One of the topics in my current online course is educational assessment in the congregational setting. The students are reviewing a model for rigorous assessment of Christian education that my friend Marty and I present in our forthcoming book.* One issue students have raised, legitimately, about the issue of assessment, and the model offered in particular, is that putting a rigorous assessment process in place in the congregation will be a challenge and will seem daunting. I think that’s a valid statement.
That said, I also read in their comments appreciation for the importance of assessing the effectiveness of C.E. in our congregations, and the necessity of doing it if we want to make any difference in helping people grow in faith (along with other issues like practicing good stewardship of resources, etc.).
It is not uncommon to hear the complaint, “But this is hard!” when issues of rigorous educational practice come up, from lesson planning to curricular assessment. The best short response to that is, “Yes, so?” (Sometimes I follow up by saying, “What do you tell your children when they whine that something is “too hard”?”). This gets played out not only in churches, by the way, I get that response when I work with school systems too. The alternative of not engaging in intentional, rigorous educational practice is to perpetuate where we find ourselves today: ineffective benign educational activity–benign in the sense that it makes little difference whether or not people participate in our church educational programs since the activities are, in and of themselves, ineffective for the ends we seek.
The assessment plan presented in the book is the one I used at my former church. Yes, it was hard to bring about change, and it took four years of development work to get to the place where we were able to begin the process. Some changes are accomplished like eating an elephant—one small bite at a time.
Comprehensive assessment is overwhelming if you try to do it all at once, but the three-year cycle model we offer in the book helps in that you assess the most urgent matters first (in order to build on them or address things that are broken), and, you do only ONE assessment component per year while engaging in actions in other areas. The paradox is that rather than lay people getting discouraged, they get very energized about this. They see that their work has direction (not just maintenance of programs), has purpose (it is goal-oriented, not just routine), and is important (they are doing something that will make a difference). In my experience lay persons are not afraid of hard work—but they don’t respond well to meaningless activity. And, they have the capacity to discern the difference.
The book will be published by Chalice Press and will be titled Planning and Organizing for Christian Education Formation: A Faith Community Approach, by Israel Galindo and Marty Canaday
Date posted: Wednesday, November 12th, 2008 12:05 am | Under category: administration, Christian Education, curriculum, Sunday school
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