I’ve been paying attention to the conversations in the past 2 weeks about the Roar Curriculum, produced by Group Publishing.
It reminds me of the critical obligation that those of us who practice faith formation in congregations have. One of our basic and most important tasks is to look through any materials we receive or purchase with a critical eye. We know that our call is to proclaim the undeserved and abundant grace that comes from God through Jesus Christ for all of God’s people. We must evaluate every curriculum or resource through this filter. We have to ask “Does this material communicate this?” And “are there other things that the resource communicates that is not aligned with our core values?”
One of our roles is to protect and nurture the faith, hearts and lives of the young people with whom we are called to serve. If the material does not measure up, we need to replace it, or ruthlessly edit it until it does.
Full disclosure: The congregation in which I serve had our Vacation Bible School last week and we used the Roar curriculum. We had already edited and adjusted it, and when the word broke (six days before VBS began) about the controversial and racist elements, we went back through it again to ensure that these pieces had been edited out and that our edits were in alignment with our values of grace, love, inclusiveness and welcome.
The conversation since word came out about the curriculum has reminded me of how grateful I am for this community. I love about that Network is a community of trust, grace and accountability.
The Network has a climate of high-trust. We trust each other. I trust that when we find materials that don’t align with our worldview, my friends and colleagues are able to edit and change them. I trust that when when a colleague and friend tells me that it is too late to completely change curriculum, because of matters of timing or budget, that they will change things up so that the materials are appropriate. I trust that my friends and colleagues know how to best respond to publishers and to our colleagues.
The Network is a community of grace. We hold each other in grace. I love that about this group. We have space for disagreements and respectful conversation. And when we disagree with each other, we can push and prod, but at the same time acknowledge each other as a child of God, loved fully, and a sibling in Christ.
The Network is a place of accountability. We hold each other accountable. That is a wonderful gift. We push and prod each other to be “excellent” in our ministry. That means sometimes having uncomfortable conversations (which we can do because of trust and grace.) And it means that we can expect, ask for and insist on excellence from those who create the curriculum and resources that we use.
I am not going to pass judgment on Group Publishing or the people who work there. (I’m pretty sure Jesus was insistent that judging others wasn’t our job.) However we can take an honest look at their curriculum and say “Group, this isn’t ok. You can do better. Group, you need to do better. Group, you must do better.” We expect from Group, and all the resource providers the same excellence that we expect from each other; the same excellence that I hope you, my colleagues and friends, would expect from me. And if they do not change, then we can make decisions about purchasing from them that will affect them at the marketplace.
If you use the Group curriculum, I trust you to edit it appropriately, and I am confident that God will show up in the midst of your VBS week, transforming hearts and minds. If you’re not editing it, then I hope that you reconsider. If you’re not sure how, then ask your friends in our Facebook group for help. And know that there are good alternatives out there; some cost money, some are free. They have been highlighted in other places in this group.
Remember that we are all doing the best that we can with the resources we have. And with trust, grace and accountability, we can do better. We must do better.
Let’s continue to build each other up, and to help each other…do better.