The last couple months at Cerulean Sanctum have seen the discussion turn toward how the American Church makes disciples. In the days ahead, I hope to further unpack this issue and discuss ways that we can achieve better results, not only in leading people to Jesus but also in growing them deep in Him.
Below are a few questions about the nature of the educational process in your church, the larger question being, “How does your church actually make disciples?”
1. What is the general educational philosophy at your church? Has anyone ever stated this philosophy publicly so that the members understand the educational goals of the church?
2. What adult educational programs exist at your church? Which do you participate in? What types of educational materials do those programs use? Have those materials been purchased from a third-party curriculum developer, provided by your church’s denomination, or developed in-house?
3. Does your church use a targeted catechism program to ensure that youth understand the basic doctrines of the faith? If yes, has it been purchased from a third-party curriculum developer, provided by your church’s denomination, or developed in-house? If no, what is your church using instead to ensure Christian maturity in their youth?
4. On a 1 to 10 scale, with 10 being the greater amount, how much would you say that your church relies on its members to be responsible for their own Christian education (or in other words, how much does your church rely on members to feed themselves spiritually)? In what ways do you believe this number to reflect a strong or weak educational philosophy?
5. What does your church do best in preparing people to be mature Christians? What do they do poorly? What suggestions would you make at improving the educational programs at your church (and please be as specific as possible)?
6. (Updated) How successfully are the members of your church putting into practice what they have learned? In what ways? Do you ever feel your church members increase in knowledge but don’t practice what they know?
Thank you for your time and the willingness to answer these questions. I hope to use them as the basis for my next post.
Have a great remainder of the week!
17 thoughts on “Equipping the Saints: Request for Reader Info”
Being a musician in my current church rather than a pastor, I suppose my view is a bit different (I have been a pastor before). But the education is lacking, and is reduced to teaching people to recite whatever tenets the pastor seems to have learned in his latest seminar/workshop.
Christian education seems to have become a process of teaching people to ask the questions that the church is prepared to answer (based on their particular theological beliefs), then when the individual asks the questions, the church can give the pat answers.
I lead a small group that is not limited to members of our particular church solely…and for me THIS is the church. We utilize Bible studies, writings by current authors, and videos…but first and foremost is the sharing of real life with each other…without this there is no spiritual growth. We may disregard a study if someone is hurting and needs “family time” for prayer and sharing.
I’m sorry Dan, I know this doesn’t answer your questions…but when the corporate church does not seek to mature, but only self-propogate the status quo, then there really isn’t a good answer where maturity is involved!
I’m sorry that the situation in your church is not what hope. I also understand how a small group can take the place of the larger church. Thanks for your input.
At my church (which is in, and caters to, an upper-middle and upper class neighborhood in AZ):
1. The goal of the educational philosophy is stated — love God; love people — but the ed-phil strategy has not not been articulated publicly, as far as I recall.
2. Since educating people about God and our roles in His kingdom is not like teaching rocket science — or shouldn’t, anyway — the programs are fairly simple. Educating about God’s nature: Songs whose words inform as well as praise, expository sermons, occasional classes, and small groups that explore sermons or Christian-authored books. Educating about our roles: the above, plus the provison of an infrastructure of activities, within the church and also within the metro area and other countries (from here to Africa) to stretch-exercise the practice and discipline of loving others in atypical ways.
3. There is a multi-point mission statement that serves as a catechism, but there is rarely a discussion of it. The pastors expect acceptance of the major points but not the minor ones, and there is no periodic requirement to re-assent to them.
Instead of buying third-party instruction manuals, we tend to rely mostly on the bible.
4. This is a thought-provoking question! The church provides a basic education. There are ongoing groups that are open to all and have no entry limitations based on maturity, so attendees can pick up whatever they can appreciate. So the church provides elementary school. It’s up to the individual if he opts to on his own go on to high school, college, grad school, post-grad, whatever. The church has no expectations that everyone will get a doctorate, or even graduate from high school. So for elementary school, I’d score the church a 8 or 9. For further ed, probably a 3.
5. The church is great at providing the infrastructure for exposure to opportunities and the opportunities to practice. It’s not so great at exhortation to participate. While it does provide the water, it doesn’t feed the horse enough salt to make it real thirsty. Instead, it is accepting (I would say too accepting) of the casual attendee — as long as one has said the 7 word acceptance, that’s enough. Developing a Wesleyan class meeting infrastructure might be helpful — while I suspect many attendees would move on, the remaining ones would benefit.
6. I assume application follows the general 80/20 rule, both individually and corporately. For myself, I know I do not follow Christ in every aspect of my life, like driving to work. Corporately, there are a lot of non-participants. Do people learn and not apply? Yes, and that is something that modern evangelicalism seems to encourage: It provides employment without success accountability to the church staff. Or so it seems to me.
Your comment in #5 about the casual attendee is one of my pet peeves.
I think we have got to be more in the place of “Fish or cut bait” with the people in the seats. We need to say, “If you’re not doing what the Lord asks of you, you’re going to have a lousy Judgment Day, pure and simple. Stay and work and learn or go someplace else. Other churches may mollycoddle you and tell you lies, but we won’t. We’re serious about what we believe and how we practice it.”
But you’re right, we don’t want to communicate that for fear of offending people or appearing unloving.
Anymore, I say, “Too bad.” Offend people. People who are truly dead to the world will not be offended. You can’t offend someone who has died to self. And people who are dead to self are the only kind of people God can fully use.
Making excuses for the ones who have not died to self is one of the major reasons the Church in America is limping through the 21st century. Time to stop limping.
I take it from lack of comments, Dan, that not many of your readers have any clue what their churches’ are doing. Sometimes we feel, not just like sheep with no shepherd, but like sheep upside down, our hooves stuck up in the air, while we pull ourselves through the grass with our ears.
For reference, I for one plan on answering this. I just need a few days to reflect on it. When difficult questions are asked, the response time increases.
I think people are just busy. And some may consider this an esoteric topic. I wish that were not the case. Education matters.
Is there a sizable proportion of any given church that is even interested in Christian Ed.?
Sadly, there isn’t. Even while I was in college studying Christian Ed,m churches were dismantling their paid Christian Ed. departments. They moved to all-volunteer programs and it has been an utter disaster.
Cerulean Sanctum is a major part of my personal adult education system 🙂
My church does have a number of classes, although I am unaware of what the general educational philosophy is. I know that only a fraction of the folks who attend actually go to the classes. In my experience, the classes have been “light” and I have not felt challenged enough to warrant going on a regular basis. I get more from my own study, reading your blog and a few others, and from one on one conversations and with other brothers and sisters.
I’m sorry that you are not getting more from your church. Did you read my post of 8/10/09?
Sorry it’s so long to get back to your questions. I’ll answer to the best of my understanding.
1. I cannot say we have something termed “educational philosophy”. We do have a mission statement as follows: “We are a reformed baptist church that exists “to worship God in all of his glory, enjoy him in all of his fullness, spread a passion for his truth to all peoples, that Jesus might be praised forever. To this end we are committed to proclaiming the whole counsel of God contained in the Old and New Testaments of the Holy Bible.’
We are a recent and very small church plant (less than 30 members, with some non-members in attendance). We are taught verse by verse expositionally at the main service and on Sunday evenings as well. We have Sunday School before the main Sunday service which alternates between a church history series and some other topical study. We have no “childrens’ ministry” per se, nor is there any planned for the future – save possibly VBS. Our worship and studies are “integrated” for the most part, with only the smallest children not participating. One of our church membership agreements is that we participate in family devotions and instruct children at home. (My children are grown, so I’m not that versed in how the parents are instructed – or not- in this process.)
2. I’ve answered some of this in the above response. Expostional Bible Study Sunday mornings and evenings. Topical studies during Sunday School. Womens’ studies intermittently. We do not use outside “curricula” for adult studies. In our womens’ study we alternate between expositional Bible Study and topical study. So far the teaching for these alternates between the pastor’s wife and myself. I led a topical study on Christian contentment last year using The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentement as the text. This year I’m preparing a study on Christian love using Charity and It’s Fruits as the text.
3. As I said, we do not have age-segregated ministries. The children do, however, receive a “Feeding of the Lambs” message from the pastor which is a mini sermon prior to the main sermon each Sunday morning. They also during this time recite questions and answers from a catechism which I believe comes from Desiring God ministries. This all takes place as part of Sunday Morning worship.
4. Hmmm. I believe we are well educated at church andexpected to nourish ourselves throughout the week – at least that seems to be the habit of our members, and what is encouraged through our Book of the Month suggestions and memory verses which are published in the bulletins and announced during service. So I give us a 5, right in the middle – we are not to rely either on church entirely or ourselves entirely.
5. I think a men’s fellowship would be good, but the pastor’s time is too limited for such an undertaking right now. Our biggest problem at the moment is being too small to be able to pay our pastor. In retrospect, and I’m speaking very frankly here, I think it was a regrettable decision to start a church plant, ie incorporate and rent a building before we could afford to pay him. He works a full-time job and pastors our church. It is not fair to him or his family, and I think some changes will be coming soon along those lines.
6. I think I’m seeing steady growth among the active members of our church. More (but not all) of the more obvious signs of immaturity (not sure how qualified I am to judge this, but bearing that in mind) have been among those who for whatever reason don’t commit to membership and/or remain on the periphery of things.
I like the mix of expositional and topical teaching. Plus, it’s being taught by the right people.
An addendum to my previous response. I spoke with our pastor this evening and he mentioned that he is hoping to have children’s Sunday School at some point in the future, corresponding with adult Sunday School. (Not having kids at home, this bit of info had by-passed me.) He has apparently already purchased curriculum for this from Desiring God, who I’ve heard has an exceptional children’s program. We live in a college town, and he also dreams of some kind of college outreach, possibly a home fellowship, at some point in time, when he, Lord willing, can become a full-time pastor. There seems to be a strong trend among college “kids” we’ve encountered of revulsion at the thought of “church” yet not so much to going to someone’s apartment.
(Sorry ’bout the bold. That was my first attempt to modify using html – count is as a half-fail. Only the first “and” was supposed to be bold.)
I did a dissertation entitled: The Development of a Systematic Human Relations Training Program for Evangelical Christians. We developed that and similar equipping ministries at CHPC. IMO churches need to be led by educators.