When Christian Education Does...


In a comment to the previous post, Ed asked whether there are models of Christian Education out there that DO seem to form people as disciples and missionaries in the name of Jesus.

Here are a few examples from the emerging missional UM fold that several of you shared with me prior to the Christian Educators Fellowship gathering in Albuquerque and that I was able to share with those who came to the workshop I offered there.

This list is not exhaustive even of what was shared, but does, I think, reflect better thinking and far better practice now and going forward...

1) At The Gathering in Saint Louis, there is a basic commitment to a pattern of Behave-Belong-Believe... i.e., get the practices and way of life right in a context of connected community that teaches the faith by its action, its community, and its words. Among other things this congregation does regularly is to offer regular, 6-week, in-depth training in practices of prayer, offered not simply by the pastor, but by experts in particular practices of prayer from the wider community as well. This represents (to my mind, at least) a significant recovery of the practical, hands on training in prayer and fasting described by Justin Martyr in the second century and practiced by early Methodists through the class meeting.

2) At Lockerbie Central in Indianapolis, they don't call it Christian education at all. That term, they say, names a power relationship between teacher and student in our culture that misrepresents Christian discipleship. So instead they call it "learning to follow Jesus." Their approach has been more organic than mechanistic. It has grown more from their experience of being a congregation whose building is set squarely on the boundary between some of the wealthiest and some of the poorest people in Indianapolis, right downtown. "Learning to follow Jesus" is what they're doing as they partner with local artists, host independent film festivals, provide space for homeless people, open a fair-trade organic coffee shop, and listen to scripture (as part of every meeting) . Their commitment to follow Jesus also led them to get some in-depth training in conflict transformation-- training they use regularly in dealing with the very rich/very poor interface in their building's front and back yards (literally).

3) At Vision Community Church in Warwick, NY, pastor Pam Heatley has developed a six-year Sunday School curriculum for children (K-5) in which the focus stays with the same Bible story for three weeks, and on the fourth they do a mission project in the community together during the Sunday School time connected with the reading/story they have been exploring in the previous weeks.

A growing number of folks across the country are also learning about the internship process at Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community in Pittsburgh and the Organic Groups of Th3Waters and Florence UMC in Florence, KY.

I'd suspect several readers of this blog have become part of or know about other more promising practices of disciple formation and missional deployment... of Christian Education that Does!

Consider yourselves invited to share those here...

Peace in Christ,

Taylor Burton-Edwards