When I was hired as director of development for MennoMedia more than a year ago, one of my primary responsibilities was to raise $400,000 over four years for “new curriculum development.” At the time, I remember thinking that this seemed reasonable since Mennonite Church USA had recently raised more than $5M for a new office in Elkhart, Ind., and in the early 2000s Mennonite Publishing House had raised more than $5M to retire its debt. I recently became aware of a United Methodist church in my home town that raised $250k, with an expectation of raising another $500k, to renovate its stained glass windows. If one congregation can raise three-quarters of a million dollars for its stained glass windows, then surely more than 1,200 Mennonite congregations in the U.S. and Canada could raise $400k to help pass along their Christian faith, with a distinct Anabaptist flavor, to their children.
Many teachers appreciate MennoMedia’s present Gather ‘Round curriculum, which is approaching its final year of an eight-year cycle. One Sunday school teacher in Ontario said of Gather ‘Round, “I’ve taught grades 3‑5 and junior youth. I loved the biblical insight for teachers, the variety of activities offered, and the opening suggestions. The student books also have a great variety of activities, with a mix of historical or current information to geographical and cultural information. I found the kids like reading it and doing the puzzles and other activities.”
Although not an easy task in these challenging economic times, I think MennoMedia will be successful in raising the money needed to produce a new Anabaptist children’s Sunday school curriculum. We are a small agency in a small denomination and lack the financial reserves needed to hire writers, illustrators and project managers needed to produce a quality Sunday school curriculum. Therefore, we need to raise $400k in production costs ahead of sales.
Our strategy has been to reach out to the churches who are the biggest users of the current Sunday school curriculum, Gather ‘Round. To that end I identified the top 50 users of the curriculum in the U.S. and the top 33 in Canada and embarked on a campaign to make a personal visit and campaign appeal to each of these churches. I’ve visited 45 of the top 50 churches in the U.S. and 19 of the top 33 churches in Canada. As a result, we have raised more than $103,000 in gifts and pledges over four years from churches and individuals, including pledges from MennoMedia employees and MennoMedia board members. That figure includes a $10k gift from Mennonite Church Canada and the promise of an offering, which will be designated for new curriculum development, to be taken during an evening worship service at Mennonite Church USA’s biennial assembly in Phoenix this July.
We now have a name, logo and know many details about this new curriculum, which will be available for use in the fall of 2014. It will be Bible story-centered with an emphasis on distinct Anabaptist theological convictions, such as peace, simple living, and intentionally following the way of Jesus. The materials will tell the biblical story and spend significant time with Jesus’ life, ministry, and teachings. It has lofty goals that we know are attainable, which have that “little extra” that makes them distinctive:
• Attend to spiritual practices and spiritual life.
• Build on the faith of young children and call children to intentionally follow the way of Jesus.
• Include stories from Anabaptist history and examples of contemporary persons of faith.
• Emphasize community and relationships.
• Emphasize seeking justice and wholeness for humanity and all of creation.
• Emphasize stewardship, service, mission, and simple living in response to God’s generosity.
• Emphasize peace, reconciliation, and nonviolence.
• Be sensitive to diversity, including socio-economic and racial diversity.
When you really think about these goals and our children, it is not hard to get excited about this new curriculum, which is called Shine: Living in God’s Light. It will serve children age 3 through 8th grade. It will be based on Bible stories and cover most of the canon in three years. There will be music CDs with songs to accompany the sessions, one for young children and another for kindergarten through 8th grade. Shine will not have a senior high youth component but other materials will be available for use with senior high school students.
If you recognize the importance of having an Anabaptist-specific Sunday school curriculum, then I encourage you to support this effort financially. We still need nearly $300k to make the plan for a new Anabaptist specific curriculum a reality. Thank you for your interest in passing on Anabaptist faith to the next generation.
Director of Development
Your financial support for new curriculum development is much needed and greatly appreciated. Our online giving software does not currently give us the ability to designate donations, except in general for MennoMedia. So, if you want to give specifically to “new curriculum development” send your checks to:
Mennonite Church Canada, 600 Shaftesbury Blvd., Winnipeg, MB R3P 0M4, Canada (designated for MennoMedia/New Curriculum)
MennoMedia, 1251 Virginia Ave., Harrisonburg, VA 22802 (designated for MennoMedia/New Curriculum).
And if you want to keep up to date on all the latest Shine news as the curriculum is developed (and all of the latest happenings at MennoMedia, subscribe to this blog right here on the home page) and share with friends. That’s another way to help!