While content is important in Christian formation, formation goes beyond the conveying of information. We are creating a place where all those involved can encounter Christ. As you look at the lessons on the page of any program, look for places where we many find God and be found by God. Look for the places of wonder.
There are many factors in choosing a curriculum that will work best in your situation. As you look over the options remember that no curriculum is going to be perfect. Each one will require some modification. That may mean adding information; this is often true for baptism, communion and saints. On the other hand if the curriculum has lessons specific to another tradition you may need to drop or modify those section.
Sharon Ely Pearson at Church Publishing has put together comprehensive information of options. You can find them on her blog Rows of Sharon in the resources recommendations section. https://rowsofsharon.com/resource-recommendations/
As you look over the list here are some questions (in no particular order) that I have found helpful in sorting through your options.
Questions about who we are:
1) Who may be teaching? what kind of experience do they have? What are they good at? Are there others that might help with a specific lesson (altar guild member? Potter? Woodworker? Food pantry volunteer? Storyteller?)
2) Who are the students? How many in each group? Are they active or crafty? Musical or always ready of a debate? Do you have students with alternate learning styles or challenges?
3) What is your space like? Do you have room to move around? Do you need to be mindful of noise? What kind of furniture and supplies do you have access to?
Questions about perspective:
Educational- Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and Godly Play both reflect their Montessori roots and require particular training that other curriculum will not. It would be helpful to have a teacher in your congregation give you some guidance on what might work best with your students. Remember you do not need to use the same curriculum with each group. Does this curriculum use a variety of learning styles? Will it work with the teachers you have? The space you have? The time you have?
Theological – Each curriculum will have a particular theological perspective. Most will have a short theological statement that you can look at. Some things you may want to look for include, how do they view the Bible? The sacraments? How do they deal with social issues? Look over these items with your priest and discuss what is compatible with the focus and values of the Gospel and with your congregation.
Lectionary based or Not
This is one area where I will weigh in from my two decades of experience, and my perspective has changed. The idea of having a lectionary-based curriculum is that parents and children would be hearing the same stories on the same day and could have a conversation about those stories during the week. Like the adults the students would eventually hear the all the critical stories over the course of the 3 year cycle.
There are a number of issues in how this actually plays out.
1) Since there are several readings for each Sunday, the adults and children may end of focusing on different readings.
2) Without some significant help, families rarely discuss what they heard on Sunday.
3) Children need a consistent narrative in order to understand the whole story. For example, hearing only the story of Jacob wresting with the angle one week, and Moses and burning bush next, makes it very difficult to figure out how they are related to one another and how those incidents fit into the larger stories of Jacob or Moses.
4) Even with inconsistent attendance, most students have the opportunity to hear several stories with the same main focus over the course of a month or more in a non-lectionary curriculum.
Because of these challenges I believe that a story- based curriculum generally has a better outcome for younger children and topic to theme-based curriculum for older youth or teens.
As always, I am available to work with individual congregations to help sort through all the options and come up with the best one for you. You can contact me at email@example.com