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What I Don’t Like about Elevate Jr.


If you’re just now finding this post, please don’t think I’m being negative.   We have recently added Elevate Jr. to our Early Childhood way of teaching, and I’ve detailed earlier how we are using it, as well as what I love about the changes.   Today I would like to simply address what we have found lacking with Elevate Jr.

I believe that there is no such thing as a perfect curriculum.   Just as there is no perfect person, church, or children’s pastor.   I do not expect these things to be changed, but I am simply trying to share the things that have been limiting about our Elevate Jr. transition.

  • The take home portions are very, very, very weak.   We spent a great amount of time looking into First Look, by the Rethink Group; and when you compare Elevate Jr. with First Look only taking into account the take home ingredients it isn’t even close.   Overall, this is the biggest weakness with Elevate Jr..
    • There needs to be more ORANGE elements with the curriculum to provoke spiritual conversations at home.   I would love to see take-home DVD’s, refrigerator magnets outlining the 8 week series (this is a First Look thing), take-home songs, and a more beefed up family devotional.
    • I also wish Elevate Jr. had a more assessable website for families to interact with the current series from home.
  • The music portions are weak.   The songs are very professionally arranged, and the audio is fine; I just think there are plenty of current songs that kids hear on radio stations and with their parents that would be a better fit.
    • On that note, I would love to send families home with music from the series so they could play it in the car and around the house.   I think music is quite possibly the best take home product for kids to continue spiritual conversations at home.
  • Maybe this is the case with future series on Elevate Jr., but I wish the activity portions were more age specific.   We are using Elevate Jr. with our 3 year old children through Kindergarten, and it would be nice if there were a few 3 year specific activities.   I know that Elevate does this with the Elementary versions, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

This has been the most uncomfortable post I’ve done in months.   I really hate to point out the negative things, but felt that it was important to state what wasn’t working.   Overall, we are all very happy with the change and I’m looking forward to what this change mean for our church and families.   I’ve already had testimonials from parents about the excitement their kids are showing about attending church, and from parents that are impressed that their little ones can retell the lesson so well.

If you haven’t already please take the time to look over my previous posts about Elevate, and if you are using Elevate or Elevate Jr. please joing the conversation.   We need your voice!

Jonathan Cliff is married to his wife Starr and they together live out their days with two sons and a daughter. Jonathan serves as one of the Pastors at Grace Community Church in Clarksville, Tennessee; where he works with leaders throughout the city to help develop Christian community that leads to deep and meaningful spiritual friendships. His journey has been an adventurous one, having served in the local church for 15 years in family ministry developing leaders, building environments for kids and students to belong, and encouraging parents to take big spiritual steps with their families.


  1. Kendra Golden · June 19, 2009

    So with the importance of the missing orange elements, what was the tipping point for causing you to choose Elevate Jr. over First Look? I’d love you to share your criteria for selecting.
    .-= Kendra Golden ´s last blog ..2 Samuel 6 =-.

  2. admin · June 22, 2009


    We went with Elevate Jr., because it was what we felt would be the best fit for where we are right now. Things like volunteer commitment, classroom space, and the ability to master something quickly held great weight for us during this change.

    We actually loved First Look, and have promised ourselves to look into again in a year to 18 months.

  3. CoB · June 22, 2009

    Creative Pastors (the company that publishes Elevate and Elevate Jr.) has a CD or DVD set called “Elevate Jr. Music – Volume 1″… you can find it here:


  4. Johnny E! · June 23, 2009

    Hey Jonathan,

    In the fall FC and Creative Pastors will be coming out with Elevate Family, a supplement to the curriculum to answer some of the items you said above, like the magnets, take home dvds with music and other things. It is something me and my friends @FC have discussed for an extended period of time (over a year). Also they write their own music to keep the cost of curriculum down so they are not paying licensing fees. When you have a great worship team, and a great creator like Ryan McMackin who listens to the latest music and tries to implement it in their own way, it begins to make sense why they do it. If you have any more questions about it, give me a call or email me about it. Thanks bro, hope that helped.

  5. jonathan · June 23, 2009

    I’m looking forward to some of the improvements! Elevate Jr. is already such a great product, that the improvements are few!

  6. Mel · September 17, 2011

    Thank you for this series post. I’m glad I found it today as I was able to see EXACTLY how this curriculum works (much better than on their site!)
    Some background: I used to work in the CM at our church. After my second child I decided to stay home. I am still a volunteer teacher and worship leader in our preschool classes. Having two kids of my own I feel VERY strongly about having a deep “orange” element within the curriculum at our church.
    For the past 3 years our Early childhood has used First Look. We used it from age 1-age 4. We’ve used 252 for 5 years.
    With a new children’s pastor and regional campuses, I just found out my church is about to make the switch from First Look to Elevate/Jr. Here’s the thing. All the stuff on your “pro’s” list are not issues for us. We have fabulous, strong teams, who teach consistently, on time and the First Look is working beautifully. My 3 year old has learned so much over the last few years. My one year old started singing and doing the actions at 13 months. We have not had any complaints from First Look, so this change is purely a leader preference.
    My kids don’t watch a lot of TV, and I feel strongly that we as a church can do better than videos (I think they have their place for things like summer and when volunteers need a break), but I am bothered that we would GIVE UP live teaching for a mostly on screen with some “MC-ing” style of teaching. I also HATE that there is nothing until age 3. My oldest is a current testament of a missed opportunity for all those churches not doing things for younger kids. Curriculum should start at age 1 at the latest.
    I’m also bothered by the lack of parent resources (though I see that it has gotten better since this post, but I don’t think it’s at First Look level yet). I fear in my church’s case we’re sacrificing quality for what looks like convenience, but may not even be that. I’m curious if you’re still using it two years later and if you would add or change anything to these lists? I know this may sound like I’m pre-judging Elevate. It’s just hard when we have such a fabulous curriculum that our kids, parents and volunteers love. Any feedback to help ease my mind?

    • Jonathan Cliff · September 17, 2011

      You’re probably not going to like my reply…We moved to First Look 12 months ago; and love it. I used Elevate Jr. and Elevate for 3 years while we built our teams; and now we’ve moved to 252 and FirstLook in all areas.

      There is no perfect curriculum, but we really, really, really love what we’ve found from the people at Orange.

      I’d encourage you to find out why your church is making the change. Spend some time with the leader, and try and discover their heart for the change. I know that when we moved to Elevate Jr. initially we had some big kickback. However, it was because people in our church didn’t know the reality of how bad it as before.

      After getting our feet under us, we quicly moved to First Look!

      • Mel · September 17, 2011

        Thank you for this. I plan on setting up a meeting with the lead pastor. I wish I already knew it was a positive change, but since I’m right in there in the rooms and teaching (and I know the other staff) I know the reality they are working within.
        The more I’ve thought about it, the more I think my biggest beefs are the parent resources (or lack thereof) and the fact that it’s video. My 3 year old knows that what it on TV isn’t real, so in her mind, isn’t true. Which is a problem when it’s   a Bible story!
        Hopefully we can see both sides of the story in our meeting and create something positive for our kids.

  7. Jen · December 24, 2014

    Thank you for this. We have been using Elevate for four years, simply because I was often the only adult with 20 ish kids K-6th. I’m looking for where to go next, and appreciate the mention of First Look. Many of our kids are in AWANAS on Wednesday night, and it seems a big step back on Sunday to go with the shallowness of Elevate. I’m hoping my volunteers stay on and I can go to something with the older elementary kids while using Elevate for the little guys.