An on-line survey was held on a voluntary based during June 2016 to learn what curricular programs were being used in congregations with children, youth, and adults. The survey was disseminated through e-mail and social media (predominately Facebook groups) and various organizational list-serves (Forma, APCE, CEF, AUCE, and the Christian Education Network of the ELCA). The construction and results of the survey was conducted by the research group of the Church Pension Group, the parent company of Church Publishing Incorporated. The analysis of the data is strictly mine, and I take all responsibility for its interpretation.
Godly Play continues to be the most used program with children, with Montessori-type programs used by 36% of churches. The other three types of curriculum were lectionary-based (25%), Bible story based (30%), and workshop rotation model (9%). Most churches use a variety of resources, combining and tweaking them to fit their needs.
Materials used for youth are all over the “map” with no one program in particular seeming to be used by a majority of churches. Most churches either create their own or use a mixture of a variety of resources. The average number of youth participating in church educational ministries substantially drops from participants in children’s ministries. While not overtly stated, it would appear that post-Confirmation is typically when (1) youth education ceases or (2) youth stop attending.
In addition to the statistical information, respondents were asked to share their thoughts, needs, and concerns. For many reasons, as you will note below, I wish I had also asked what was working and what was a high point of their educational ministry.
Attendance and commitment (of parents and volunteers) was noted frequently as a concern and issue that is effecting how churches feel they are being “successful” with their educational ministries with children and youth. (Note: I don’t believe success should be measured in numbers.) Reading the responses, I felt the sense of frustration that many church leaders are feeling in their congregations today. Read more about this in my article “Empty Pews.”
Adult education (and formation) was also a sense of frustration – low participation and an aging audience, with parents rarely attending adult offerings. A number of statements also felt that this “older” audience preferred passive learning (lectures) which often disappointed those who desired more challenging discussions and interactions. Perhaps associated with this, many respondents shared that volunteer teachers tend to prefer didactic teaching, going off lesson plan, and following an old model of teaching that no longer works with today’s children and youth.
To me, the results are informative for the work ahead of us. And in many ways, they are grim. The survey was conducted in June after most had concluded their programmatic year, so I wonder if there was some “burn out” that permeated people’s responses. However, many did share that they are trying new things and new models in the hopes of breaking old habits for a new generation as well as adjusting to the busy schedules of today’s families.
Download the survey results here, and offer your own reflections after this article in the space provided. I’d love to hear your thoughts!