lessons to teach your kids in Rotation, that means you'll need about FOUR YEARS to get through them at 10 to 11 stories a year,  or FIVE YEARS if you only do 8 stories a year.

Some KEY Bible stories get REPEATED each year. Holy Week, for example, gets taught every year in Rotation, but one year focuses on Last Supper, and the next on the Crucifixion, etc.  Read Neil's article below for how to plan for these great reoccurring stories.

Your Scope and Sequence will guide your planning and resourcing, and everybody's plan eventually changes! ...which is one of the things Rotation people like about Rotation. It's flexible!

Which stories should we emphasize?

There are different theories about which stories to emphasize. Everyone agrees that stories about Jesus are the most important and that Advent and Holy Week stories should be covered every year. And everyone agrees that we should have more New than Old Testament stories.

Once you agree with those two sentiments, it's pretty easy to decide what are the "major" stories within the OT and NT that every child should hear and learn within a certain period of years. 

The important thing is to keep it flexible, and not be driven by pet-theories, such as, "which Gospel is better for kids," or "we must teach XYZ stories to kids because that's how I was raised." This is a new day.

Personally, I think it's what we emphasize WITHIN EACH STORY that's more important. The more I've taught and worked with kids and youth, the greater the importance I've placed on emphasizing the transformational instead of the informational. I want my kids to encounter the living presence BEHIND and within each story. In that sense, I've moved from "Bible Literacy" to "evangelism" as the primary goal of my teaching.

How many years should I plan ahead to get started?


Having a rather FIRM idea of at least the next two years ahead lets you begin to resource great lesson plans as you find them here at rotation.org.

But it's still a good idea to sketch out years three, four and five too. This will give you a sense of priorities, what resources are needed sooner rather than later, and help you see which stories might be good to teach in which years.  For example, if you know you're teaching Last Supper in Year One, it makes sense to follow that story in Year Two with the Cross, and Year Three with Resurrection.

It is highly recommended to put FAMILIAR major stories in your first year that are easy to resource and be creative with. The Good Samaritan, for example, is easier for your teachers and planners to find resources for in your first year than a Rotation on Jeremiah.

How many workshops do I need?

How many different grades should I include?

These two questions and their answers are related!

Regardless of how many grade groups you create, each group will need a minimum of four workshop weeks to really learn the lesson.

Smaller churches may only have two broadly graded groups using Rotation. They will still need to do four weeks per story, and do four different workshops. That means that on any given week, two of your four workshops are not being used, and that's ok!

While it's normal to have unique rooms for each workshop, in many smaller churches, one room may pull double-duty.  It may be the Game workshop the first two weeks of the rotation, and the Drama workshop the last two weeks. Depends on your space.

Here's a pretty typical Workshop Rotation Schedule for a small to medium size Sunday School. See other scheduling examples here.

3Groups4weeks4works

Larger churches have some interesting options to consider.

  • If they have five grade groups, and thus need five workshops open every Sunday, then five week rotations make a lot of sense!
  • But you don't have to do five weeks on every story.
  • You can have five grade groups, do a four week rotation.  It just means that each grade group will miss one of the workshops on that story.

It's quite a bit LESS COMMON for churches with six grades/classes rotating to do six week rotations. They will have to have six different workshops each week, but after four weeks they can change the story. The kids get to use all the workshops, just not all six for each story.  Six weeks on many stories is just too many.

Other options:

Some churches only rotate their younger classes.

Some rotate all the way up through their 7th and 8th grades, and add an extra workshop just for the older kids, such as a computer lab, or service/mission workshop,  "discussion tank."

The Rotation Model gives you the permission to fit the needs of your story, class sizes, number of classes, and creative inspirations. 

Just keep in mind that you don't want to get hung up in the weeds, or OVER THINK your selections, or argue between two stories and fail to creatively and transformationally teach both!  

The thing you want to be STEADFAST about is this:

It takes a minimum of four weeks for your regular attenders to really learn the story, and about four weeks per story to keep the rate of story change low enough so as not to burn out your teachers and resources (or you).



Flexibility does not mean "anything goes."  In the article below, I provide a RATIONALE for choosing and ordering your Bible Stories.

Attachments

Last edited by Neil MacQueen
Original Post

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