The Christian Reformed Church is introducing DWELL Assist, a financial-assistance program for CRC congregations who are not using the DWELL curriculum because their church can’t afford it.

DWELL was developed by the CRC and is geared for children from preschool through eighth grade. Since it provides a Reformed perspective to teaching children, it is important to give all churches, regardless of their financial status, the chance to purchase the curriculum, says Colin Watson, Sr., the denomination’s director for ministry and administration.

“DWELL is infused with a distinctively Reformed worldview, hits the key points CRCs care about, and is designed to support faith nurture at home,” he said.

“So it doesn’t seem right when one of our churches can’t afford to fully use what is, essentially, their curriculum.”

Last year, the CRC introduced a new “CRC Discount” that helps all churches with the cost of materials, including DWELL. “But for some churches in very difficult financial situations, even that is not enough,” said Watson.

So “Christian Reformed churches who are unable to afford DWELL can now submit an application to have their cost reduced through the DWELL Assist program. Applications will be reviewed and prioritized based on the need and financial hardship of the church, as well as on funds available. As part of the application, churches are asked to contribute as much as they are able toward the cost of their curriculum.”

Eligible churches are urged to apply by June 15 to be considered for the 2017-18 church year. Though applications will be accepted throughout the year, they will be subject to remaining funds.

“DWELL Assist recognizes that some of our churches don’t have to worry much about finances, while other churches struggle to pay their pastor,” said Watson.

“But we’re all in this together, seeking kingdom impact in every corner of North America. And we want kids across our entire denomination to be learning and growing in their faith,” said Watson.

The CRC is also introducing the DWELL Assist Fund as a way for donors to help churches that cannot afford the cost of the curriculum.

“If you believe that all kids in our denomination should have access to quality children’s ministry curriculum, regardless of financial situation, please contribute to the DWELL Assist Fund. The more that is received, the more churches we can help,” said Watson.

When someone from a Christian Reformed church says, “We can’t afford curriculum,” or, “We can only afford leader guides, so we make do without the pieces for kids and families,” that doesn’t sit well.

“We don’t want cost to be a barrier that prevents our own churches from using the denominational curriculum,” said Watson.

“It’s true that DWELL is used by churches from many different denominations (about half of sales are to non-CRC churches, in fact). But DWELL is owned by the CRC, and we don’t want cost to prevent CRCs from using it.”

“What makes DWELL so valuable, especially for the CRC, is that instead of presenting the Bible as a book of virtues or biblical heroes, DWELL approaches each story from a Reformed perspective — telling it as a part of the one story of God’s redemption and restoration of the world through Jesus Christ,” said Karen DeBoer, who works for the CRC’s Faith Formation Ministries.

DWELL, she said, offers educational approaches that research shows can cultivate the faith of young people.

“The faith of our littlest ones is as worthy of our attention now as it will be when they’re teens and young adults,” she said.

“A few months ago, members of Faith Formation Ministries spoke with a small group of CRC pastors about how the choice of children’s ministry curriculum affects the way we’re forming faith in kids, and the pastors also shared their ideas for supporting CRC children's ministry leaders and for helping churches encourage and equip families to nurture faith at home.”

The pastors liked what they heard, and the next day, after describing for the CRC’s Board of Trustees the value of DWELL and of enhancing it, one of those pastors spoke out and said, “I wish every CRC pastor could have heard this.”

“As members of the CRC, we read Scripture through Reformed theological lenses,” said DeBoer.

“That interpretation of Scripture informs the sermons prepared by pastors. It’s the reason we have a CRC seminary. Reformed theology is reflected in everything a CRC congregation does, from the way worship services are planned to the way we engage with neighbors,” she said.

“If we want to grow in our children the same deep and wide faith we want to grow in our youth and adults, our Reformed theology should inform the way we tell kids God’s story.”

To learn more about DWELL and to see a comparison between it and two other popular curricula for young people in these age groups, click here.

Meanwhile, Faith Formation Ministries is planning to launch a Children’s Ministry Toolkit this fall as one way to support leaders as they sift through the many curriculum options available to them.

The kit will also contain resources to help leaders who write their own curriculum, and it will include materials for encouraging and equipping families, provide training for leaders, and more.

One resource that’s already available as a free download is the 10-Question Tool for Choosing a Children's Ministry Curriculum. (See how Faith Alive has used it here.) Faith Formation Ministries invites you to print and distribute as many copies of the 10-Question Tool as you’d like, and to use it to open a conversation about the curriculum.