Dr. Helen Kim has been involved in children’s ministry as a church staff professional and a volunteer for over 12 years. During that time, she’s never once come across a Sunday School curriculum on work. That might sound understandable given that little ones aren’t out there daily in the cubicles, boardrooms, and warehouses of the marketplace. On the other hand, if work is a key theme in scripture (which is certainly a contention of the Theology of Work Project), why aren’t churches preparing children to think wisely and well about it from a young age?
As Kim told me in a recent interview: “Why not start early? Kids are going to spend so many years watching adults go to work. They will see their parents’ attitudes toward work. They’re going to be absorbing all of that all along, for good or bad. So we need to be sure they are hearing a biblical message.”
Under the auspices of the Center for Transformative Work, Kim has written God’s Story of Work for Kids. It’s a theologically strong, well-organized, and user-friendly 12-week curriculum aimed at helping kids learn God’s perspective on work.
Lesson one begins at the beginning, emphasizing that God is a worker, and that gives work dignity. From this Kim moves into the idea that God invites us, His children, into His work—for our joy. Lesson three introduces the reality of the Fall, and helps kids understand the basic aim of God’s work in the world: restoration. The curriculum then goes on to highlight how God makes each person with unique gifts to be deployed for His glory and our neighbors’ good.
Lessons in the latter half of the curriculum help children to understand that they have work to do, both “ordinary” work to keep things going (like doing chores) and the paid work that they will do as adults. This affords kids a broad conception of work. Lesson 7 then takes up the “how” of work. Here Kim emphasizes that work that is pleasing to God is that which is done with three ingredients: faith, hope, and love. Lesson 8 helps kids to see that everyone’s work is important, not just the boss’s. Final lessons seek to assist kids in recognizing that their work, on every day of the week, matters to God and that through our work we fulfill God’s charge to be salt and light in the world. The final lesson reminds children of the biblical idea that our works can last, and that those which are done for God will be a cause for celebration.
Kim does an excellent job of offering numerous potential hands-on activities and interactive exercises with each lesson. Here her personal experience in working with kids shines through: the lessons are not boring. And because she realizes that many adults don’t have a strong theology of work themselves, each lesson includes a parent handout with a lesson review and suggested activities for parents and kids to do together to reinforce the teaching. “My hope,” Kim told me, “is that the parents will learn right along with the kids, and that where their own attitudes need to shift, they will.”
The basic teaching plan will be familiar to many Sunday School teachers. The session begins with a large group lesson, followed by small group breakout sessions wherein the children do interactive activities. Kim has shown a sensitivity to different learning styles, putting into the curriculum plenty of visuals, props, and physical activities in addition to scripture readings and handouts. She also does a good job with opening “object lessons” that immediately focus children on the main point.
Teachers will appreciate the thoroughness of the curriculum, which includes the lesson script, visuals and handouts, reminders of the props needed for each lesson, power point slides, a variety of small group activities with the time-needed noted, and the take home Parent Worksheets. While the lessons are aimed at an upper elementary audience, Kim believes the curriculum is not hard to adjust for either younger or older audiences.
My only critique of the materials is with some of the sequencing. Certain lessons feel out of place. For example, Lesson 7 focuses on the how of work, and it would make sense for it to be followed with what is now Lesson 11, which looks at doing our work in functional reliance and relationship with God. It also seems that Lesson 10 (on being salt and light) and Lesson 12 (on distinguishing works of “straw” from those of gold and stone) fit together and should follow one another.
Overall, though, God’s Story of Work for Kids is a creative, extremely well-prepared and much-needed resource for the Church. It is available currently for free download; plans are in the works for a future, more professionally designed version that will be for sale.
Kim has done a masterful job taking vital, theologically rich content and making it accessible for kids. Hopefully, through her work, their parents will easily “get it” as well.