Q: How about a companion workbook with additional charts and forms?
Sunday, March 21, 2010
What is the Christian Education Leadership Team’s relationship, in terms of authority and power, to the church’s leadership?
MARTY: Here's an example: the staff liaison and the chairpersons of the Christian Education Leadership Team should be members of, and report to, the Church Council. The CELT must be given proper authority to carry out its work of overseeing the educational ministries of the congregation. The CELT is a planning, organizing, and assessing group—not just a calendaring group. Every congregation needs a group that focuses solely on Christian education. It is difficult for a Church Council to carry out this function because of other responsibilities and functions that demand its attention, leaving very little time in monthly meetings to address the multi-faceted components necessary for effective Christian education planning. This is why a Christian Education Leadership Team is needed.
Why did you use the Christian Church Year as a framework for planning and organizing the education ministry of the congregation?
MARTY: The Christian Church Year is an appropriate formation framework for planning the education ministry of the congregation because it tells the Christian Story. This framework grounds the planning team in biblical theology and helps the team provide focused and balanced educational programming. It also provides a safeguard against planning a hodgepodge of unrelated activities and promotes church-wide conversation and shared language that supports intergenerational dialogue. Additionally, using the Christian Church Year as an educational framework helps the planning team resist the temptation to plan primarily around the secular calendar.
MARTY: Some persons may think we have overstated the dire state of affairs of Christian education. After all, who we are, what we do, and what we know as Christians, is the result of our current and past experiences at church. This is true, however, research by the Search Institute has revealed a Christian education enterprise that is benign and in need of repair.
Additionally, the majority of today's church members have an adolescent faith maturity level according to developmental psychologist, James Fowler. This a a stage that is characterized by conformity to an ideology that comes from "authorities" (usually parents) with little personal reflection and internalization of those beliefs. Many Christians die at this stage (stage 3 of 6 stages, according to Fowler).
Most congregations have not helped church members advance into deeper levels of faith maturity. We do not feel that the current state of affairs in Christian education are overstated. The alarm has been sounded and congregations that are concerned about this must become intentional in addressing this spiritual formation need.
Really, in the long run it does little good to be shown what to do without understanding why it is necessary to do it.
Something interesting happens when you get an academic and a practitioner together on a project. There’s an honest corrective that arises between the ideal and the real, or, the theoretical and the practical. I think the book presents a good balance as a result of our give and take in writing the book. We had some great discussions in the process, but we’re still friends.
MARTY: Hah! The quick answer is “both!” Theory (and theology) shapes practice. The first two chapters of the book lay out the theological and philosophical framework of a Christian faith community. This model cannot be used effectively without a clear understanding of this part of the book. Chapters three through six suggest how a Christian Education Leadership Team should be organized, what the work of the team is, what educational approaches congregations use and how they impact formation, and how to use the Christian Church Year in planning. The last two chapters present a practical approach for assessing educational effectiveness and lays out a process for implementing the model.
MARTY: The language we use is very important. It helps shape culture. The phrase “community of faith” more clearly expresses the relational nature of a congregation and its appropriate educational concerns: context, content, approach, outcome, and method. The context is the community of faith, not a classroom. The content is the person of Jesus Christ, not a creed or textbook. The approach is relational, not didactic. The outcome is becoming in relationship, not mastery of content. The method is dialogical, not instruction.
This language helps the Christian Education Leadership Team focus on the relational nature of the congregation. The phrase “community of faith” helps the leadership team keep a broader perspective in mind, leading the team to give attention to all aspects of congregational life. The phrase helps the leadership team become clear about the difference between religious instruction and formation education. All of this significantly impacts planning that leads to effective faith formation.