Christian Education Goals

1988 Church of the Brethren Statement

QUERY: CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN CHRISTIAN EDUCATION GOALS

WHEREAS, Christian education, along with evangelism, stewardship, worship, service, and fellowship, is a very important part of the church; and

WHEREAS, the major function of Christian education in the church is to train, inspire, nurture, and educate the members of the body of Christ as reflected in the 1986 Guidelines for Developing and Recommending Curriculum; and

WHEREAS, there exists a pressing need for high quality Christian education within our church; and

WHEREAS, there also exists a pressing need to call out people for the educational ministries in the local church and provide the quality support and training opportunities for them; and

WHEREAS, there exists a pressing need for stronger youth programming as a part of our Christian education program, both nationally and locally;

THEREFORE, the Christian Education and Evangelism Commission of Pacific Southwest Conference petitions 1987 Annual Conference at Cincinnati, Ohio, through the Pacific Southwest Conference delegate assembly, meeting at Imperial Heights Church of the Brethren, Los Angeles, California, October 17-19, 1986, to appoint a study committee to review the Christian education goals of the Church of the Brethren to find ways which will meet the above-named needs.

Christian Education and Evangelism Commission; Phyllis Eller, Chair; Pat Royer, Secretary

Action of Pacific Southwest Conference Board of Administration meeting at Modesto, California, August 2, 1986: Moved and passed to send this query to the Pacific Southwest Conference delegate assembly, meeting at Imperial Heights Church of the Brethren, Los Angeles, California, October 17-19, 1986.

Board of Administration; Marlin Heckman, Chair; Myrna Wheeler, Secretary pro tem. Action of Pacific Southwest Conference meeting at Imperial Heights, California, October 18, 1986: Passed this query to the 1987 Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren, meeting at Cincinnati, Ohio.

Robert Keim, Moderator; R. Truman Northup, Recording Secretary

Action of 1987 Annual Conference: Romy Mueller, the Standing Committee member from the Pacific Southwest Conference, presented the recommendation from Standing Committee to Annual Conference. The delegate body adopted the recommendation that the 1987 Annual Conference adopt the query, CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN EDUCATION GOALS, and appoint a study committee of five (5) members to review the Christian education goals of the Church of the Brethren to find ways which will meet the needs named in the query, and to report to the 1988 Annual Conference.

The five (5) members elected by the 1987 Annual Conference for the Christian Education Goals Study Committee were Cindy Brenize Booz, Catherine (Kitty) Weaver Collier, Donald R. Jordan, Donna Forbes Steiner, and Davene McKee Wolfe.

1988 Christian Education Study Committee Report

INTRODUCTION

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

The Annual Conference Committee to study Church of the Brethren Christian Education Goals has discerned two major areas of concern. First, there needs to be a renewal of Christian education as an integral partner with evangelism, stewardship, worship, service, and fellowship in a wholistic plan for congregational life. Second, there is a cry for attention and help from persons involved in educational ministries of the denomination who feel ignored, isolated, and unsupported.

The Committee came to its assignment assuming there was an established, but outdated, list of Christian education goals to review and/or update. We discovered no formal statement of Christian education goals. To see what guides this area of life in the denomination we examined current polity, i.e., Leadership Needs and Ministry Issues Statement, 1985; Guidelines for Developing and Recommending Curriculum, 1986; Objectives of the General Board, Goals for the ’80s; and the Parish Ministries Commission Philosophy, November, 1980. We reaffirm the direction proposed in these statements.

We examined the past to learn what was once valued and valuable in the area of Christian education. A reflection on memories of recent decades uplifts the following visible signs of the denomination’s commitment to teaching ministries:

We examined the present to learn what is currently valued and valuable in meeting the unique and varied needs of the church family. Some examples are:

With this report we call the denomination to a revitalization of educational ministries in the life of our congregations. We suggest recommendations for implementing and sharing a renewed educational emphasis.

DESCRIPTION AND DEFINITION

“When your children ask you in time to come. ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the ordinances which the Lord our God has commanded you?’ Then you shall say…” Deuteronomy 6:20-21a (paraphrased)

The Scriptures command us to love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:29-31). The people of God are to keep God’s Word in their hearts, to teach their children and descendants, to think of it day and night, indoors and out (Deuteronomy 6:4-7,20-25). The early church shared the story of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection. The community preached, taught, worshipped, and cared for new believers.

In his life Jesus modeled what it is to teach in many settings with the disciples, with the crowds, and with individuals. How does the denomination practice this kind of life-shaping and life-changing education today?

Occasions for Christian education are present in all of life…

in structured settings in Sunday Church School;
age groups studying graded curriculum, quarterlies, and Bibles,
children around tables with a smiling teacher,
junior high youth struggling with a relevant issue,
youth in a circle searching for identity,
children singing and coloring,
youth reading and role playing,
adults listening or discussing,
pastors stimulating leadership;

in sharing God’s love in informal activities:
work days at church,
walking for CROP,
picnics at the park,
swim parties,
class meetings,
car washes,
church suppers,
carol singing,
choir practice,
small group gatherings;

in spontaneous moments when lives are touched by God’s grace:
a card, a phone call, a visit,
a ride offered, an invitation,
a smile, a wink, a hand clasp,
a thank-you, a compliment,
a hug, a cheer;

in the joy of shared experiences:
in Sunday morning worship,
in feetwashing,
in small group Bible study,
in a People of the Covenant group,
at church camp,
in a district choir concert,
in a workshop or conference,
in BVS assignments,
in a political vigil;

in knowing God’s care in times of pain or stress:
a death,
a job change,
an illness,
a loss,
broken relationships,
an unresolved conflict;

in experiencing God’s comfort and healing:
in prayers,
in laying on of hands,
in anointing for healing,
in fasting,
in meditation,
in reconciliation and mediation.

All these images are important to the total picture. We believe that Christian education permeates the life of a congregation and enmeshes with all issues of faith. Just as stewardship involves more than financial support, so Christian education involves more than what happens in a given hour on Sunday morning.

Wherever people are nurtured and their lives are touched by and tied to God’s people, there is Christian education. God’s grace and the gift of God’s Spirit can make any of these occasions life-changing moments. We acknowledge that the Realm of God is God’s generous gift and does not depend entirely on us.

CONTEMPORARY ENVIRONMENT

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” Matthew 4:1

Following his baptism, Jesus was thrust into the wilderness where his new identity was quickly tested. Today we do not educate in a vacuum but are faced by a whole wilderness of competing educational forces that seek to shape the identity of Christ’s followers. What is this environment in which we are called to do Christian education, and how does it affect us?

The environment for Christian education has changed.

We work more, and more of us work.
Children—dance, scout, swim
Teens—work, march, dribble, date
Women and men—cook, clean, pursue careers, parent, play
Retirees—travel, volunteer, study, enjoy hobbies
AND
There are fewer volunteers to staff the educational ministry of the church. Many who do so are only willing to commit short periods of time. The age of the unencumbered volunteer is at an end.

We live in a technological society and are fast becoming technocrats.
TV’s… computers… VCR’s expand our knowledge, shape our learning;
AND
Church School teachers must find ways to teach children, youth and adults:
who have experienced new ways to learn,
who are in touch with many media,
who may be biblically illiterate,
who are exposed to a wide world of conflicting values,
opinions, and lifestyles.

Our families are different.
Some of us are one,
some of us are one parent with children,
some of us are blended,
some of us are intercultural,
some of us are separated,
some of us are traditional,
some of us move frequently and some never move.
AND
as a result we come to Christian education with different experiences and expectations…
some of us come weekly,
some of us come every other week,
some of us feel excluded by references to a family style we do not experience.

In a world of pluralism, we struggle with a multiplicity of choices:
family patterns
lifestyles
values
religious persuasions
political ideologies
AND
the educational ministry of the church is confronted with the
challenge of helping us to:
discover and develop our Church of the Brethren identity,
understand and respond to our biblical heritage,
remain open to the movement of God’s Spirit in the multiplicity of
choices we face daily.

We are confronted daily by violence and the threat of violence:
crime
racism
sexism
nuclear weapons
international conflict
AND
youth and adults become cynical about the possibilities of a peaceful world and find themselves focusing primarily on careers, success, and material accumulation.

These issues affect the motivation, the energy, the spontaneity, the inspiration, and the commitment of Christian education in congregations of every size and in every location.

CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

“And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers for the equipment of the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,…” Ephesians 4:11-12

In the coming decade we must broaden our view of Christian education. The whole life of the congregation represents where people learn and what people learn. The congregation teaches what it means to be Christian and what it means to be a member of the Church of the Brethren. Thus, it is time to reaffirm the importance of educational ministries for the Church of the Brethren.

Congregations must repeatedly and continually ask, “What will nurture our people?” “How can our community of faith communicate the biblical heritage?” “How can we be channels for the mysteries of God’s grace?” The response may come in traditional forms or through new approaches.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. Recommendations for Enrichment
    1. We affirm the existing Guidelines for Developing and Recommending Curriculum adopted by the 1986 Annual Conference and the Parish Ministries Philosophy Statement (1980).
    2. We urge that these statements and this report be studied by local churches, districts, and denominational staff.
    3. We direct that a committee be appointed by the General Board to formulate a working statement of purpose for the practice of Christian education in the Church of the Brethren. This committee would include representatives of the Parish Ministries Commission, districts. Church of the Brethren Association of Christian Educators (CoBACE) and local churches.
    4. We underscore the importance of calling persons to use their God-given gifts in areas of educational leadership.
  2. Recommendations for Curriculum
    1. We recommend that curriculum resources and training acknowledge opportunities for both formal and informal Christian education.
    2. We expect a variety of resources, learning models, printed resources, and technological equipment to be developed and utilized in the ministry of Christian education.
    3. We encourage the denomination to support and cooperate in the development of resource centers.
  3. Recommendations for Training
    1. We support the on-going training for leadership in districts and congregations.
    2. We seek the establishment of networks of resource persons, such as CoBACE, to support and enhance educational leadership.
    3. We affirm the current denominational youth ministries and encourage future expansion of youth programming. We petition the General Board to begin expansion by employing one full-time staff person in youth ministries.
    4. We seek and encourage the training of resource persons in the future that focuses on the area of our older adults.
  4. Recommendations for Pastors
    1. We challenge pastors to participate in professional growth relating to Christian education.
    2. We call pastors to provide leadership in Christian education.
  5. Recommendation for Seminary
  6. We petition Bethany Theological Seminary to assign a full-time person in the area of Christian education.
  7. Recommendations to the General Board
    1. We request that the General Board provide qualified staff with adequate time and budget to foster the full scope of Christian education as envisioned in this report.
    2. We direct the Parish Ministries Commission to develop specific plans to revitalize Church of the Brethren Christian education.

CONCLUSION

We give thanks for the time and energy of those who have educated us in the Gospel. We pray that new educators maybe called forth and that discouraged educators maybe renewed to carry forward the vision described in this report.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith,…” Hebrews 12:1-2a

Catherine Collier, Chairperson; Cindy Brenize Booz; Donald R. Jordan; Donna Forbes Steiner; Davene M. Wolfe

Committee’s expenses related to travel, lodging, and meals from 1987 to March 15, 1988 total, $3,827
Estimated additional expenses, $500

Action of the 1988 Annual Conference: The report of the Annual Conference study committee on the CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN CHRISTIAN EDUCATION GOALS was presented by Catherine Collier, chair, with other members of the committee present. The report was adopted with substitute recommendations by the committee and two other amendments from the delegate body, all of which have been incorporated in the wording of the preceding text.

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