Whether it’s bread, cars, laundry detergents or wireless service, consumers want options. Churches want options for Sunday school curriculum, too.

A product that used to require only a shelf or two—bread—now occupies an entire aisle. And that doesn’t include the freshly-made bread you can get in the deli department.

Choice is positive. It’s one thing that drives a free-market economy. Competition among manufacturers pushes everyone to try harder for a larger share of the market. It forces constant product evaluation and regular improvement.

Whether it’s bread, cars, laundry detergents or wireless service, consumers want options. Churches want options for Sunday school curriculum, too.

For many years, Baptists relied almost exclusively on curriculum produced by the Baptist Sunday School Board (now Lifeway Christian Resources). For years the Sunday School Board/Lifeway held a virtual monopoly in supplying Sunday school curriculum to Baptist churches.

As savvy consumers became accustomed to having product choice in secular purchases, they began to explore options for their Sunday school resources as well.

Cost is certainly a factor for many churches, as are content, quality, ease of use and preparation time for teachers. Today Baptist churches have not one but several sources for meeting their members’ Sunday morning Bible study needs.

Lifeway, owned by the Southern Baptist Convention, continues to offer ongoing Sunday school curriculum for babies to senior adults and every age in between.

Smyth and Helwys, a privately owned company, likewise produces age-graded, ongoing Sunday school resources for Baptists.

Nondenominational publishers and those affiliated with other evangelical Christian bodies serve some Baptist churches.

The Baptist General Convention of Texas offers an option called Baptist Way that provides both print and PDF format resources in English as well as Spanish, Cambodian, Chinese, Korean, Laotian and Vietnamese.

And Baptist Center for Ethics, a free-standing, nonprofit organization, recently announced production of undated, ongoing Sunday school curriculum for adults through Acacia Resources, its publishing division.

Rather than being print-based, this new curriculum line is available only in PDF format after purchase from BCE’s Web site, www.ethicsdaily.com.

The move to offering ongoing Sunday school curriculum was a natural one for BCE. After several years of successfully publishing educational resources in print format, Acacia Resources began offering some undated curriculum in PDF format through its Web site. Churches and individuals responded well to the convenience and cost-effectiveness of purchasing curriculum this way and often requested more options.

Acacia Resources’ first unit of ongoing Sunday school curriculum, Courageous Churches, premiered in January 2003. Web site visitors were urged to download a free sample lesson and related leader’s guide material. To date, over 650 individuals have downloaded and reviewed the sample material, many also placing orders for the entire unit.

Writers are already at work on the next unit, available in time for the July-September quarter.

While choice is good, it can also create confusion. Among so many good choices, how do you know which is best for your church? And how do you successfully navigate the transition from one curriculum to another?

“Changing Curriculum Takes Courage: Part 2” will answer these questions.

Jan Turrentine is associate director for Acacia Resources.

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