Educational Ministry of the Church - Lesson 2


Our misconceptions about Christian education can cause us to choose poor or inaccurate content and use ineffctive strategies.

Gary Parrett
Educational Ministry of the Church
Lesson 2
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Misconceptions about Christian Education

I.  Christian Education is primarily the "church's" job.

II.  Christian Education equals Sunday School.

III.  Christian Education is exclusively for children.

IV.  Christian Education is a secondary task.

V.  Anybody can do Christian Education.

VI.  Christian Education is only the pastor's work.

VII.  Christian Education is not the pastor's job.

VIII.  Christian Education is simply about passing on knowledge.

IX.  Instant Christianity

X.  Other Misconceptions

  • Seven questions that provide a framework for choosing and implementing curriculum.

  • Our misconceptions about Christian education can cause us to choose poor or inaccurate content and use ineffctive strategies.

  • The three essential tasks of the Church are worship, outreach and teaching.

  • Christian formation focuses on the process of becoming more like Christ.

  • Instructions for spiritual education from passages in the Old Testament and New Testament.

  • History of Christian education from the early church to modern Sunday school.

  • The Heidelberg Catechism provides essential elements for a Christian education curriculum.

  • The Torah contains the essence of what God wants us to know. Jesus clarifies and exemplifies the Torah.

  • A CORE curriculum should be Comprehensive, Orthodox, Reforming and focused on Essentials. Delivery systems may include bible studies, small groups, Sunday school and sermons.

  • The Ten Commandments are the basis for Old Testament Law and the core teaching of the New Testament.

  • Tailoring curriculum by taking into peoples' physical and spiritual developmental stages can make teaching more effective.

  • Tailoring curriculum by taking into peoples' physical and spiritual developmental stages can make teaching more effective.

  • A key element for effective education to take place is for teachers to know their students relationally.

  • Effective teachers know their audience and avoid attitudes and expressions that would create obstacles to communication.

  • Asking the right questions about the curriculum and the audience can help you identify what information to emphasize and how to present it effectively.

  • How you define teaching determines content and strategy.

  • Effective teaching engages the whole person.

  • When preparing curriculum, an effective teacher will take into account both the content and the audience.

  • Many people fill the role of teacher in your life at different times and in various ways.

  • Christian education involves recruiting, training, modeling, organizing and supporting people who volunteer to teach.

  • Being trained in skills for conflict resolution helps you to have realistic expectations and gives you the tools you need to effectively resolve situations as they arise.

Through this course, you will gain a deep understanding of the educational ministry of the church, its foundations, principles of teaching and learning, and the development of an effective educational ministry. You will also explore strategies for different age groups, including children, youth, and adults, and learn how to address contemporary issues such as cultural relevance, technology, media, and special needs inclusivity.

Educational Ministry of the Church 
Dr. Gary Parrett 
Lesson Transcript


I want to begin with the why question. And the term, again that we're linking to this is the term concept. What is our conception of Christian education? What is it that we're working with as a guiding set of lenses? And of course, we know this, that if we have a wrong concept of what we're doing, we're going to not be very effective out of the very faithful at it. So I want to talk about why it is we do Christian education, what's the biblical concept of our task. But before we get to the biblical concept, I want to talk about some misconceptions. Some of them I've already hinted at in our comments just a few moments ago. But let's talk together about some others. There are a number of misconceptions that are troubling the task of Christian education in the church today. I'll share a couple with you and then I ask you to share a couple with me. I hope this will stimulate some thought in your own minds. One of the misconceptions that I am finding often is this See, Christian education is primarily the work of the local church. It's primarily the work of, let's say at this way, the institutional church. Christian education is primarily the work of the institutional church. That is, those you know, those people who lead the church ministry on Sunday. They're the key players in this and it's their job. Why would I call this a misconception? Because biblically, we'll find a number of scriptures tell us that the home is the central place in which this ought to occur.


Now, obviously, there are many homes in which Christian education doesn't occur, and a lot of people in our church are not from Christian backgrounds. We couldn't expect it. We wouldn't expect that. And the church has a critical role to play in this. But there are a lot of Christian homes that have thought, well, this really isn't our job. We send our kids to church for this and someone else takes care of Christian education. So that's a misconception. I had an elder in a church where I was serving as a youth group. Years ago there was an elder who came to me once. Actually, he was the elder and sort of in charge of Christian education in the church, which is interesting. But he said to me, You know, Pastor Gary said, My wife is really concerned about our teenage son, but I told her, You don't have to worry, honey. We have you know, we have Pastor Gary here is our youth minister. As long as he's here, we have nothing to worry about. Well, that's a great reflection of this kind of misconception. I'll send you my kids. You make them Christians. Now, that's a misconception. Another kind of misconception is that in terms of see in the church, when we do speak about Christian education in the church, another misconception is that C equals SS, That is, Christian education equals Sunday school. Christian education equals Sunday school. If you talked with a pastor about Christian education, tell me about Christian education and there in your church, many times what people will begin with is, well, you know, we have Sunday school hour at 9 a.m. every Sunday, a whole hour and a half devoted to Christian education. And sometimes that's about all that can be said with certainty.


And beyond that, it gets very fuzzy very quickly. In the minds of many people, Christian education is really synonymous with Sunday school. That's an interesting thing. Again, it's got some historical significance to it. We'll save that discussion for tomorrow. But the reality is most of that discussion for tomorrow. But just just to make the point now. Sunday school itself is a modern phenomenon. 1780s when Sunday school began and it began not as a Christian education endeavor, but it began as an evangelistic endeavor and a compassion endeavor. And yet, very rapidly, churches have adopted Sunday School as the Christian Education Vehicle, and many churches have put all of their Christian education eggs into the Sunday school basket. Makes you wonder, what did the church do for 1800 years prior to this? Was there any Christian education? Well, as a matter of fact, yes. And in some ways, adopting Sunday school as the vehicle for the benefit of Sunday school, in some ways, Christian education has suffered some very significant losses because of this. We'll talk about that tomorrow. These are a couple of misconceptions that come to mind. Let me add one more and then you can try to add to our discussion. A third misconception is that Christian education is primarily or essentially or totally for children. Christian education is children's work. Obviously, Christian education includes children and maybe children are appropriate emphasis for Christian education work. I think you can make a case for that, but certainly we wouldn't want to say that Christian education is exclusively for children. But again, I've been called to serve in churches as educational minister and been told right away that I didn't have to worry about the adults. That wasn't part of my domain. It was because domain the adults didn't really have to worry about Christian education after all.


The word adult literally means someone who's fully grown. So if I'm fully grown, I don't really need this. And a lot of people have moved under that kind of mindset. One of our challenges in Christian education to undo this misconception will be to help adults see that know they haven't fully arrived, that there is more to learn. Well, these are three misconceptions that I think are often at work in the life of church. I have a bunch more, but I don't want to just spit them at you. Let me hear what you're saying in the church. Do you think of any other misconceptions? Christian education, Other misconception. Christian education is a secondary task. It's not real ministry. That's what this is really being said, isn't it? Christian education is not real ministry. In fact, yeah. Just as you made the link, let's make this link a little bit more explicitly. When to the extent that Christian education is focused on children. Some people believe that children's ministry just isn't as significant as adult ministry. Now, of course, in many churches the opposite is true. Many churches put all kinds of resources on their children. And that's that's a wonderful thing. But in many churches, there really is this whole notion of what real ministry is all about. And that's part of the reason why some pastors are shy to identify themselves with Christian education because they want to be associated with real ministry. You see it, this kind of misconception and work and the idea of the person who takes their first job in youth ministry, not because they have passion for youth, but because they see this as a necessary stepping stone to real ministry. Okay, I'll become a children's minister if you want me to, but I have my eyes on the prize.


And the prize is real ministry. It's an old misconception. You can find it in the Gospels. When the disciples were confronted by some woman who brought their babies to Jesus for a blessing and the disciples rebuked, these women said, Don't bother the master. Why? Because he's busy with real ministry. He doesn't have time for children. And then in Mark's Gospel especially, it's fun to read the story. Jesus finds out what the disciples are doing and He becomes indignant with the disciples and he rebukes them. Let the children come to me. This is what the Kingdom of God is all about. And then elsewhere, of course, Jesus takes a young child, stands the child in the midst of the disciples, and say, You know, you guys need to study this child, understand what the kingdom of God is all about, right? That's a key misconception in life that you're sometimes it shows up when the rubber meets the road. You find it in issues like budget issues, like staffing, issues like facilities, leftover space, leftover time slide in the schedule, leftover remnants of the budget, leftover personnel at the level of seminary and Bible College is one way that I see this show. I went to the bookstore at a prominent seminary a few years ago and I went back again last year and I found that in the course of two or three years, the bookstore at the seminary had done away with its Christian education section. There used to be a small shrinking section on Christian education. Now there is no section at all on Christian education. And in fact, a lot of seminaries have just done away with Christian education altogether. They have different departments, spiritual formation, which is not altogether a bad thing.


But in fact, sometimes the shrinking Christian education emphasis in schools is a sign of this. In fact, even a Gordon Conwell back in the golden days of Christian education here have there were four full time professors of Christian education. It went from four down to zero and we're back to one now. Me and I, hopefully we're rebuilding and hiring a second soon, but that represents some of this thing. It's not vital. It's a nice idea, but it's not necessarily violent. I think there's a related misconception here. That's the idea that anybody can do Christian education work. Anybody can do this. We've already talked about the idea that, in fact, in Christian education, there are many players. But there's also a sad misconception at work in many churches, and that is that you don't have to be particularly trained or gifted or called at all. You don't have to have a particular character. You just need to be a warm, willing body and you can become a Sunday school teacher. C is another pastoral speaking opportunity. This is kind of then it would be a little bit on the opposite side. The misconception that says the sea is not the pastor's work is a little bit of a misconception there. Here's another misconception that says maybe sea is the only the pastor's work in the way he does. It is one dimensional. Let's add that other one to our discussion, though. Sea is not the pastor's job. We've already said this implicitly, but let's say it explicitly and there are a lot of people I fact I see this all the time. I go to churches to do some Christian education consulting. And a lot of times pastors just they use the term, Well, let me show you my people.


I'll take you to my city people. And we're so grateful we have such good people. And then sometimes very actually say the words that you sea is not my territory. Well, that's a misconception as well. If the pastor of the church, the one maybe of all people who was specifically called to ministry, specifically gifted for a ministry is specifically equipped through seminary training for ministry. If that pastor is not going to be concerned about Christian education, I'm not sure how wise a move that is for the well-being of the church. Not that the pastor's the whole package. That's the other misconception. But pastor has to be one of the key agents here. Anything else? A couple more. Okay. So see succeeds with the passing on of knowledge. Take this back to the conversation I had with Dr. Kaiser. Biblical illiteracy. Life. Illiteracy. Is the goal really simply passing on biblical knowledge? Well, to sneak ahead to our subsequent discussion, I would say no, it's not legal. It's a goal, but it's a goal that serves the larger goal. The larger goal is a transformed life. We'll talk about that. The notion of instant Christianity. One of the misconceptions that work underneath this is the idea that you can instantly be spiritually mature. A.W. Tozer I think it's I think it's in the book Born after Midnight. A.W. Tozer makes a comment along these lines. He says, It's not surprising to me that the country that introduced us to instant coffee and instant tea also gave us instant Christianity. The idea that all it takes is say a little prayer and you're it. You're spiritual and you're mature and. And you're ready to go. The early church, as you say, had a very different understanding of how to take a nonbeliever and bring them to the point of being a full member of the community.


We'll explore that together tomorrow. Just a couple of other things. C succeeds when knowledge is passed on or Christian education succeeds. Success is measured by numbers of the Sunday school rolls or how many people we have in small groups. And again, numbers may indicate something. I'm not sure that they necessarily are ever a real indicator of spiritual vitality in life, or at least not the kind of indicator that we want to put too much stock in. After all, Islam and Mormonism probably growing faster than just about anything in the states these days. But does that number numerical growth, the stamp of God's blessing? Here's a couple of more, maybe a little slightly different kinds of misconceptions. We know that C is successful when people are conforming well to the traditions of our church. We know that C is successful when people are conforming to the traditions of our church. If we have people who are just coming in, they start. They're starting more and more to look like us and they think like us. They talk, they speak perfect Christian ease. But somehow we think that's the stamp, that we've done something great. In fact, maybe the best, better sign would be people who are rising up and questioning everything. Maybe that's a sign that we're doing something. Okay, so C has nothing to do. Yeah. So C has nothing to do with evangelism. And clearly this works out in some tragic ways. If I if I'm treating my ministry as a teacher and I'm just assuming that everybody I'm teaching is already born again and I'm just talking as though that's the case. So I'm the pastor who preaches as though that's always the case. I'm the Sunday school teacher who just assumes everybody's name.


Every child in my class is already Christian. In fact, lots of tragic results flow out of this. Yeah, well, we'll get into that a little bit, too. Just a couple of other things here. Oh, I wanted to linger on this one for a moment that we had before Anybody can do Christian education. Now, one of the ways that shows up again has to do with qualifications and we look for. Extremely high set of qualifications, typically for a pastor, for a worship director. But what kind of qualifications do we look for from a Sunday school teacher? We'll talk about that when we get to the WHO question. Here's one. See is woman's work. Now, this is interesting because people could come down on both sides of this. There are some people say, see, it's definitely not woman's work or at least, you know, a woman shouldn't do this unless it's only with children or only with younger people. But a lot of people have the idea that see is the only safe spot that we can put a woman. And then you look at a lot of churches and you find that all the key players are women. And where where are the men? So it's an interesting thought as well. Or C, related to the C is the work of a few. There's a few people in our church who are charged with Christian education, and it's really their job. Well, these are just samples of some of the misconceptions. I hope, in fact, that as we get into our discussion a little bit further, you'll think about some of these things and what kind of misconceptions may be crippling the church where you're ministering because they're out there and they're serious and they do cripple us.