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.
MARTY: That's right, Israel! Planning is not an easy process. It takes time and involves consistent, hard work. But it's worth it!
MARTY: What I see too is many staff Christian educators taking sole responsibility for planning the education program and ministries of the church. It is often easier and quicker to do that, but this runs counter to the Christian educator’s responsibility as the resident educator of the church! In the book’s approach the Christian educator is not responsible for planning, in detail, and carrying out the educational ministries for the congregation, nor bailing out church leaders who do not effectively carry out their responsibilities! The Christian educator is responsible for empowering church leaders and members by enlisting, resourcing, teaching, training, equipping, and encouraging church leaders and members to carry out their ministries! The work of educating in faith is too large a task for any one person to accomplish. The Christian educator needs a Christian Education Leadership Team to give intentional and regular oversight to all of the ways the congregation is being educated in faith. This book provides a structure and process that the Christian educator needs and will follow in order to be effective in his/her work.
Q: Can you give me an example of what that might look like?
MARTY: As said earlier, when most leadership teams meet, they fall into the trap of planning the calendar, giving reports, dealing with problems, and occasionally evaluating events. But there is rarely enough time left at the end of the hour for visioning, brainstorming, planning and assessing. Many groups attempt to address planning, visioning, and assessing needs in a yearly planning retreat. A yearly planning retreat is a good thing, but these functions cannot be addressed effectively at an annual planning retreat. These are ongoing functions that need attention throughout the year. The central purpose of the Christian Education Leadership Team is to address these functional needs in monthly meetings. The CELT will use this book as a guide for that purpose making sure that attention to all areas of congregational life are considered.
MARTY: The pastor is central to the effectiveness of this community of faith approach. Given the fact that the educational curriculum is “the course of the life of the church,” as Maria Harris, wrote, and that worship is one of the most effective forms of educating in faith, the pastor cannot be isolated from the Christian education efforts of the church. The book will educate some pastors towards a greater understanding of Christian education—how people are effectively educated in faith in congregational life; the structures and processes that bring about effectiveness; why it is imperative for the Christian Education Leadership Team to have the pastor’s support; and how critical it is for the team to be given authority that is commensurate with their responsibility in order to effectively carry their work.
Other pastors will find this model refreshing and helpful to his/her vision for the church and leadership of the church, because the Christian Education Leadership Team will participate in vision-casting, brainstorming, collaborating, planning, and assessing—all vital functions of effective congregational leadership. I think pastors will quickly realize how important this team is in comparison to other church leadership teams, such as Church Councils, that often do little more that calendaring and reporting.
MARTY: The model in the book is based on fundamental principles of educational planning and organization. Therefore, the size of the church does not detract in any way from the effective use of the model. The leadership team will be smaller or larger depending on the organizational needs of the church. For example, a smaller congregation will have a Preschool/Children’s Coordinator on the leadership team, whereas as larger church will have a need for a Preschool Coordinator and a Children’s Coordinator on the leadership team. The processes for educational planning and organizing are the same for congregations of all sizes.
MARTY: Also, the book advocates a collaborative, team-based, planning approach led by the lay leaders of the congregation. The purpose for the Christian Education Leadership Team (we call it the C.E.L.T., but it doesn’t’ matter what a church calls this group, “committee,” “team”, whatever) is to give oversight to all of the educational components of congregational life giving attention to needs for planning, budgeting, and ministry assessment and encouraging integration of ministries, cooperation, and collaboration.
Q: What about the role of paid staff, then?
MARTY: Oh, staff leadership remains an important part here. A clergy staff liaison serves on the leadership team along with the lay leaders who represent the program ministry areas—preschool, children, youth, adults, Sunday School, training, etc.
In these first few blog entries the authors of Planning for Christian Education Formation: A Community of Faith Approach (Chalice Press, 2010), Israel Galindo and Marty Canaday, will answer questions about the book. Here are the first two questions and their responses:
Q: What motivated you to write this book?
MARTY: During a series of conversations we compared notes and realized that there was a “top ten” list of questions we received about how to plan an effective Christian education ministry from pastors, educators, and seminary students. It was clear to us that the congregations most of these leaders served did not have an intentional process for educating persons in faith, an understanding of how to do so, or a leadership team that was giving appropriate to educational planning issues beyond general calendaring. Eventually we decided to produce a resource to address these issues.
Q: So what are those common issues that you address in the book?
MARTY: The book addresses the following common congregational problems and issues: “Lone Ranger” leaders, lack of organization, silo mentalities, lack of coordination and cooperation, lack of framework, lack of planning, lack of evaluation, and an inappropriate (and ineffective) educational approach to faith formation.