Building Faith’s Top Picks for Children’s Ministry Curriculum

Looking for the “best” curriculum for your children’s 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.

How To Use This List

For each curriculum “top pick,” we list the name, publisher, publication date, age group, curriculum contents, and a brief summary. We have done our best to include helpful information such as:

  • how the curriculum works
  • number of lessons included
  • digital media options
  • materials available in Spanish
  • additional accompanying resources
  • availability of corresponding curricula for other age groups (youth, adults, intergenerational)

We have organized the options alphabetically by name under five types of curriculum (which you can learn more about in “5 Types of Sunday School Curriculum“), noting where some curricula fit more than one type:

  • lectionary-based
  • Montessori-based
  • rotation model
  • story-based
  • thematic

Additionally, we have limited this list to Christian formation curriculum for churches to use with children throughout the year. While some of the options below may work well in various settings and with various age groups, the list does not feature seasonally specific curriculum or resources designed specifically for families, at-home settings, or intergenerational formation. For intergenerational program resources, you may want to check out our Top Picks for Intergenerational Curriculum. For seasonal resources, a good place to start is our Articles by Topic page.

The name of the curriculum provides a link to the curriculum’s website. The name of the publisher links to their “About” page where you can learn more about their theological approach. If you follow the link for each church denomination, you can review their statement of belief.

As always, when choosing a curriculum for your setting, take into account the theology, biblical interpretation, context, materials, and representation of human identities and experiences as you discern which curriculum might be the best fit for your context.

Lectionary-based Top Picks (Updated 2023)

1. Feasting on the Word

This curriculum revolves around exploring Bible stories through the lectionary cycle. The children’s curriculum is part of a collection of formation curriculum for the whole church so that children, youth, and adults can engage the same lectionary scriptures in age-appropriate ways. The full scope and sequence of 52 lessons from September 2023 – August 2024 focuses the majority of sessions on the gospel readings with select Old Testament, New Testament, and Psalms readings interspersed. Lessons include conversation about the liturgical year, Bible storytelling, singing, activities and games, and various forms of prayer. You can check out sample lessons on the curriculum website.

Additional Information

  • Publisher and date: Westminster John Knox, 2023, new publications annually (Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.))
  • Age group(s): elementary, organized by grade groups (K – 2, 3 – 4, 5 – 6) as well as a multi-age option for grades K – 6
  • Contents: The curriculum is available for purchase by age group for each season (fall, winter, spring, summer) or the whole year in printed or digital formats; it involves a leader guide with resource sheets and accompanying color packs; music resources are also available to use with the lessons

2. Mini Revolutions

This curriculum encourages holistic exploration of lectionary scriptures, immersion in the rhythms of the liturgical year, and “micropractices” to transform people’s lives of faith week by week. It is designed to be flexible enough for intergenerational groups, children’s formation, or family devotions at home. We have included it on this children’s curriculum list because its content may be particularly useful for year-long children’s formation in some church contexts. Weekly lessons include a scripture story, questions for “wondering,” a related topic or event for further investigation, activity options, coloring pages, a micropractice, and prayer. You can request sample lessons on the publisher’s website.

Additional Information

  • Publisher and date: Illustrated Ministry, 2021 (not affiliated with a specific church denomination)
  • Age group(s): elementary (grades K – 5) as well as intergenerational groups
  • Contents: The curriculum is available in digital format through a monthly paid subscription; it involves a leader guide with graphics, coloring pages, Bible story booklets, and a media kit

3. Spark: Activate Faith Lectionary (Spark Lectionary)

This curriculum enables children to learn about the liturgical year and select Bible stories featured in the Revised Common Lectionary. Its lessons include opening activities and conversation, Bible storytelling, additional games and creative activities that relate to the story, and prayer. The curriculum uses student leaflets to help facilitate learning. The full scope and sequence covers all three lectionary years with roughly 37 – 38 total lessons for fall, winter, and spring. Sample lessons are provided on the publisher’s website. (Note: Story-based and rotation model versions of “Spark: Activate Faith” are also available and discussed below.)

Additional Information

  • Publisher and date: Sparkhouse, 2011 (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America)
  • Age group(s): preschool (starting at age 2) and elementary up to grade 6, organized by grade pairs (pre-K & K, 1st & 2nd, 3rd & 4th, 5th & 6th)
  • Contents: This curriculum is available for purchase by season (fall, winter, spring) and grade pair level; it involves a leader guide and learner leaflet pack for each season and grade pair level; accompanying Story or Spark NRSV Bibles are also available (digital curriculum resources are available with an annual subscription)

Montessori-based Top Picks (Updated 2023)

1. Catechesis of the Good Shepherd

This curriculum aims to cultivate children’s lives of faith with joy at the center by creating a space of prayer where children can encounter God. Adult leaders, or catechists, take a supportive and “co-listener” stance in the curriculum’s formation approach so that God in Christ may be the primary teacher for children. The curriculum involves presentations on scripture and liturgy as well as simple tactile materials. Instead of distribution through a publisher, this formation program trains teachers in the curriculum through courses, which you can learn more about on the curriculum website.

Additional Information

  • Publisher and date: THE CATECHESIS OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD®, 1954 (Roman Catholic Church)
  • Age group(s): birth to age 12 (grade 6), organized into age and grade group levels (infants to age 2, age 3 – grade K, grades 1 – 3, grades 4 – 6)
  • Contents: The curriculum training is available in courses for each age group, or “atrium,” level; it involves 90 hours for the first level and additional time for subsequent levels; training and curriculum are available in English and in Spanish

2. Godly Play

“Godly Play” invites children to connect with God by encountering stories, wondering, and responding through process-oriented art. It centers children’s spirituality and agency in its approach to faith formation, and it uses simple tactile materials to foster sacred space and imaginative engagement with scripture, liturgical seasons, and the lives of saints. The curriculum scope and sequence involves 54 core presentations that focus on scripture and liturgy plus additional lessons for extension stories on scripture, liturgy, and the communion of saints. You can learn more and view sample story videos at the Godly Play Foundation website.

Additional Information

  • Publisher and date: Church Publishing and Godly Play Foundation, 2017 – present (The Episcopal Church)
  • Age group(s): preschool (starting at age 3) and elementary (up to grade 5); includes option for middle school ages
  • Contents: The written portion of the curriculum is available for purchase as a series of books with each volume containing a leader guide for 13 – 20 lessons; additional volumes provide guidance on teaching; accompanying story materials are also available at the Godly Play Foundation website; first three volumes are available in English and in Spanish (the publisher also offers a separate book called Godly Play in Middle and Late Childhood for using the curriculum with older children)

Rotation Model Top Pick (Updated 2023)

Spark: Activate Faith Rotation (Spark Rotation)

This curriculum is designed to enable children to engage Bible stories and liturgical seasons by rotating through multiple activities, or “workshops,” at different stations that all revolve around the same Bible story or season. The eight station options include: art, Bible skills and games, cooking, digital media and technology, creative drama, music, science, and video. The full scope and sequence contains 48 lessons; however, the director’s guide offers suggestions for devoting between four and six weeks to each lesson to facilitate full rotations in weekly children’s formation programs. You can review a sample lesson on the curriculum website. (Note: Lectionary-based and story-based versions of “Spark: Activate Faith” are also available; see above and below.)

Additional Information

  • Publisher and date: Sparkhouse, 2009 (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America)
  • Age group(s): preschool (starting at age 2) and elementary up to grade 6, organized by lower & upper elementary or multi-age groups
  • Contents: This curriculum is available for purchase individually by lesson; each lesson consists of a leader guide that includes a director guide, station leader guides for 8 activity stations, and shepherd guides for group leaders; accompanying Story or Spark NRSV Bibles are also available (digital curriculum resources are available with an annual subscription)

Story-based Top Picks (Updated 2023)

1. Celebrate Wonder

This curriculum embraces wonder as both a value and a method for children’s formation. It is designed to enable children to engage Bible stories in multiple ways. While its scope and sequence for 2023 – 2024 combines biblical narrative order, liturgical season, and theological theme in its organization and selection of stories, we placed the curriculum in the story-based list because its main focus is on Bible storytelling. The curriculum provides a full year of weekly lessons, which include opening conversation, short videos with older children talking about the Bible story, reading and wondering about the story, multiple activity options, and a closing spiritual practice. You can access a sample lesson at the curriculum website.

Additional Information

  • Publisher and date: Abingdon, 2019 – present, new publications annually (United Methodist Church)
  • Age group(s): preschool (starting at age 3) through older elementary (up to age 12) as an All Ages curriculum with age-specific and multi-age activity options
  • Contents: The curriculum is available for purchase by seasonal quarter (fall, winter, spring, summer) in printed or digital format; it involves a leader guide and additional supplementary materials that are packaged as a kit; accompanying story Bible and age-specific take-home sheets are also available

2. Frolic

This is a curriculum for young children that brings together Bible storytelling, play and activity centers, music, and prayer. The two-year cycle of lessons highlights stories across the Old and New Testaments for approximately 40 weeks each year, and the remaining 12 weeks of lessons focus on story books about topics like emotions and relationships. The curriculum is available in three versions: Nursery, for children up to age 2; Preschool, for ages 3 – 5; and Family, for young children and their parents and caregivers. Sample lessons and materials can be accessed on the publisher’s website.

Additional Information

  • Publisher and date: Sparkhouse, 2016 – 2018 (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America)
  • Age group(s): birth to preschool (up to age 5)
  • Contents: The materials for the Preschool curriculum include a leader guide and story sheet packs with stickers, organized into Old and New Testament, Year 1 and Year 2; the Nursery curriculum involves a coordinator guide; the Family curriculum consists of a leader guide, organized into Old and New Testament and by age group (birth – age 3 and ages 3 – 5); accompanying storytelling posters, story Bibles, story books, and other resources are also available (digital curriculum resources are available with an annual subscription)

3. Growing in God’s Love: A Story Bible Curriculum

This curriculum is designed to accompany the Growing in God’s Love: A Story Bible. It highlights stories across the Old and New Testaments and incorporates age-appropriate Lectio Divina style meditation and open-ended conversation on the scriptures. Lessons also feature activities, video links, and discussion questions to help children connect the stories with their own lives and with contemporary issues. The full scope and sequence covers 148 stories organized into 35 units with 3 – 5 lessons per unit. You can review a sample lesson on the curriculum website.

Additional Information

  • Publisher and date: Westminster John Knox, 2020 – present, with additional units forthcoming (Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.))
  • Age group(s): elementary (ages 5 – 10) in multi-age groups
  • Contents: The curriculum is available for purchase by unit in printed or digital formats; it involves a leader guide that includes handouts; accompanying story Bible is also available

4. Shine: Living in God’s Light

This curriculum engages children in a three-year exploration of stories across the Old and New Testaments. It prioritizes commitments to love, justice, and peace in its theological approach to formation, and its lessons combine Bible storytelling, wondering, games and activities, singing, and prayer. The scope and sequence for one year consists of approximately 39 weekly lessons from September through May with separate curriculum options available for 13 summer sessions. You can check out sample lessons on the curriculum website.

Additional Information

  • Publisher and date: co-published by Brethren and MennoMedia, 2020 – 2023 (Church of the Brethren, Mennonite Church USA, and Mennonite Church Canada)
  • Age group(s): preschool (pre-K – K) and elementary (grades 1 – 5), with younger (grades 1 – 2) and older (grades 3 – 5) elementary activity options in lessons; a junior youth (grades 6 – 8) version is also available for the fall, winter, and spring weekly curriculum, and youth, adult, and intergenerational versions are available for the summer curriculum series
  • Contents: The curriculum is available for purchase by age group and quarter (fall, winter, spring, summer) in printed or digital format; it involves a teacher guide and student booklet per child (with pre-K, younger elementary, and older elementary versions) that can be purchased individually or in a kit; accompanying story Bible (The Peace Table: A Storybook Bible) and CD are also available

5. Spark: Activate Faith Classroom and All Kids

This curriculum is similar in design to Spark Lectionary (see above). The lessons in these versions, Spark Classroom and Spark All Kids, follow the biblical narrative over the course of two years. The Classroom scope and sequence includes 39 – 40 weekly lessons a year for children by grade pairs with a break for summer. The All Kids version includes 52 weekly lessons a year for multi-age groups. You can check out sample lessons on the publisher’s website.

Additional Information

  • Publisher and date: Sparkhouse, 2009 (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America)
  • Age group(s): preschool (starting at age 2) and elementary up to grade 6 for Classroom; grades K – 5 for All Kids
  • Contents: This curriculum is available for purchase by season (fall, winter, spring) with differentiated grade pair levels for Classroom version and one set of materials for all ages in All Kids; it involves a leader guide and learner leaflet pack for each season and grade level; accompanying Story or Spark NRSV Bibles are also available (digital curriculum resources are available with an annual subscription)

6. StoryMakers NYC

This curriculum seeks to enable children to be not only recipients of Bible stories but active participants in the stories of scripture. It uses zines (“short for magazine,” as the website says) with illustrations, information, and creative activities to guide group conversations and to make space for children to draw, write, and share their experiences. “Playbooks” with scripts for the Bible stories are also provided so that children can use drama or puppets to tell the stories. The curriculum is organized by story or seasonal “adventures” that contain 10 – 12 lessons each for 9 different Old Testament adventure series and 4 – 8 lessons each for 4 different seasonal series (Advent, Lent, Holy Week, and Easter) that focus on the New Testament. You can request sample materials and view video tutorials on the publisher’s website.

Additional Information

  • Publisher and date: StoryMakers NYC, 2019 – present (not affiliated with a specific church denomination; read their belief statement here)
  • Age group(s): elementary (starting at age 5)
  • Contents: The curriculum is available for purchase by story or seasonal series as well as through subscription; it involves a zine per child and a leader guide, which can be purchased individually or in a starter kit; accompanying supplementary materials are also available; the “Creation” series is provided in English as well as in Spanish

Thematic Top Picks (Updated 2023)

1. Diddy Disciples

This curriculum is designed to provide engaging and child-centered singing, Bible stories, activities, and prayers for young children from birth to early elementary. It implements pedagogical “principles” that include “movement” and “our [children’s] voices” along with other dimensions of young children’s experiences, development, and gifts. The full scope and sequence includes 57 lessons organized into thematic units that correlate with the liturgical seasons. You can check out sample lessons on the curriculum website and Gretchen Wolff Pritchard’s review of the curriculum here.

Additional Information

  • Publisher and date: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2017 (Anglican tradition, The Episcopal Church)
  • Age group(s): birth to young elementary
  • Contents: The curriculum is available for purchase as two book volumes, one with lessons for September to December and the other for January to August; the volumes offer a leader guide with scripts, song lyrics, and activities

2. Follow Me: Biblical Practices for Faithful Living

This curriculum is designed to help children learn about key Christian practices for a life of faith. The children’s curriculum is part of a formation series for the whole church so that children, youth, and adults can all explore the same Christian practices concurrently in age-appropriate ways. The practices include “Welcome All,” “Pray,” “Do Justice,” “Worship God,” and many more. The full scope and sequence consists of 36 units that span four years, and each unit involves 4 – 6 lessons on a specific practice, resulting in around 38 lessons per year. Lessons include scriptures that illuminate the practices, multiple activity options and discussion questions about the practices, and prayer. You can download a sample lesson on the curriculum website.

Additional Information

  • Publisher and date: Growing Faith Resources, 2020 – present, with more lessons forthcoming (Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.))
  • Age group(s): preschool (ages 3 – 5) and elementary (multi-age group for ages 6 – 10)
  • Contents: The curriculum is available for purchase by unit and age group in printed or digital format, and it consists of a leader guide; accompanying infographic posters are also available

3. Illustrated Curriculum Series

The evergreen curricula by Illustrated Ministry explore collections of Bible stories or a specific passage through a common theme with “open and inclusive language, diverse imagery, and progressive theology” (as they say on their About page). Curriculum options include: An Illustrated Earth: Celebrating God’s Creation, An Illustrated Compassion: Learning to Love Like God, An Illustrated Invitation: Joining God at Work in the World, The Lord’s Prayer: An Illustrated Curriculum, and The Beatitudes: An Illustrated Curriculum (which is designed for intergenerational rather than child-exclusive formation). Except for “The Lord’s Prayer,” which contains 6 lessons, each curriculum option consists of 12 lessons. The lessons provide a Bible story in age-appropriate language for children, questions for wondering and imaginative conversation, story cards and handouts to color, suggested activities, and a prayer. You can access sample lessons through the publisher’s website.

Additional Information

  • Publisher and date: Illustrated Ministry, 2017 – 2020 (not affiliated with a specific church denomination)
  • Age group(s): pre-K and elementary (grades K – 5) for most curriculum series; intergenerational for “The Beatitudes”
  • Contents: The curricula are available for purchase by topic in digital format, and some can be purchased in 4-week modules or full 12-week bundles; each series involves a leader guide with printable handouts and coloring pages; additional resources (like coloring posters) and family versions for at-home use are also available

Children’s Curriculum Chart (2021)

Access the printable “June 2021 Children’s Curriculum Overviews” by Sharon Ely Pearson


Editor’s Note: This article was last published on April 19, 2021. It has been revised, updated, and republished on July 11, 2023. Special thanks to Meg Jones & Mary Whitmire Bordley for consulting with the Building Faith editors for a prior update on this article.

Meg Jones (she/her/hers) is currently the Director of Christian Formation at Christ Church in New Bern, NC. She is a life-long Episcopalian, raised in the Diocese of Atlanta. After graduating from Appalachian State University, she spent two years at the Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta in their youth ministry internship program and a year at St. Teresa’s Episcopal Church in Acworth, GA as the Director of Children’s and Youth Ministry. Meg brings experience in churches of varying sizes as well as Diocesan, Provincial, and National church connections.

Mary Whitmire Bordley (she/her/hers) is the Coordinator of Children’s and Youth Ministry at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Knoxville, Tennessee.  She is a life-long Episcopalian, raised in her faith primarily in the Diocese of Atlanta and as an undergraduate at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. Mary holds a teaching license and M.Ed. in Early Childhood Special Education and taught for over ten years in public and private preschools for children with and without disabilities before transitioning to working with children, youth, and their families in the Episcopal Church.

Featured image is by Ryan Wallace on Unsplash


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