Building Faith’s Top Picks for Youth Ministry Curriculum

Looking for the “best” curriculum for your youth ministry? There are many options from a variety of publishers and denominations. The right choice depends entirely on your context and goals. Below you’ll find a list of Building Faith’s favorite curriculum options based on theology, availability, and pedagogy. The articles in our curriculum center can help you identify your needs, capabilities, and hopes. Looking for more support? Join our free weekly Office Hours or reach out via email to buildfaith@vts.edu.

How To Use This List

  • For each curriculum “top pick” we list the name, publisher, publication date (if applicable), age group, and a brief summary. We have done our best to include helpful information in the summaries such as:
    • Age group breakdowns
    • Digital media options
    • Materials available in Spanish
  • Click on the name of the curriculum to visit the webpage for the curriculum.
  • Click on the name of the publisher to learn more about the theological background of the curriculum and click on the denomination (if applicable) to read their statement of belief.
  • As always, when choosing a curriculum for your setting, take into account the theology, Biblical interpretation, context, materials, and representation. Use the articles in our curriculum center to help discern which curriculum might be the best fit for your context.

Top Picks for Youth Curriculum (Updated May 2021)

Animate
Publisher & Date: Sparkhouse (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America)
Age Group: Grades 9th-12th
Summary: This curriculum is divided into three areas: faith, Bible, and practices. Each session includes a video featuring a leading voice from the Christian faith which can be followed by journaling time, group reflection, or both. This resource is available as a complete curriculum or as individual sessions.
*Digital content available through Sparkhouse Digital

Bible Lessons for Youth (BL4Y)
Publisher & Date: Cokesbury (United Methodist), 2011
Age Group: Grades 7th-12th
Summary: A Bible study based curriculum using the Common English Bible translation. It covers the entire Bible in six years. Each lesson spends time focusing on the original context, exploring how the passage speaks to our lives, and connecting with how to live out God’s Word in daily life.

Collaborate: Bible Study
Publisher & Date: Sparkhouse (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America)
Age Group: Grades 6th-12th
Summary:
The curriculum includes 30 different Bible Studies. Each is fairly robust and could be stretched into multiple weeks of study. It includes student workbook with engaging infographics as well as leader guides and video content.
*Digital content available through Sparkhouse Digital

Connect
Publisher & Date: Sparkhouse (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America), 2013
Age Group: Grades 5th-6th
Summary: A two-year curriculum for preteens with five Old Testament units and five New Testament units. It includes animated videos, hands on projects, and corresponding “Connect Bible.”
*Digital content available through Sparkhouse Digital

Echo The Story
Publisher & Date: Sparkhouse (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America), 2014
Age Group: Grades 6th-12th (might be most appropriate for middle school)
Summary:
This image/visual-oriented curriculum has two options: a 12-session overview of the Bible (Creation-formation of the church) and a 36-session overview (Creation-Revelation). The lessons engage a variety of learning styles through video, sketching, reenacting, and conversation.
*Digital content available through Sparkhouse Digital

Fathom
Publisher & Date: Cokesbury (United Methodist), 2017-2018
Age Group: Grades 6th-12th
Summary: This is a Bible study for teens that covers the Old and New Testaments in 18 studies. Each study includes four sessions. It could work for a group of both middle and high school students combined or separately.

Feasting on the Word
Publisher & Date: The PC(USA) Store (Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)), 2020
Age Group: Grades 5th-12th grade (two groups: grades 5th-6th and grades 7th-12th) (corresponding children and adult curriculum available)
Summary: This curriculum follows the Revised Common Lectionary and allows groups of different ages to explore the same Bible passage each week. It explores the “what, where, so what, and now what of each biblical passage” through a variety of learning and teaching styles.

Generation Why
Publisher & Date: co-published by Brethren Press (Church of the Brethren) and MennoMedia, (Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada), 2014
Age Group: Grades 6th-12th
Summary:
This curriculum offers Bible-based exploration of issues relating to the lives of youth. Each session includes Bible study, discussion questions, and multiple games and activities from which to choose. Each unit also includes reproducible handouts and an extender session. There are 15 units available (purchased separately) and each unit contains 6 sessions).

Groove
Publisher & Date: Cokesbury (United Methodist), 2015
Age Group: Grades 6th-12th
Summary:
This is a Bible study based curriculum for teens that offers topical studies. Each topic includes four sessions with a total of 48 sessions available. There is a focus on connecting scripture to the daily life of young people.

Journey to Adulthood *Coming Summer 2021
Publisher & Date: Church Publishing (Episcopal), 2021
Age Group: Grades 5th-12th (three groups: Rite 13 for grades 6th-7th or 7th-8th, J2A for grades 8th-9th or 9th-10th, and 4Ward for grades 10th-11th or 11th-12th)
Summary: This is a downloadable spiritual formation curriculum for youth. It is relational, inclusive, and scripture based. Core components include prayer, rites of passage, outreach work, and playful activities. Lessons are divided into three categories: self, society, and spirituality.

Lesson Plans that Work
Publisher & Date: The Episcopal Church, 2021
Age Group: Grades 6th-12th (curriculum for children also available)
Summary: This curriculum offers new lesson plans this year for youth and young adults. These lessons are thematic and focus on topics of the day such as racial justice and healing, creation care, and equality.
*This curriculum is a free, downloadable resource.

LinC: Living in Christ
Publisher & Date: Cokesbury (United Methodist), 2019-2021
Age Group:
Grades 6th-12th
Summary:
This curriculum offers Bible-based teaching connected to current events and culture (music, movies, etc.). It includes reproducible student pages and can be downloaded individually or delivered to your email weekly.

Shine: Living in God’s Light
Publisher & Date: co-published by Brethren Press (Church of the Brethren) and MennoMedia, (Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada), 2020
Age Group: Grades 6th-8th (children’s curriculum also available)
Summary: This curriculum has a focus on mission, peace, and justice. The curriculum is offered both as a multi-age program or as an age-segregated program. Some digital products are available in addition to a corresponding story Bible.

t.b.d. think. believe. do.
Publisher & Date: Sparkhouse (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America), 2018
Age Group: Grades 9th-12th
Summary:
This curriculum offers five topics of study: prayer, sin, mission, salvation, and Bible. Each topic includes multiple sessions. The curriculum is small group oriented and offers video content in DVD form.

TeenText Middle School & TeenText High School
Publisher & Date: The Educational Center, 2020
Age Group: Grades 6th-12th (two groups: 6th-8th and 9th-12th)
Summary: This is a lectionary-based curriculum that helps youth “see the Bible as a vital, dynamic relevant resource–one that can inform them throughout their lives.” For more information, check out this review from Charlotte Hand Greeson.

The Thoughtful Christian (Downloadable Studies for Youth)
Publisher & Date: The Thoughtful Christian.com is maintained by The Presbyterian Publishing Corporation (Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)) that publishes ecumenical resources for academics and the trade under the Westminster John Knox Press imprint, 2008-2014
Age Group: Grades 6th-12th (some topics are most appropriate for 9th-12th grade youth)
Summary: The downloadable studies for youth from The Thoughtful Christian are topical studies that generally include 1-3 sessions each. Topics include Bible, theology, liturgical seasons, and spirituality as well as popular culture and contemporary moral issues. Example include: Does Science Conflict with Religion?, Forming a Healthy Relationship , and How to Pray.

Weaving God’s Promises
Publisher & Date: Morehouse Education Resources, a division of Church Publishing (Episcopal), 2016
Age Group: Ages 12-14 years (children’s curriculum also available)
Summary: An online, downloadable, three-year Episcopal curriculum that can (mostly) align with the lectionary. It offers lessons on the prayerbook and sacraments.


Special thanks to Sharon Ely Pearson for consulting with the Building Faith editors for this article. Sharon recently retired as Editor & Christian Formation Specialist with Church Publishing Incorporated (CPI) with 35+ years of experience in Christian formation on the local, judicatory, and church-wide level. Known for her knowledge of the variety of published curricula across the Church, she has also had her hand in the birthing of numerous books, including the best-seller, Call on Me: A Prayer Book for Young People and the 6-book series of Faithful Celebrations: Making Time for God. A graduate of Virginia Theological Seminary (2003) and a lifelong Episcopalian, she lives in Norwalk, Connecticut with her husband John, a 17.5 lb. cat named Shadow, and Chobe, a 7-year-old, tennis-ball-fetching, rescue black lab. They have two adult children (both teachers) and a 5-year-old granddaughter who is a budding environmental activist. Follow her at www.rowsofsharon.com.


Photo by Zaini Izzuddin on Unsplash.

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