Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

A Critique of “Come Follow Me” (the new youth Sunday School curriculum)

Posted by BrianJ on April 4, 2014

I offer my evaluation* after fifteen months of using the new Sunday School curriculum for youth, Come Follow Me (CFM). The purpose of this report is help teachers, parents, and students to capitalize on the strengths while moderating the weaknesses of the new program.

Summary Statement
In comparison to the previous curriculum for youth (i.e., the Gospel Doctrine series), CFM offers improved methods for teaching diminished material.

Improved Teaching
The major change of the new program is its focus on teaching methodology. Without coming right out and saying it, the new materials accurately portray the previous manuals as impersonal and inflexible. The previous lesson plans, with their pre-scheduled** step-by-step weekly lesson plans, have been replaced with “learning outlines” based on monthly topics. Which outline will you use? In what order will you present the material? That is for you to decide based on your students’ needs.

That’s a pretty big change, right? Yes…well, maybe…depending on the teacher. By shunning predetermined lesson plans, the new curriculum certainly emphasizes the need to prayerfully tailor teaching:

“You may find that you need to make your plan flexible enough that you can adapt it as new needs or questions arise. For example, you may find that the youth need more than one week to discuss a topic. Let the needs of the youth, not a predetermined schedule, guide your teaching.”

But please realize that the previous manuals hardly forbade prayerful consideration of the students. Consider these instructions from the old manual versus the new guidebook:

Old Manual
“Each lesson in this manual contains more information than you will probably be able to teach in one class period. Seek the Spirit of the Lord in selecting the scripture accounts, questions, and other lesson material that will best meet the needs of class members.”

New Guidebook
“There are often more learning outlines in a unit than can be taught in one month. Ward leaders and teachers of youth should counsel together to determine which learning outlines to teach from each unit.”

Not substantially different: both resources emphasize leading discussions rather than lecturing, sticking to scriptures and Church magazines, relying on the Spirit as the ultimate teacher, and inviting students to act in ways that bring about conversion to the Gospel.

Out with the Old
The biggest difference therefore is not what or how teachers are allowed to teach, but rather how big of a crutch they are given. The Church, faced with the challenge of helping untrained teachers to effectively lead meaningful discussions, must provide more guidance than simply “pray about it.” The old manuals did a good job of helping a totally inexperienced teacher to lead a reasonably good lesson; i.e., it was a huge crutch for those who needed a huge crutch. Ideally, the lesson plans in the old manual would have helped new teachers through the first few weeks or months of their new calling. As they gained more experience and confidence in teaching, their lessons would improve, their ability to recognize the needs of students would become more keen, and their dependence on predetermined lesson plans would decrease. An experienced, skilled teacher on the other hand could ignore the outlines (i.e., crutches) and simply teach from the assigned reading.

The problem, as we all experienced, is that the crutch became too essential—in many cases, it became viewed as being as authoritative/sacred/essential as the scriptures themselves. The norm of mediocre teaching (from mediocre or hobbled teachers) meant that a teacher did not have to put forth much effort to deliver what most members would consider a passable lesson. Some teachers “studied” the lesson outline for the first time during sacrament meeting. Reading verbatim from the manual became common. Teachers with true dedication might still begin preparing a week or more in advance, but often felt constrained by the lesson outline—i.e., they could walk just fine, but felt obligated to use crutches because everyone else did. Teachers who left the manual at home and taught straight out of the scriptures received critical questions that amounted to, “Where are your crutches?”

The result: the old manuals took poor and great teachers and made them average. (Bad teachers were just bad.)

In with the New
The new guidebook clearly seeks to change all of that. For example:

“Learning outlines are not meant to prescribe what you will say and do as you teach. They are designed to help you learn the doctrine for yourself and prepare to engage the youth in powerful learning experiences. Tailor these experiences to their interests and needs.”

That works wonders…as a teaching method. But how does it perform as a curriculum? The new CFM guidebook fails in three main ways:

1) “learn the doctrine for yourself”: Here the guidebook fails because it selects (i.e., cherry picks) certain verses for students and teachers to study. That’s not inherently wrong, of course, but it must be seen for the crutch that it is. Teachers who read those scriptures are not necessarily “learning the doctrine for themselves,” they may merely be reading what someone else learned. They don’t have to read the scriptures and ask, “What is Alma trying to teach here?” Instead, they are handed a list of verses and told, “These verses are about X.”

2) “Tailor these experiences to their interests and needs.” This idea is exactly right—it’s the execution that falls short. This became apparent when I taught the second lesson on the Godhead in January 2013. I looked over all the outlines and couldn’t find one that I thought would interest my students. I picked one anyway and, sure enough, the lesson was flat and lifeless. I apologized to my students the following week and promised never to do that to them again: if I couldn’t find an outline that they needed, then I’d make up something entirely on my own††.

It did not take long before I had to deliver on my promise. Through February (Plan of Salvation) and March (Atonement), I didn’t have too much difficulty choosing outlines that I could loosely follow. April (Restoration) and May (Prophets and Revelation) went okay, but I found myself needing to be ever more esoteric to satisfy both the guidebook and the students. Still, I tried.

But June (Priesthood) is when it became all too apparent that I would have to ditch the guidebook’s outlines altogether. Remember: the students cover the same topics in Sunday School as they do in Young Women/Young Men. After only two lessons on the priesthood, the students had asked everything they wanted to ask and said everything they wanted to say. They were experiencing extreme “priesthood doctrine burnout.” Well, that’s okay…just SIX more lessons to go§! Ugh. (Now try to imagine how unmotivated they felt two months later when August’s topic was “Marriage”!)

3) The learning outlines draw upon conference talks, church handbooks, high-quality videos, and a few selected scripture verses. The first three are good, but I will always view them as side-salad or garnish in the big feast upon the word. The main dish—the meat, potatoes, bread, veggies, and drink—will always be the canonized scriptures. To the extent that selectively studying a few verses out of context can often lead to incorrect interpretations and/or restricted understanding, I would say it’s about as welcome as serving only 0.5 oz of a 16 oz. porterhouse.

I suspect that this criticism will receive the most resistance from readers; nevertheless I want to make my viewpoint perfectly clear: no subject material—not even the most recent General Conference talks—wields and delivers the same authority, depth, interest, or relevance as the scriptures§§. Youth can, with help, understand the scriptures and learn to rely on them throughout their lives. Don’t shortchange our youth by pointing them in some other direction!

I’m not sure whether #2 or #3 (above) is the greatest concern—I find that both are so potentially catastrophic that I cannot differentiate (like choosing between having either the wings or the tail of an airplane fall off). But they don’t have to be catastrophic. My advice:

  • Recognize why the curriculum was changed—and help to stamp out those mistakes or bad practices that necessitated the change.
  • Recognize the limitations of the new curriculum (remember: nobody/nothing is perfect!).
  • Prioritize the demands of the new curriculum; i.e., it wants you to a) choose from the selected lesson outlines and b) to listen to the needs and interests of the youth—which takes precedence?
  • Dare to really listen and respond to the needs and interests of the youth.
  • Worried that your lessons will “stray” too far off topic#? Then just study the scriptures##.
  • Send a weekly email to parents briefly summarizing the questions and discussions from class.

* You may wish to know my background and the environment in which I “test drove” CFM. I taught seven youth age 15-18, boys and girls. I spent the first eight months as a team-teacher, teaching every other week, then taught solo every week for seven months after my teaching partner moved. The students participate regularly, willingly, and sometimes even eagerly. I started teaching this group in 2012 for the last half of the Book of Mormon Gospel Doctrine manual. In other words, I taught this group for four months of the old curriculum and fifteen months of the new. In previous callings, I taught Gospel Doctrine, Gospel Principles, or Sunday School for youth age 12-18, each for a few years.

** “Pre-scheduled” since 1996, if not earlier, as indicated by the copyright date in the front of those manuals. To illustrate just how impersonal this is, consider that since most of the kids in my class are under 18 years old, these lesson plans were decided before they were even born!

Note that even the way the official materials are referred to changed: a “manual” lists rules that must be followed, whereas a “guidebook” helps you find your way during a personal adventure—like exploring a foreign country—with the understanding that you’re not expected to experience everything or follow any particular order.

†† With the Spirit as a guide, (obviously). (I wish I didn’t feel the need to include this kind of qualification to my words….)

§ My solution: I never mentioned priesthood again that month. Instead, we studied the scriptures, and I chose stories to study that would have a tangential or indirect connection to the priesthood, but not be “about the priesthood” per se. For example, we studied in Genesis when Rebecca received revelation, deceived her husband, and secured the birthright for Jacob (i.e., a woman taking the lead in the home when her husband is blinded by superficial favoritism). We read and analyzed the story for a bit, then spent the last half of class responding to the question, “Why did God include this crazy story in the scriptures?!” A couple students actually thanked me after class—for a “good lesson,” but more for “not making us study the priesthood again.”

§§ Maybe that’s too strong. The other subject material that I might equate in status with the scriptures is the individual experiences of each student in actually practicing (i.e., living) the Gospel: a selfish girl may never really comprehend Corinthians, whereas a young woman who worked hard to show kindness to a rude classmate already knows what Paul means about the enduring greatness of longsuffering charity.

# Which you’ll believe is not possible if you agree with me that the only true “topic” worth considering is the youth themselves.

## Bonus: if you just study the scriptures, then you don’t always have to choose a topic each week. What is Genesis 42 about? Why not study that chapter with the youth, see what they draw out of it, and see if the discussion brings up another chapter (Luke 15 maybe?) that could be studied next week?

Sometimes it is helpful to quote a particularly insightful comment or question, but always respect the students’ privacy.

26 Responses to “A Critique of “Come Follow Me” (the new youth Sunday School curriculum)”

  1. Owen said

    I’m surprised you don’t say anything about students teaching. In our area, Come, Follow Me is synonymous with putting the youth in the driver’s seat. And not just for portions of the lessons. In our priest quorum, the bishop teaches the first week of the month, an advisor teaches the third (to model how to teach) and the youth teach the other 2-3. For me this has become the purpose of CFM, to jump start the mission teaching experience and allow for youth instructors to discover the doctrine on their own, not for adults to deliver “content”. We drive this all the way down to the deacons, with surprisingly good results. The difference between a discussion of peers and a leader-student interaction (which they couldn’t care less about even though they’re good at pretending) has been stark. I recognize we’re lucky to have a strong seminary program here with professional teachers that really shoulder the burden of in-depth scriptural instruction. I.e. that lets us indulge in less formal discussions about the kids lives and how the doctrines/scriptures relate to them. We have one young man who really hates this–he says the “leaders are better at explaining” and argues we’re just trying to avoid having to do our callings. He has the same complaint about scouting, since he believes the “boy-led” troop is something I just made up rather than how it’s been for 100 years! He would prefer to be entertained than learn to lead.

    • BrianJ said

      Owen, I didn’t specifically mention “students teaching,” but it is one of the improvements in CFM’s new teaching methods. Note that nothing about the old curriculum prohibited that kind of approach; i.e., there is no reason a student could not prepare to lead a discussion of Alma 42.

      “For me this has become the purpose of CFM, to jump start the mission teaching experience….”

      I don’t doubt that. And I think it is one more of the potential failures of the new curriculum. I fear that we are creating an army of missionaries who are really adept at teaching, but don’t know what they’re teaching about. Take the Sunday School topic for the month of January: it’s supposed to be about the Godhead, but not one of the proposed outlines has anything to do with who or what God is.

      • forwardjoe said

        The Sunday School outlines don’t directly address it, but the YM/YW ones do. I team-teach Sunday School but we couldn’t help covering the nature of God anyway.

      • BrianJ said

        Sunday School outlines to choose from this month:

        How does the Holy Ghost help me learn?
        How can studying the scriptures help me learn about Heavenly Father?
        How can I help others learn about Heavenly Father?
        How can I learn to see Heavenly Father’s hand in all things?
        How does the Holy Ghost help me teach the gospel?

        Young Women outlines to choose from this month:

        What do we know about the nature of the Godhead?
        How can I know my Heavenly Father?
        Why is Jesus Christ important in my life?
        What are the roles of the Holy Ghost?
        Who am I, and who can I become?

        Aaronic Priesthood outlines to choose from this month:

        How can I know my Heavenly Father? (Duty to God)
        What do we know about the nature of the Godhead?
        Why is Jesus Christ important in my life?
        What are the roles of the Holy Ghost?
        Who am I, and who can I become?

        The Young Women and Aaronic Priesthood outlines share identical titles (and nearly identical material within each outline). The Sunday School outlines are intentionally nearly devoid of any teaching/learning about the topic and are instead designed as a teacher training course.

  2. Dawn said

    Where, in the CFM info, does it say to have the youth teach the lesson?

  3. Owen said

    Just look under Let the Youth Lead in any of the CFM topics:

    “A member of the quorum presidency (or an assistant to the bishop in the priests quorum) conducts the quorum meeting. He leads the young men in counseling together about quorum business, teaches them their priesthood duties (from the scriptures and the Duty to God book), encourages them to share their experiences fulfilling their duty to God, and invites an adviser or other quorum member to teach a gospel lesson. He could prepare by filling out a quorum meeting agenda during a presidency meeting.”

  4. Owen said

    Huh. That only shows up for the Aaronic Priesthood, not for Young Women. Weird. Anyway, I know our young women are doing it too. No idea what our Sunday School is doing.

  5. I’m a new EQ teacher. I teach every other week. I’m learning there is no such thing as under preparing, and I am learning to follow the spirit in my preparation, and during class. When I teach from the manual I find that a couple of Elders can summarize the entire lesson in 2-3 comments, then I’m left grabbing for straws. So, I’ve had to do some independent study. I usually study the history behind the quotes, and the results of what happened to those who listened and those who didn’t. It’s been enriching for me, and hopefully for the quorum.

    Something I love doing in EQ is using the scriptures. It’s been a pet peeve of mine for years that EQs rarely use the scriptures. So, I prepare scriptures, and 2-3 questions per scripture. So when we use the scriptures I make sure to ask the questions and just let them go at it, and mediate. It makes for some great conversation.

    My new favorite thing to do, and my quorum loves this, is to put all the chairs into a circle before class. The Elders love, LOVE being able to look at each other when they talk, and feel like they’re having a conversation, not a lecture.

  6. John Mansfield said

    I also view the CFM curriculum as a teacher development course. In the second month with the Plan of Salvation, the Sunday School outlines have very little that I would traditionally find there: pre-mortal existence, death, resurrection, degrees of glory. The lessons topics are “Why is learning important?”, “Whey is teaching important?”, “What is the role of agency in learning the Gospel?”, “How do I help others participate in learning?”, “How can I use Church music to learn?”, “How can I help others understand the doctrine of Christ?” Month after month, it’s “How do I learn?”, “How do I teach?”, using gospel themes to practice with.

  7. Kim Berkey said

    Nice analysis, BrianJ. I share these exact concerns about CFM. And it sounds like they’re revamping all the adult sunday school to follow the same format, so we’re in for more. (My father is a bishop and his ward was one of the pilots for the program, aiming for launch in Jan 2015.)

    I’m grateful that the Brethren recognized the desperate need to change the old curriculum and hopeful that detaching teachers from rote lessons will open up some nice possibilities in the future, but worried about further boring our already-bored youth (and soon the adults, as well?) straight out of the church.

    • BrianJ said

      Kim Berkey: that is indeed troubling. I suppose we’ll do away with studying a book of scripture for a whole year. What little we as a Church ever knew about the Old Testament is about to diminish even further….

      “further boring our already-bored youth straight out of the church.”

      I share your concern. We could focus too much on training the youth to teach (so they can be good missionaries), but not to live and act and have real experiences on which to base their testimonies. They leave the Church not because it is boring, but because they don’t have any real connection to it—just an ability to talk about it with strangers.

  8. Ben S said

    Very nice critique.

    My wife has been teaching the youth for some time (anywhere between 2 and 10, ages 12-18), and loves it.

    Like Kim, I’m glad they recognized change was needed. My hope is that given the instruction to teach scripture, it will actually drive teachers back into, you know, reading the scriptures closely. I also suspect, any warnings aside, that more will get online looking for enrichment, background, ideas, and find FUTW and other reliable Gospel Doctrine blogs like Times&Seasons or my own.

    As always, the biggest determinant of results will be how this gets implemented by individual teachers.

    • BrianJ said

      Ben S: “My hope is that given the instruction to teach scripture, it will actually drive teachers back into, you know, reading the scriptures closely.”

      I worry that this will not happen because the outlines “drive teachers back to the scriptures” in a narrow and simplified way. Take, for example, the scripture “study” portion of one of the outlines on the Godhead:

      What scriptures and talks will help the young women understand the nature of the Godhead and the role They play in their lives?

      Genesis 1:27 (Man is created in God’s image)

      Matthew 3:16–17; John 14:16; Acts 7:55–56; 3 Nephi 11:4–11; Joseph Smith—History 1:17; Articles of Faith 1:1 (There are three members of the Godhead)

      Luke 24:39; John 1:14; D&C 130:22 (Two members of the Godhead have physical bodies)

      John 17:21; 1 John 5:7; Alma 11:44; D&C 20:28 (The Godhead is united as one)

      Pattern: here’s a verse, here’s what it teaches. All the answers are nicely handed to the teacher. In terms of helping a newly converted, inexperienced teacher prepare for class, this works as necessary crutch. The problem is that it is not presented as a crutch—there is no “advanced” or “further study” section to emphasize that there is much, much more to learn about God (and that even the answers presented here raise deeper questions).

  9. Robert C. said

    Nice, Brian.

    I think your footnote statement about experience is important, and I think taking it more seriously might have important implications for all of your other points: “The other subject material that I might equate in status with the scriptures is the individual experiences of each student in actually practicing (i.e., living) the Gospel. . . .”

    To elaborate, I’ve undergone something of a change of understanding about the role of scripture in Church. Although you make excellent criticisms of treating the scriptures in a facile way, and I don’t mean to undermine your point regarding this, I nevertheless think that pushing members to think and search for themselves (hopefully seeking the Spirit, as you are reluctant to reiterate), even if they don’t partake of the riches and depth available in scripture, is ultimately the more important goal.

    Of course, the ideal is to use the scriptures to help come to a better understanding of the Gospel. But if pressed to prioritize what I’ll call a “lived, introspective” understanding of the Gospel with a more academic understanding of scripture, I think the fact that the manual has effectively prioritized the former is very reasonable. (I tried to articulate something roughly along these lines in this post about a year and half ago in regard to the thematically structured D&C manual, though my thinking has changed a bit more since then….)

    • BrianJ said

      I’m glad you mentioned this, Robert. I agree with you that an academic understanding of the scriptures is rather useless on its own. What I meant in my post is that while personal experience living the Gospel is the only enduring goal, it makes for challenging classroom study/discussion material. Your experience with God and the Gospel is not my experience; i.e., your testimony is only canon to you and mine is canon to me. In contrast, the scriptures are something we all share—and inevitably drive us toward those individual experiences.

  10. shannon said

    Interesting. I just had a discussion like this with my sister who teaches Youth Sunday School. She found the new curriculum shallow and repetitive, while I LOVE it and feel like it is easier to use AND more effective than the old manuals. As we talked, I learned that the Young Women lessons are quite a bit different than those for Sunday school. I wonder if you would have the same criticisms/concerns if you taught from the YW lessons.

    • BrianJ said

      Shannon: I’m glad that you’re experiencing positive results with the new curriculum. Maybe you could point your sister to this discussion and she could share her thoughts and/or get some ideas on how to address the problems she notices.

      I agree that the new YW curriculum is far, far better than the old. The old YW manuals combined the weaknesses of the new Sunday School curriculum (too topical) and the old Sunday School manuals (poor pedagogy)—and they were outdated. They were really awful.

      To answer your question, I can only share that my daughter (who is in YW but not in my Sunday School class) and the YW in my class ALL reported boredom due to “topic saturation” at several points last year (especially the months spent on Priesthood or Marriage). This year has been slightly worse because the topics/outlines are total repeats. (To spare my class from having more repetitive lessons on the Godhead this year, we just studied Genesis 22 as an exploration of “how we come to know God and how he comes to know us.”)

      • Owen said

        To avoid repeating topics, you could do like our priest quorum sometimes and tell yo mamma jokes for thirty minutes before starting the lesson. Playing angry birds and sleeping work too.

  11. Matthew said

    I am not involved in teaching the new curriculum or the youth, but have thought great things about it based on the comments I’ve heard. Seems like everyone agrees it is a big step forward.

    I was disappointed by the example you cite of helping young women understand the godhead by reading the scriptures which got me thinking about what it would take to teach youth about the nature of the godhead by reading the scriptures. I am interested in what you think the right way to do that woudl be.

    I was wondering maybe about teaching a lesson where you taught the nature of the godhead by reading the Joseph Smith first vision and Alma 11 and trying to think about different explanations for why Joseph and Amulek talk about the godhead differently from each other and what difference it makes how we describe the godhead. Also sharing personal experiences with God and how our understanding of the godhead influences those or is influenced by those.

    On a separate note, I think how we teach the youth today should be influenced in large part on how they should be teaching the gospel as missionaries. How do I want to teach the godhead as a missionary? Maybe the idea of using Alma 11 would be a bit confusing. Nevertheless, I’d like to go to such a lesson myself.

    • BrianJ said

      Matthew: thanks for the comment.

      “Seems like everyone agrees it is a big step forward.”

      Just to clarify, I think it is a big step forward and a big step backward. The overall, long-term success of the program I believe will depend on the next step taken (and how soon).

      “I was disappointed by the example you cite of helping young women understand the godhead by reading the scriptures.”

      Could you expound please? What did you find disappointing? Why? (PS. I taught young women and young men.)

      As for what I think the right way to teach about the godhead by using the scriptures, I believe that Genesis 22 was a good place to start. Not that it is the only place to start, just that it is a good place. I also like your suggestion to read JS-H and Alma 11. Ultimately, the point I would hope to reach is less about the details and definition of the godhead and more what you say: “[that] our understanding of the godhead influences [our experiences] or is influenced by [our experiences].” In other words, the details and definitions aren’t just arguing over the number of dancing angels on the head of a pin.

      “On a separate note, I think how we teach the youth today should be influenced in large part on how they should be teaching the gospel as missionaries. How do I want to teach the godhead as a missionary?”

      Why? Except in an extremely broad sense, I see the two situations and audiences as quite different from one another, so why should they be taught similarly? The example you gave illustrates this: you would like to go to a JS-H:Alma lesson because it would build upon and stretch your understanding—so would the youth, and for the same reason. Most investigators would not benefit from that lesson, although certainly the overall teaching method and mentality (i.e., identifying where and how to meaningfully “build upon and stretch understanding”) would be the same. Perhaps this is what you meant by hoping the youth teach like they would as missionaries? That they learn how to identify and discuss questions that are of interest and value to their specific audience?

      • Matthew said

        >Could you expound please? What did you find disappointing? Why? (PS. I taught young women and young men.)
        I have heard such good things about the new curriculum that I found the example you shared (of the scripture then with the parenthetical what it is supposed to mean) disappointing because I do think the youth should learn how to read the scriptures and I think that this way of teaching how to read the scriptures is unhelpful.

        >Why? Except in an extremely broad sense…
        OK. you convinced me, or mostly anyway. I’m still struggling with the fact that in addition to the need to stretch their understanding another thing that they need (we all need) is to keep remembering how awesome the non-understanding-stretching version of the gospel is. It is one thing to read the story of Enos and be bowled over by it and then keep rereading the book of Mormon until you start to take the story for granted and then to experience the same sense of wonder by seeing the same story in new ways. But, I worry about the youth who already takes the story for granted as it is who have to be coaxed into an experience of wonder with a lot of work to see the story in a new light. My fear is that such a youth will misunderstand what an investigator needs. I think your point to me though is that we won’t teach youth to better tailor their message to their audience’s need by giving them a message that doesn’t fit their needs.

      • BrianJ said

        Matthew: Whew! I thought you were disappointed in the example I shared in response to comment #10; i.e., from my lesson plan. Turns out you were concerned about the guidebook’s outline, which I pasted in the thread of comment #8.

        I had thought to post something a while ago titled, “Deciding versus Discovering What the Scriptures Mean.” It had to do with this problem of approaching scripture with a conclusion already in mind.

        “I think your point to me though is that we won’t teach youth to better tailor their message to their audience’s need by giving them a message that doesn’t fit their needs.”

        Yes, that’s a good way to put it. And I certainly agree with you that we need to be wary of creating a Gospel that is only interesting in its complexity. So, when missionaries teach an investigator about Enos, can they remember their own sense of awe when they first read the story? Or, better yet, can they ask whether Enos’ story is what the investigator needs? That’s the point of the not-so-new “Preach My Gospel.” I guess I hope that the student who becomes adept at investigating his own questions will, somewhat paradoxically, become less self-centered.

  12. Linus said

    I am grateful to have found your analysis, for I share your concerns about the weaknesses of this manual, and have been tearing my hair out in frustration every week. As I see it, it is all form and no substance. A lesson is not “what is the Godhead?” but rather “how can I use sock puppets (or the equivalent) to teach others about the Godhead?” It feels like performance art. Complexity for complexity’s sake. There is no meat, there’s not even milk, there is an artist’s rendition of milk. Is this really a question which burns in the heart of youth? Not “who am I?”, “why am I here?”, “who is Jesus Christ and what did He do?”, no, the question that really consumes our youth is “how can I use Church music to learn about the plan of salvation (whatever that is, don’t ask us, that’s beyond the scope of this lesson)?”

    I understand the “problem” of the underprepared teacher who wings it with the old manual as a huge crutch, but this feels like a total overreaction. “Here’s two scriptures, find the rest yourself, nope we’re not even going to give you hints or suggestions”. But my issue is, sometimes, despite my best efforts, life intrudes and on a given week I don’t have the time I’d like to prepare my lesson. Well, too bad, you are still expected to draft your own lesson, or run out of material to teach 5 minutes in (not that you’d be clear on what the point of your lesson is anyways-is it that following the Spirit is important, is it that President Monson is a swell guy, who knows?).

    I am very disappointed to hear that the adult curriculum will soon be following suit, because frankly, I already graduated from school and I am not keen to go back. What a bait and switch-you thought you were here to learn about the gospel,but no, surprise, it’s a teacher development course, one you didn’t sign up for.

    I am baffled that this manual made it through a pilot program. But I am grateful that I found this analysis because now I know what to do from here on out. Teach whatever the heck the Spirit and I want to.

    • Wow Linus. You almost have it, I would say. Yes, do teach what is best for your class! I don’t need a list of trite questions like the old manual had. I don’t need made up stories to relate principles. I can use my own stories to relate to what us being taught. I can lead a discussion on a topic without being led by the hand, like the old manual did. I think the old manuals were good if you want your hand held, but I love the freedom these new lessons give. They allow the teacher to adapt their lesson to their own group. I think it allows for much better teaching than the old manuals did.

      • BrianJ said

        True: the new outlines allow for good teaching.

        False: the new outlines allow for better teaching than the old manuals.

        The key word is “allow.” See the original post for the quotes where I demonstrate that there is no fundamental difference in the teaching philosophies of the two curricula. The new outlines just make a greater effort to emphasize the freedom and need to adapt lessons to the students.

  13. Bryce said

    I like your thoughts. I teach the 14 to 18 year olds for Sunday School (two years now). We are on our second round through the outlines. My biggest concern is the lack of scriptural stories in the material. The list of five or so verses at the beginning of each lesson only go so far. I find them to be mostly overly-used verses and when I have made the kids look them up everyone is pretty unenthusiastic to be reading them, again.

    I know we can find and use our own stories from the scriptures but I wish the outlines would include, along with the verses, two or three specific chapters/stories for the teacher’s consideration. I think it would encourage the reading of more than a few verses. Reading more lengthy passages, in context, and relating the story back to the lesson being taught is something I feel the kids are not getting from the new curriculum.

    I feel that only ever using one or two verses at a time to introduce a topic or make a point is, in effect, telling the kids that the scriptures are only important so far as you learn/memorize/recognize, certain important passages, and the rest is just filler.

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