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.

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
  • additional accompanying resources
  • availability of corresponding curricula for other age groups (children, adults, intergenerational)

We have organized the options alphabetically by name under three types of curriculum (based on this “5 Types of Sunday School Curriculum“ article), noting where some curricula fit more than one type:

  • lectionary-based
  • story-based
  • thematic

Additionally, we have focused this list on Christian formation curriculum for churches to use with youth 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 seasonal curriculum or resources designed specifically for confirmation, families, at-home settings, or intergenerational formation. For intergenerational program resources, you may want to check out our Top Picks for Intergenerational Curriculum. For youth confirmation options, see our Top Picks for Confirmation 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. Connecting Faith and Justice: Youth Lectionary Curriculum

This curriculum follows the Revised Common Lectionary with a focus on justice each week. Lessons explore topics like poverty, racism, diversity, inclusion, advocacy, protest, civil disobedience, peacemaking, environmental justice, and more. Each lesson offers a “centering moment” or practice, scripture reading and discussion, group activities, and a “closing moment.” The curriculum provides 52 weekly lessons for all three years of the lectionary cycle, and the full curriculum with scope and sequence can be accessed, downloaded, and printed for free on the curriculum website.

Additional Information

2. Feasting on the Word

This curriculum revolves around exploring Bible stories through the lectionary cycle. The youth 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 multiple group games and activities, scripture reading and discussion, and prayer. You can access sample lessons on the curriculum website.

Additional Information

  • Publisher and date: Westminster John Knox, 2022 – present, new publications annually (Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.))
  • Age group(s): tweens (grades 5 – 6), middle and high school youth (grades 7 – 12)
  • 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 worksheets

Story-based Top Picks (Updated 2023)

1. Echo the Story

This curriculum invites youth to engage scripture as a series of stories within a story through wondering, reflection, and creative activities. It uses video recaps to connect previous week’s stories to new lessons as well as sketchbooks to facilitate students’ drawings, writing, and conversations. The curriculum spans the Old and New Testaments and comes in two versions: a 12-lesson edition (see the scope and sequence here) and a 36-lesson edition (see the scope and sequence here). You can view sample lessons on the publisher’s website.

Additional Information

  • Publisher and date: Sparkhouse, 2014 (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America)
  • Age group(s): middle and high school youth (may be most appropriate for middle school)
  • Contents: This curriculum is available for purchase by version (12 or 36); it involves a leader guide, youth sketch journal, and DVD, which can be purchased individually or in bundles (digital curriculum resources are also available with an annual subscription)

2. Fathom: A Deep Dive into the Story of God

This curriculum is a series of Bible studies that explore stories across the Old and New Testaments. It seeks to enable youth to ask hard questions and address complexities involved in interpreting scripture. Each series consists of 4 lessons on a particular topic, biblical book, or set of biblical books, and the full curriculum covers 18 different series. Lessons include multiple group games and journaling activities, scripture readings, discussion questions, and prayer. The study is also designed for youth to share in leading the sessions among their peers with adult leaders. You can view sample lesson excerpts on the curriculum website.

Additional Information

  • Publisher and date: Abingdon, 2017 – 2018 (United Methodist Church)
  • Age group(s): middle and high school youth
  • Contents: This curriculum is available for purchase by series in printed or digital format; it involves a leader guide and student journal that can be purchased individually in print format or by digital bundles

3. Shine: Living in God’s Light

This curriculum engages middle school youth 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 include group activities and games, scripture reading, discussion questions, ways to connect scripture with contemporary life and issues, and prayer. The scope and sequence for one year consists of approximately 39 weekly lessons from September through May. 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): middle school youth (grades 6 – 8); children’s versions of the curriculum are also available
  • Contents: This curriculum is available for purchase by quarter in printed or digital format; it involves a teacher’s guide and youth devotional titled Quest per student; accompanying materials like teaching posters are also available

Thematic Top Picks (Updated 2023)

1. Animate

This curriculum seeks to facilitate formative learning, conversation, critical and creative thinking, and practices about central dimensions of Christian faith and life. It is designed for adults of all ages, but we think it may be beneficial for high school youth as well. The curriculum addresses three main topics: Faith, Bible, and Practices (see links for each scope and sequence). Each topic contains 7 lessons that feature videos with church leaders and scholars as well as journals to prompt group discussion. You can view sample materials on the publisher’s website.

Additional Information

  • Publisher and date: Sparkhouse, 2012 – 2014 (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America)
  • Age group(s): adults; we think it may also be appropriate for high school youth (grades 9 – 12)
  • Contents: This curriculum is available for purchase by topic in printed or digital format; it involves a facilitator guide, participant journal, and DVD; lessons can also be purchased individually

2. Current

This curriculum provides opportunities for in-depth exploration of core dimensions of Christian life. The curriculum is tailored to four age groups — preschool children, elementary age children, youth, and adults — as well as to intergenerational groups so that the whole community can participate in a common formation program. It consists of 3 different series: “Seeking Justice Together,” “Seeking God Together,” and “Seeking Peace Together” (see links for each scope and sequence). Each series contains 13 lessons, and lessons for youth include group activities, scripture reading with reader’s theater scripts, discussion questions, and prayer. You can view sample lessons on the curriculum website.

Additional Information

3. Follow Me: Biblical Practices for Faithful Living

This curriculum is designed to help youth learn about key Christian practices for a life of faith. The youth 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): middle and high school youth (ages 11 – 18)
  • Contents: The curriculum is available for purchase by unit in printed or digital format, and it consists of a leader guide; accompanying infographic posters are also available

4. Generation Why

This curriculum engages youth in conversations, scripture study, and activities at the intersections of Christian faith, youth experiences, and social and ecological issues. It consists of 15 different topical series that each contain 5 – 6 lessons. Topics include ethics, friendship, creation care, understanding diverse faiths, violence in scripture, resolving conflicts, and more. Lessons include group activities, discussion, reading and reflecting on scripture, and suggested practices for youth to do during the week. You can view a sample lesson on the curriculum website.

Additional Information

5. Journey to Adulthood

This curriculum offers a multi-year formation program for youth from grade 6 through grade 12. It consists of three modules tailored to different age groups: Rite 13, a two-year program for ages 11 – 13; J2A, a two-year program for ages 13 – 15; and 4Ward, a two-year program for ages 15 – 18. The curriculum for each module is organized into units about various dimensions of Christian faith and life, and lessons across units are designed to focus on themes of “self,” “society,” and “spirituality.” The full scope and sequence lists units that include “Made in God’s Image,” “I Will, with God’s Help,” “Caring for Creation,” “Searching Out the Scriptures,” and more. You can request access to sample lessons through a free trial through the publisher’s website.

Additional Information

  • Publisher and date: Church Publishing, 2021, revised edition (The Episcopal Church)
  • Age group(s): middle and high school youth (grades 6 – 12)
  • Contents: This curriculum is available in digital format by subscription; it involves a leader guide; additional resources for leaders are also available

6. Lesson Plans That Work for Youth and Young Adults

This curriculum provides opportunities for youth to engage justice through scripture, group learning and discussion, activities, and prayer. It consists of two 8-session series of lessons, one on “Racial Justice” and another on “Climate Justice.” The curriculum offers age-specific lessons for both youth and young adults. You can view the full scope and sequence of each series and also access all the lessons for free in the topic links.

Additional Information

  • Publisher and date: Department of Faith Formation of The Episcopal Church, 2021 (The Episcopal Church)
  • Age group(s): middle and high school youth; corresponding lessons available for young adults
  • Contents: This curriculum is available for free by age group in digital format; it involves lesson plans for leaders; additional resources and recommended readings for racial justice are also available

7. Teen Compass Faith and Wellness

This curriculum helps youth explore wellness in their own lives. It incorporates story examples, scripture, group discussion, journaling, and prayer to enable youth to reflect on what wellness means in relation to Christian faith and to create goals for practicing wellness. The curriculum is designed for a minimum of 26 sessions, and the scope and sequence contains 8 units on different components of wellness with 3 lessons in each unit. You can view sample lessons on the curriculum website.

Additional Information

  • Publisher and date: Living Compass, 2016 (not affiliated with a specific church denomination)
  • Age group(s): middle and high school youth; similar resources for adults are also offered
  • Contents: This curriculum is available in digital format for free; it involves a leader guide and teen notebook; notebooks can also be purchased in print format

Youth Curriculum Chart (2018)

Access the printable “2018 Youth (Middle & High School) Curriculum Overviews” by Sharon Ely Pearson


Editor’s Note: This article was last published on May 10, 2021. It has been revised, updated, and republished on July 31, 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 lifelong 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 lifelong 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 Chang Duong on Unsplash


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