I recently heard a seminary alumnus say that one thing he regretted about his seminary experience is not taking Christian education courses. He suggested the reason for that was he “Didn’t really understand what Christian education was about.” I suspect that for this former student, Christian education was, in his mind, equivalent to and not much more than “Sunday School.”
The fact is that I don’t teach Sunday School in our seminary’s Christian Education curriculum. Whenever I’m asked about that my response is, “Anyone with an IQ three points above that of plant life can run an effective Sunday School. Any seminary graduate can learn to run a good Sunday School in about three hours on-the-job. I’d rather use those three hours studying other more fundamental things in seminary.”
Certainly, that’s an overstatement by all accounts, but not by much. Given what passes for Sunday School in most congregations, once you assign classroom space, assign a teacher, order the curricular resource material, and make sure the coffee is made, few people expect much from it. Sunday school does serve a purpose in most congregations, but as a rule, it’s not an educational one.
For seminarians who take Christian education courses it’s not uncommon to hear, “Wow, Christian education is much more than I thought it was.” Not surprisingly, the more they are exposed the field of Christian education the greater their appreciation for it and the deeper their understanding about how critical it is for the lives of the congregation and the individuals who make up the church.
Real congregational Christian educators do more than run a Sunday School. Here’s what “real Christian educators” can do:
- Help create a culture of intentionality related to the purpose and mission of the church
- Inculcate a vision and philosophy of Christian education and discipleship congruent with a congregation’s theology and culture
- Lead in the production of their church’s own curriculum and curricular resources
- Assess the effectiveness of the Christian education program through formal formative evaluation and implement action plans accordingly
- Integrate educational principles, practices and values in all aspects of church life: worship, ministry, missions, community life, fellowship, etc.
- Personally train teachers, faculty, and helpers to perform their ministries effectively
- Effectively plan, administer, and supervise a comprehensive church educational program
- Relate to all ages in the congregation and foster spiritual faith development across the lifespan
- Function as a resident theologian for the congregation
- Be a primary resource in educational practice for all groups, ministries, leaders, and persons in the congregation
- Model what it means to be a mature Christian person who continues to grow in the life of faith.
Date posted: Monday, September 8th, 2008 12:05 am | Under category: Christian Education, congregational life, second chair
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