Educational Ministry of the Church - Lesson 12


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

Gary Parrett
Educational Ministry of the Church
Lesson 12
Watching Now

Continuity: When do we teach what?

Part 2

II.  Applications

A.  Moral Development

1.  Fifth Commandment as a Child

2.  Fifth Commandment as an Adult

B.  Piaget

1.  Organization

2.  Adaptation

a.  Assimilation

b.  Accommodation

C.  Disequilibration

D.  Communication

E.  Cross-generational Relationships

  • 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


On the wind. Question A few more pieces of the puzzle for us. Yesterday, we were talking about cognitive development and moral development a little bit. And we were also talking about the need to balance issues of content with process. The developmental thinkers have focused on process, but we also need to focus on content. But I want to emphasize that these go together and they're not in competition with each other. They both are really necessary. One of the ways back to the moral development issue, where we were one of the kind of ways that the wind question might be applied if we take some actually moral development and cognitive development is put those ideas together again, piece them together. We also looked a little bit at faith development research. But take, for example, just I'm just using as an example of how one same piece of content might look different at different ages of life. Back to the Ten Commandments. What's the Fifth Commandment again? I know you've got this all memorized now. Good. Okay. Fifth Commandment, honor, father and mother. What would you say if I'm teaching a young child to apply this scripture to their lives as a piece of obedience and to God? What what would be one way that a child will practically implement this? Practically submit to this commandment for a child, young child living at home with mom and dad? Anybody have any Bible for us here? I do. How about Ephesians chapter six, verse one? I know this one because may have been the first verse I ever taught my daughter to memorize.


Children obey your parents in the Lord for This is Right. And then Paul links this call to children to obey their parents, links it to the fourth or the fifth commandment says the first commandment with the blessing on your father and mother that it may go well with you and you may live long in the land you are entering, which, by the way, is a promise that I think sometimes we read and automatically our our mindset is, ah, this is a promise to me as an individual that I enter into. But remember, this is spoken in covenant to a covenant community. And I think that although there's individual application here for sure, that probably the first application is that the community was being promised, just like in Deuteronomy six, that if you as a people will obey these words, it will go well with you in the land. So obedience. Now, what happens when I'm no longer five, but now I'm 35 and I'm married myself and I moved out of the house, hopefully, and I haven't gone through the boomerang thing too many times, so I'm really out of the house this time. It's harder and harder these days, but here I am. I'm still going to look at the Fifth Commandment as part of this compass, which God has supplied me to show me what he loves, what he hates. I'm always obliged, I would say, to honor my father and mother. But now I'm going to reteach this to the congregation. And I taught it to a young child and I told them what it meant. I had them memorize it and I told them how they could begin to think about application of it. But now I come back to my middle aged, my middle aged, Let's make the age a little bit older.


Let's say 45. I come back to my middle age adults and they're struggling with this whole idea of honoring father, mother, what might be a practical way that a middle aged adult would honor father and mother take care of them in their old age. So maybe at this stage in life someone's struggling with the fact that their parents are aging and they were used all the years to be the one who was taken, taken care of by the parents. But now and there the roles have been reversed to some extent. And so it becomes an act of honoring father and mother takes on a different sense of responsibility. In fact, I would say if I'm 45 and I'm still honoring my parents primarily by obedience, that that could actually lead into a lot of biblical problems. I'll just show you at one point here, just a peek ahead to one of the issues we're going to look at next. Sometimes cultures conflict with the teaching of the scriptures. We know that there is no perfect culture. I learned about. I've learned much about the Fifth Commandment, for example, from my involvement in Korean American culture. I had no sense really of what it meant to honor father and mother until I saw it done all the time in Korean culture. And first I thought of this as a cultural thing. And then I started to see that the Bible actually talks a lot about this. Leviticus speaks about rising and the presence of gray hair. That's the literal translation. Well, that's done in Korean culture. When I first started dating my wife, she told me when her parents entered the room, she wanted me to get up off the floor where I was lying down watching TV, and I thought it was Korean culture.


But now it's Bible actually rise in the presence of the elderly. And it's also taught in the New Testament. Remember Paul's admonitions to Timothy about the list of widows and one of the categories of people who ought not to be on the list of widows were those who had children or grandchildren who are still alive. And Paul says to them, These people, these children or grandchildren should learn, first of all, to put their faith into practice and repay their parents. And the whole idea of repaying their parents by taking care of them, who took care of them, that's biblical. That's New Testament. It's not American culture in most respects, but it's Christian culture. But I also found in the Korean culture that I bumped into that sometimes obedience of parents, which was part of honoring parents. Yes. It also took on some unbiblical notions where instead of obeying Genesis two principle about marriage, that a man should leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and they shall become one flesh. That there is a lot of times when the man would demand that his wife would be brought away from her family but into his family. And he, instead of being the head of a new home where he's cleave to his wife and he. The one who's making the decisions brings his wife under his old home, where he's now 35, but still living in obedience to his parents, or taking the idea of obedience to the parents to the point where maybe it makes you disobey a clear call of God on your life. To enter ministry, for example. But your parents say, No, you can't do that. You have to go that way. I've seen that a lot of times in my ministry in the Korean American church.


So I saw in American culture where I spent the first ten years white American culture, where I spent the first ten years of my Christian experience, I saw a lot of disobedience to the Fifth Commandment. But in the Korean culture, where I spent the next ten years of my Christian experience, I saw some misunderstanding and misapplication of the Fifth Commandment. But at the level of the wind question, that's more a level of cultural issues on the level of when. QUESTION You can see that the same word takes on different understandings. So as we talked about yesterday, are different applications anyway, talked about yesterday. Young Child Maybe we could focus on the issue of just memorize these things, get these principles in your heart, start to think about them as well as you can. And as you get older, are you going to wrestle with obedience to these things? And we raise we raise the levels of understanding. The other thing that I wanted to point out from our discussion yesterday is that another insight from the developmental thinkers Piaget and Kohlberg, both in both cases we have this idea of development. You're moving from simple to complex. You're moving from one level of understanding to a higher level of understanding. Part of the way that this happens been sketched out by people like Piaget. I just want to talk about a little bit and then talk about some applications of it for Christian education. Piaget says that people his studies led him to conclude that people are born with some biological endowments for development. We talked about that idea yesterday. And part of this biological endowment that we have includes organization, the ability to organize information that's coming into our mind and adaptation. This is part of my ability to develop in the area of cognitive growth, says Piaget.


I have I have these innate abilities to organize information that's come into me and then adapt to new information that I've never seen before. So here's what this might mean if I wanted to put it in kind of modern context organization that I find or information that I'm confronted with through my senses and through my experiences, I can file away, just like some of you guys are typing your computer stuff. When you're done with it, you file it away and you can create file folders and you can organize it unless you're like me and you just save it and never know where it wound up. I have one big file with 800 documents and that's the way I do it. But in the mind, what in fact we do with our cognitive learning is we actually file information. So let's say I'm a young child and I. I encounter my first dog. Well, then this idea, I create a new file folder in my head somewhere for something called Dog. And then I see an airplane fly through the sky and I learn about airplanes and I learn that there is a man who flies the airplane and I create a new file folder for someone called Pilot. A pilot is someone who flies an airplane. But then a little bit later, I start reading the Bible and I'm reading through the gospel stories. And I meet a man named pilot, and I try to put him in my file folder, but I realize he doesn't quite fit in that file folder. So I have some information that challenges me and challenges my current understanding of things and requires some adaptation of my understanding or adaptation of me in some sense. So I organize information, but I also adapt because continually I'm hitting new information that doesn't fit me before.


If I hit new information that doesn't fit me, fit my previous understanding, then I have to adapt somehow to that information. Here at Adaptation, Piaget says there are two other intellectual tools that come into play in terms of adapting to new information. And these are assimilation and accommodation. Assimilation is the process of receiving an image from the environment and being able to grasp it by means of these previously understood structures that I have. So I've already got an organization scheme in mind. I've already begun to work at that. I've been organizing things into file folders. Now I meet some new information. This is new information, but it fits easily into a preexisting file folder. I've created a file folder for Dog and now I found other dogs. So. Okay, this is a dog to a saint. Bernard even has a dog, even a poodles. A dog. And they all. Fade into my file folder. Some of you may question that, but are poodles a dog too? So that goes into my file folder fits easily without much conflict. That's assimilation. But if I come to that pilot question again, it doesn't assimilate so easily. So I have to accommodate. And accommodation speaks of those times when the present structures are not adequate and must change requiring accommodation. So from time to time in our growth, I want you to be thinking about this in terms of spiritual growth and our knowledge of God and our understanding of the faith from time to time will come up with something new that challenges us and changes us. We have to change to accommodate this new understanding that we have. A Christian education application to this point might be, if I have too much assimilation for my students, are finding themselves assimilating too much, going through this experience too much in our studies together, then they're probably likely going to be unchallenged and bored.


If we have too much of this where they're continually have in their mind world. They may get stressed out and despair. So there needs to be a balance, an educator might think, between assimilation and accommodation, assimilation and accommodation. But we need to be lifting the bar. The idea of the developmental list in both cognitive development and moral development. The idea is that if you want growth to occur, there has to be a challenge. There has to be a challenge and there needs to be movement from one point to the next point. As we talked about yesterday. One of the great frustrations we'll all encounter with curriculum materials is they're aiming down here in our people are capable of this or maybe they're here already. And even if that were not the case, if our people didn't seem like they were there, I would say it's our obligation to help them see that they can be there or at least try to push them along in Kohlberg. Let me show you some of the ways this works. In Kohlberg, for example, Kohlberg have these six stages of moral development and said that the cognitive piece was necessary for a moral development to occur. But it doesn't, doesn't, it doesn't automatically imply that it will occur. Kohlberg said, If I find in my encounter with somebody someone's thinking at level two that what I should try to do to that person is challenge them for level three. That's Goldberg's idea, not challenged from 2 to 6, but challenged from 2 to 3. And we could debate the wisdom of that. But the point is, it's not necessarily a wise thing to try to stretch somebody far beyond their capacity because development is a process. So try to find where somebody is at in their thinking and then challenge them to move up a little further in their thinking.


Particularly, we talked about the idea of moral indoctrination versus moral reasoning and trying to help people along that way. Well, what happens in this accommodation process back to a little bit is what happens naturally to a person when you've been thinking a certain way all of your life, or at least the point you're at presently. This is the way you see the world. This is your understanding. This is what you accept, this is what makes sense to you. And then suddenly comes the curveball. Someone throws something at you from outside. The challenges, everything that you thought, what what do you experience? You have to accommodate. But before you accommodate, what happens is something like this, you go through a kind of disequilibrium. Equilibrium means you're you're on your imbalance, and disequilibrium means you're thrown off balance, disequilibrium, or sometimes it'll be referred to as the sequel liberation. You go through a period of the sequel liberation, where your world is shaken, your understandings are challenged, and suddenly you're thrown off and thrown further. And it's a difficult thing to experience, but in a developmental understanding, it's a necessary thing to experience and take the same idea and just plug it back in to this little idea here, too little. This equal liberation will probably lead to a boredom and apathy, but too much to seek liberation may lead to despair and frustration. So one of the things, if I want to take this seriously, we're going to talk more about this when we come back to the whole question. But one of the ideas here is that we should think about ways to challenge the present understanding of our people. Go back to simple piece of truth again like that the Fifth Commandment, and I may have someone who's at age 30 and they're thinking, I already did my duty.


You know, I obeyed my child when I was my parents, when I was getting up, obeyed my child. That's more the way it works nowadays. And I obeyed my parents when I was growing up. And but boy, I tell you, when I got 18, I just took off and I'm out of there. You know, I'm still faithful, Christian. I'm late. I left my home and now I'm leaving to my wife. And I've started my own family. And I faithfully call mom and dad once a month. I know, but I only moved 3000 miles away. And I call them once a month without fail. And I, you know, Mom and I Christmas card every year. And I've done my deal because. Well, that's a certain level of understanding about obedience to that command. And what we would want to do is be challenging that understanding, throw scriptures at them that they never considered or supposed someone thinks they've come to understand a certain theological concept and they've got it all figured out. And you just take something. You learn from a class in theology, too, and you take it home and you share it with somebody at the church. There's a caution about this use of this collaboration. If I'm going to challenge somebody in the area to progress one step or just think of things a little bit differently. And in order to help them grow, I'm going to throw out a challenge. I also need to have a pastoral response, which is if in any way I contribute to your being thrown off balance, I also want to be able to help you find your new balance. Otherwise, maybe I'm more in line with the way people think at the university. Perhaps some university professors seem to have a lifelong challenge of just destroying people's faith, for example.


Well, that shouldn't be our our way of thinking. If we're going to knock somebody down with a piece of truth that they hadn't considered before, let's also be there to pick people up. And again, it is an interesting point of caution, but the developmental principle, again, is try not to push too hard, try not to go too far all at once. I had a conversation at a nearby Christian college when I had joined the faculty there. I was at a faculty retreat, actually, and we were planning. I was brand new. This my first faculty retreat. We were talking about these kind of issues. I don't remember how it came up, but we were talking about these kind of issues. You're dealing with 18 year old people, 17 year old people, 18 year old people, 19 year old people maybe raised the majority of them raised in evangelical homes in New England here. That's the only world that they've known in some way. And this idea came up and and I made a comment. I remember saying, sometimes I'm tempted to just try to dump all this stuff that's in my head on them. These levels of understanding that I've come to about matters of faith or matters of of obedience. Then I said, But then I remember. Wow, It took me 20 some years to process this beyond where they're at. Do I really want to dump it all on them at age 18? And I was surprised when one of the other professors said, Well, it's not our job to shield these kids. It's not our job to shield these kids. And everybody else seem to chime in on the conversation. Moved on, and I was the rookie, so I didn't say anything, but I don't see it quite that way.


I don't see it as so much shielding. I see it as pastoral responsibility. The other thing that probably we keep in mind is even though as a teacher, I may try to do this from time to time and we're going to talk about this when we come back to the whole question, we'll talk about ways we can insert this into our teaching. I may try to do that from time to time, but the reality is most of this will occur without my help. It'll just be happening because in the world people are going to be the school abraded all the time. It's going to happen unintentionally. Someone, you know, experiences loss in their family and that challenges their understanding about God. Maybe someone in the family member becomes very sick and they're praying for that family member. And they've always believed that God answered all their prayers and now he doesn't from as far as they can see. So it's life experiences that may cause this. And again, pastoral ministry would be come alongside, kind of recognize a little bit what's happening and then help people grow through them. So this recalibration will occur whether I contribute to it or not. But helping someone find a new equilibration, a new sense of equilibrium in the faith, that's pretty important. That's pretty important. If you've been at the seminary for a while, I'm sure you've already experienced some of this in terms of your theological understandings. Just a couple more thoughts about the when question the point that we mentioned about transitions. Please keep that in mind. The when QUESTION The word that we linked to this was continuity. And I think part of the answer in terms of Christian education in the church just means better communication, better communication and coordination.


So we have people at different age levels really strategizing together. Someone is in charge of children's ministry. They're conversing with the people who are in charge of youth ministry, who are conversing with the people in charge of college ministry and conversing with adult ministries. And they're talking. To one another about what it is they're teaching. If the whole church, for example, has made an agreement to teach a certain core, let's just take one piece of this understanding the Bible story and understanding our place in the story. Let me just share this little thought about the story that I forgot to share before Eugene Peterson, who teaches at Regent College. Told this story, and I heard the story from Gordon Fien, who also teaches at Regent College. Gordon Field was listening to Eugene Peterson speaking one time, and Eugene Peterson was talking about an incident where his four year old grandson came and jumped on his lap and his grandson said, Grandpa, tell me a story and put me in it. Tell me a story and put me in it. And as Gordon Fee was listening to Eugene Peterson tell that story, it was at the beginning of a sermon or a lecture. And Peter Gordon Fee told us, he said, After that, I just lost it. I couldn't hear another word he said the whole time because I was just struck by the thought, this is exactly what God has done for us. God is telling a story and he's put us in and he's telling us our place in the story. So when we go back to our notion of the story as an essential piece of content. Part of our content is not just guys telling a story, but you have a place in the story and helping people find their place in the story.


Well, in the continuity issue, if the church has signed on to this idea of telling people the story that God is building in his kingdom and their place in the story, then we also need to be communicating well with one another. So maybe through communication we can achieve some continuity. So the young children experience one level of understanding of God's story, and as they're handed on to the youth ministry, the youth ministry is going to challenge this and bring some growth and understanding of what it means to be part of God's story. Maybe for a young for a youth member, their understanding of involvement in the story will be stretched by involvement in something like short term missions. So by going out into short term mission, they become a new they have a new level of participation in the story of God. Something like that. What happens tragically in so many of our churches, we have no continuity because we have no communication, so people aren't talking. The children's ministry does this thing, the youth ministry does this thing. Maybe once a year they get together for some big picture vision. But we need to do a lot better. I could even see the idea of being a teacher of one child, and maybe I have as a fourth grade Sunday school teacher. Maybe I have a dozen children. Why not? One of the things that a church could do on a regular basis. Speaking of file folders, why not have a file folder for every child? And as a fourth grade teacher, I'm taking notes about my fourth grade child as I get to know them. And in the notes that I keep for them, I can have one set of notes that talks about what we discussed and what we taught and what we learned together in grade four and another set of notes.


That's about what I've been seeing in terms of this child's growth and development. This is where I think they're at spiritually. This is what I think is going on in their family. Maybe even have a page from their parents that says this is what mom and dad are thinking about, where their kids are at and what their needs are, and keep some sort of a file folder like that. And when that child goes on to grade five, then that grade five teacher takes the file folder and has an opportunity to know where that child's out to some extent and build upon it. Communication tracking those things will help a lot and again, pay special attention to the transitions between the big stages of life. My daughter School had a position at the public school she attended. There is a person who is called a transition counselor and I wondered what the transition counselor was. But what it turns out is the transition counselor is a person who just shows up when the children move from the classroom to the lunchroom or from the classroom to the bus. That's the transition counselor at those transition points, someone who helps guide them through that process. Unfortunately, in the church, in a bigger sense, we don't have a person like that, someone who maybe helps. Typically we don't. Someone is going to help the high school kid become a college student and help that college student feel that they're part of the life, even though they're way 2000 miles away in school. Now we need to have a lot more talking in the life of the church. And another way, especially in the mobile world in which we live. One thing that I've enjoyed as a pastor is when somebody new came to our congregation.


There were a few such a few times when somebody new came and with that person came a letter from their old church, their old pastor, or a phone call followed from their old pastor and the old pastor. Let me know a little bit about this person. What a wonderful thing. You know, you think about Paul sending Phoebe off to Rome and he sends off with Phoebe a letter and sends accommodation about who Phoebe is. And you get this idea throughout the New Testament that when people were sent out, John's writing letters about Demetrius and what a good man Demetrius is, we let people go out of our church and we think, Oh, well, we lost one and maybe I'll gain another one. You. I'll still somebody else's sheep. Instead of communication, cooperation. And it makes sense. All kinds of level. The other thing. Just last thought about the one question to authors that I think have a lot to say about this issue are Marva Dorn and Marc De Vries. Marc De Vries book. I put on that as a recommended book, but they speak to me about continuity issue in another way. I mentioned that Marc De Vries book on family based youth ministry. His conclusion is that the people who stay in the life of the church long term are those who, even as children, have lots of interaction with older members of the church. So part of the continuity issue is just about relationship. It's about context, relationship exposure, cross-generational opportunities across generational ministry and cross generational learning and cross generational experiences that will do huge, huge and make huge contributions to the to the issue of continuity and helping people really grow up in the faith. First of all, you're bringing along more people to help this new equilibrate equilibrium that has to go on all the time.


And also through this exposure, you're challenging people's understanding about what it means to live out the faith because they're watching others do it all the time. The Breeze quotes Arman Nikolai, who's a psychiatrist at Harvard University, as saying that his research suggests that American parents today spend less time with their children than any other society in the world. And then what debris says is it's not just parents and children in right now. The issue is adults and children, period. The children don't know how to relate to adults because they just don't have much exposure. And we know this all the way back from the latchkey generation where kids come home and they hang by themselves. But today, what a lot of young people know is how to relate to their peers and then how to come home and hang out with the Internet. What they don't know often is how to hang out with adults, how to relate to older people. And perhaps their most desperate need is exactly that. So Devry's challenges the church a lot about this issue. Find ways to bring the generations together and a couple of suggestions that he makes. I'll just mention briefly. One of them is the idea of an intergenerational Sunday school experience where instead of always one of the Sunday school model calls for graded separation age graded separation, you know, grade three goes together, grade four goes together, and youth go over here and adults go over there to recess. How about once in a while we use the quarter system, maybe once a quarter have an intergenerational Sunday school class where the teens and the adults study together. Pick a topic that would be of relevance to both of them and study it together just to get people with each other hanging together.


Talking together could be something like that. Could be simple as church outings and picnics together. The other model that I've seen and it's been very meaningful is from my home church in the Seattle area, where instead of sending the youth group out every year on a short term mission, families go out on a mission together. And it's been the practice of this church for about a decade now that families X number of families every year, plus some people who don't have a family in the church but join the other families will go out for two weeks together on a short term mission trip. So it means sacrificing their vacation for this. And a whole family now going out for outreach together. And the church is facilitating families ministering together. It's been a marvelous thing. All right. Well, those are some of the kinds of things that you think about when you ask the wind question and you struggle with issues of continuity.