Curriculum invites children to build 'rock solid' faith


By Kathy L. Gilbert
United Methodist News Service

NASHVILLE -- Hank the Hammer and friends will help children build a "rock solid heart of faith" with a new Sunday school curriculum being offered this fall by the United Methodist Publishing House.

"Rock Solid: Building a Heart of Faith" will invite children ages 3-13 to lay a solid biblical foundation and construct a personal relationship with God.

The cornerstone of "Rock Solid" is Matthew 7:24, the story of the wise man who built his house on rock. It includes multi-sensory activities, crafts, stories and games, supplemented by an interactive Web site at

"Faith cannot be taught; it must be caught," said Marj Pon, managing editor of church school publications, in a presentation to the Publishing House board of directors during its spring meeting March 18-19 in Nashville.

"We want to create a faith experience each week."

The new curriculum replaces Exploring Faith, which has been offered for the past eight years. Rock Solid incorporates language based on a faith-building model instead of a school model and uses, for instance, words like session instead of lesson, leader instead of teacher and group instead of class.

The curriculum will be ready to ship to churches in June. It includes a leader guide, kids books, a resource packet and musical CD. A fun pack with craft ideas is available for younger age levels, a puzzle book for older children and a drama book for "tweens."

Rock Solid is less expensive than Exploring Faith. The leader's guide costs $2 less per book, and the kids book $1 less.

Reporting on other Publishing House products, Linda Tozer and Marilyn Thornton, editors of Vacation Bible School resources, said the 2008 VBS Beach Party had exceeded $1 million in sales during February. Walk It Out, a multicultural VBS offering, reached more than $70,000 in sales by the end of February and is running ahead of budget and sales of last year's program.

"This was a first-time-ever achievement for the corresponding sales period and suggests we have a major hit on our hands," said Neil Alexander, president and publisher, of the Beach Party product.

Competitive environment
In recent years, the Publishing House has faced tough competition in the publishing industry, in addition to soaring costs.

In July 2007, a 2 percent decline in annual sales forced the publishing agency to lay off 3 percent of its workforce. In February, staff was restructured and leadership assignments changed to support a need for "bench strength" and a desire for a less hierarchical culture, Alexander said.

Second-quarter sales and expenses ended with a net operating revenue of $2.2 million, "which is well ahead of our plan," Alexander said.

"We are grateful for this good news as it provides encouragement for the challenging work through the remainder of the fiscal year while we interact with an uncertain national economy and precariously small margin of error to achieve our end-of-year net operating revenue."