Russian Sunday School Curricula
Sunday school teachers in the former Soviet Union participated in a survey of curricula conducted by the organization “Narnia Center” in 2003. Respondents examined teaching materials and completed a questionnaire evaluating the curricula. Among those who completed the survey were leaders of children and youth ministries and Sunday School teachers, particularly those who had teaching experience and who had firsthand familiarity with programs. Representatives of Baptist, Pentecostal, Methodist, and Presbyterian denominations and different geographical regions (Central Russia, St. Petersburg, Siberia, Far East, and Moldova) participated in the survey. Those surveyed evaluated five Sunday school curricula.
“Keys,” Bogomyslie Publishing House, Odessa
“Keys” teaching aids, which come in colorful, cardboard folders, are widely used in evangelical churches. The curricula cover three age groups (3-6, 7-11, and 12-16). Lessons are designed in such a way that children are able to study all 66 books of the Bible over a period of 15 years at three different age levels. “Keys” provides all the materials needed for teachers’ preparation of lessons: a master plan, a synopsis of each lesson, visual aids, charts, questionnaires, music and words for songs, and student texts.
• Lessons are related to church holidays.
• The formulation of lesson goals is quite precise. However, for the youngest group, survey participants suggest the replacement of vague formulations with more specific ones.
• Lessons encourage reflection on biblical interpretation and biblical understanding, but real world applications are not always provided.
• Lessons concentrate more on Christian upbringing than on evangelism. Some respondents recommended enriching the lesson language with “special effects” such as onomatopoeia. Some participants advised a greater use of color in teaching aids, but it is worth mentioning that color printing is costly.
• Not all participants consider this curricula to be affordable. Because of cost, in many evangelical churches “Keys” is used piecemeal, losing the value of its built-in continuity.
• The main merits of “Keys” are its overall structure, the transition from one school year to another and from one age group to another, and the detailed plans and synopses for each of the lessons.
“Go and Teach,” Khristianskoye Prosvesheheniye Publishing House, Odessa
“Go and Teach” is a Russian translation of a widely known European curriculum that, unfortunately, is not as well-known in Russia as it is in Ukraine. The program has a precise structure: three-year cycles of studies for each of four age groups (3-5, 6-8, 9-11, and 12-15). Each graded series is composed of 13 lessons and includes a complete set of teacher aids: synopses of lessons, methods guide, comments on biblical texts, and a set of visual aids. A teacher’s supplement, “Come and Study,” outlines assignments and provides drawings and lists of materials needed for craft projects.
• This curriculum is not closely tied to the sequence of church holidays, but if the teacher desires, connections can easily be established. A significant advantage of this curriculum is the ease with which it can be started at any point in the sequence of lessons.
• Lessons are clearly described. However, at the same time, they leave room for imagination and creativity; and each element of a lesson can easily be elaborated or replaced.
• Lesson plans are simple to follow and can easily be used even by beginning teachers. Nevertheless, experienced teachers positively evaluated the lesson aids.
• A student workbook, “Come and Learn,” covers the same topics as the teacher’s guide. While it excludes planning materials, it adds drawings, crosswords, and questions. Workbook layout is simple, but quite attractive, and children enjoy the lessons. Lessons are of interest to both young believers and to those who are not yet Christians.
• The biblical interpretation offered in this curriculum corresponds closely to that offered by a majority of Russian-speaking Protestant churches.
• The main advantage of this curriculum is the clear connection between the lessons taught and their real-life applications.
• Lessons stress children’s repentance and commitment of their lives to God. The curriculum also covers the Ten Commandments, kindness towards neighbors, and prayer.
• The curriculum touches all three spheres of human life: intellectual, emotional, and volitional.
• The material employs easily understood language. However, translations are sometimes incorrect
and misleading. A more serious defect is the use of examples that have no connection to Russian reality. In any case, it is possible for teachers to give their own examples that are more relevant to the Russian context.
• Many survey participants stated that this curriculum is quite affordable. Wholesale, volume discounts are available.
“Light of Truth,” Bible for Everyone Publishing House, St. Petersburg
“Light of Truth,” designed for kindergarteners and elementary, middle, and high school students, consists of 18 series. Each series is assigned for three months and includes 13 lessons. “Light of Truth” provides lesson plans and advice for use of visual aids. Graded student workbooks, covering three age groups, supplement lessons with crosswords, coloring pages, and creative assignments.
• Prices for “Light of Truth” are reasonable.
• Among positive aspects of the curriculum, respondents noted the visual aids, teacher’s guide, and recommendations for each lesson.
• Respondents noted a lack of colorful pictures and poor design.
• One surveyed teacher commented that in the kindergarten curriculum seven lessons treated spiritual growth while six were devoted to evangelism. For those children who have already accepted Jesus, the last six lessons would not be appropriate. “A child has to grow spiritually somehow.”
“Sunday School for Everyone,” Evangelical Christian-Baptist Sunday School Department, Moscow
Experienced Evangelical Christian-Baptist teachers in Moscow developed “Sunday School for Everyone” not only for children, but for adults and teenagers as well. The curriculum is appropriate for both church members and new Christians.
• Prices are quite affordable.
• The separate teacher’s guide has quite rich content that is especially useful for experienced teachers.
• Student workbooks are bright with colorful visual aids offered for kindergarteners. Assignments correspond very well to students’ age levels. The only suggestion expressed by respondents was to enlarge the text font in the teaching aids.
While the curriculum reflects Baptist teaching, the biblical interpretation makes this series acceptable for use in any Protestant church. The lessons, which draw upon commentaries and additional literature, encourage in-depth Bible study.
The materials are professionally designed.
While the language generally is understandable, it may be somewhat complicated for the beginning teacher.
“New Life,” Life Publishers Publishing House, Moscow
“New Life,” an English-language curriculum translated into Russian, covers five age groups (4-5, 6-8, 9-11, 12-14, and 15-17). This curriculum is divided into six series for each group, with visual aids for younger children.
Respondents commented that prices for materials were relatively high.
The curriculum is connected to church holidays.
The teacher’s guide provides detailed plans and a synopsis for each lesson.
The curriculum reflects the teaching of Pentecostal churches.
Participants’ responses were in general positive. • However, goals for lessons were said to be imprecise. Also, surveyed teachers pointed out that lessons tended to be monotonous, sometimes resembling long sermons with little application to daily life. On the positive side, the curriculum received positive marks for colorful visual aids and the development of separate sets of lessons for younger and older teenagers. F
Contact Information: Stromynka Ulitsa 11, 1/1, kv. 410, Moscow 107014, Russia; tel/fax: 495-269-1154; 725-4792; 735-3804.
Irina Limonova, from St. Petersburg, Russia, is an editor for the newspaper, The Context of Your Life.