Article by Dennis Bennett
It never ceases to amaze me that anywhere in the world you say “Christian Education” people automatically think of Sunday school. Is this the only education the church is engaged in? If so, we are in trouble. Let me explain.
I taught the Christian Education (CE) courses at the Bible Institute of South Africa for eight years. Our first class exercise was to list every activity and ministry of the church, from worship to soup kitchens, from Bible study to foreign missions. I then challenged them to tell me which one of these ministries is not in one way or the other CE! I challenge you to do the same, because the way you understand the educational ministry of your church will determine the depth of spirituality existent in your people. Disagree? Then the challenge is for me to prove my point.
Let’s look at some of the things that a church does. Let’s start with missions (either foreign or local). My contention is that both are a subset of CE! What do missionaries or evangelists do? They share the Gospel. What does it mean to share the Gospel? It means they teach or explain the meaning of the Gospel – this is CE! When there is a group of converts, a church is started and a church needs trained leaders. Training is CE! How about worship? Worship, done properly, is leading people to understand the importance of what they are doing. It is not only the sermon (which in itself is CE), but it is instructing the people to understand what they are singing and why. Too many services have become little more than the stringing along of many songs, with little attention to purpose or words. A well-thought service of worship is led by one who understands what it means to keep the people focused and aware of what they are doing. This too is CE!
Instead of going on and on through all the things a church does, let me instead challenge you to think about every ministry and activity of your church and see if they are not in actuality CE.
So what is the point of all this? Well, as in any good education program, there must be good planning. This is where many churches often fall short.
If you asked your child’s teacher the first day what she was going to cover that year, how would you react if the teacher told you that she had no idea yet, and that they will figure that out as they went along? Imagine twelve years of this. Would anyone ever get an education? Then why would we think we can do this in the church? Let me challenge you further.
Let’s look at your youth group. What are they being taught? Why? What is the plan? That is, what will they know, be, and do after three to four years? Or is your group like most groups, simply going along teaching one topic this week and another the next, somehow hoping (and maybe praying) that eventually somehow the youth will finally pull it all together by themselves and actually learn something – maybe something that will even affect the way they live their lives not only on Sunday but the rest of the week. Is this really what you want for your young people who will shortly be going on to university, where they will be confronted with philosophies that are not only not Christian, but in many cases anti-Christian? Have you really prepared them? This approach is like the teacher above with no plan.
Let’s look next at your Bible studies. What is being studied? Why are you having them do this study? What are you trying to accomplish in this group and study? What will they be able to know, be, and do? Think about this – if you have no objectives then your objective is to accomplish nothing. But you say, “our objective is to study the book of Romans.” Great! But what does that mean? If you ask that group at the end what they have learned about the book of Romans you might be shocked to learn that little was learned or remembered. Worse yet, little or nothing has happened to change anyone’s life. Should not the goal for any aspect of discipleship be changed lives (transformation)? If our only goal is to cover a book, or to make sure that we know a doctrine better, then true discipleship has not taken place. True discipleship is moving people ever closer (by the work of the Holy Spirit) to being like Jesus (Rom. 8.29). So I ask you again, in teaching of the book of Romans, what are your goals for seeing this group become more like Jesus? Will they see Jesus in every verse? Will they grow in their relationship to Jesus as a result of understanding Romans?