In late 1999, the Office of Children’s Ministries of the Episcopal Church developed a process (Educational Inquiry) to help congregations fully live into lifelong Christian formation that included the voice of children. Built upon Called to Teach and Learn: A Catechetical Guide for the Episcopal Church (Un Llamado a Ensenar y Aprender) and Discovering Called to Teach and Learn (Descubriendo Uno Llamado) (by Joseph Russell) published in 1994, it involves a method of “educational inquiry” based on Appreciative Inquiry alongside the Children’s Charter of the Church and Authority of All Generations.
What is Called to Teach and Learn?
Called to Teach and Learn (CTTL) is a guide to the ongoing process by which Christians are “made.” In the words of the Presiding Bishop’s Task Force (appointed by General Convention in 1985) Report of 1991, this process is one “whose purpose is to support the people of God as they seek to live the Baptismal Covenant and to express their unique calling as followers of Jesus Christ.” The aim or goal of the Church’s catechetical ministry is, with God’s help, to become communities of persons who are devoted to assisting each other, and who are compelled to live fully the life of faith into which they have been baptized. CTTL lays out the pedagogical, developmental, and formational ways the Church is called to do this: through liturgy, education, pastoral care, service, community, and proclamation/evangelism. Read an excerpt here and more background here.
A Process for Congregational Development
In times such as these when the Church is needing to adapt to the pandemic as well as overall decline in attendance and participation in organized religion, the process may again be worthy of exploration for a new generation seeking to renew its vision for the future. The question that shaped the development of this process still rings true today: “How do I come closer to God by myself?” If we believe that it is the people’s desire when they participate in th life of a congregation to come closer to God by themselves, our work is to take away the barriers that prevent them. Thus, the sessions that are involved in this process are defined by the sharing of stories of Scripture, tradition, reason, and reflection our own individual and corporate experiences.
The goal of the process is appreciation and development of vision through provocative propositions from the youngest child to the oldest adult. The presentation of each session is worship centered. Goals and objectives are fluid and change as the congregation changes, going from death to new life, a pilgrimage of joy and suffering, a deepening of an understanding of the Paschal Mystery. The process allows a congregation to understand who they are while living in tension with the culture that surrounds them.
This can be accomplished during a weekend congregational retreat or over the course of several gatherings. (Caveat: this has not been Zoom tested!)
- Invitation to Transformation. This is a session of review in which the historical background of the congregation is explored. A process of guided reflection that elicits concrete experience, observations, and active experimentation along with the gathering of data, past and current practices, and history. Some questions that might be considered: How is Church School mirrored by Vestry (and vice-versa)? What are your hopes? How are education and mission connected?
- Issues of Identity. This session focuses on stories of joy and sorrow from the congregation (with all ages present) using Authority of Generations. What are the common values and dreams for the future?
- Issues of Identity: Resources and Gifts. Identify resources according to the liturgical, ethical, spiritual, pastoral, and mission life of the congregation. Imagine a baptism as it is happening: what is the role and responsibility of the congregation in the rite of Baptism? How do you communicate the participation and practice of the Christian life of faith? What are the kinds of leadership training needed? How are children and youth involved in decision making and the life of the faith community? (Tap into a Children’s Charter of the Church.)
- Issues of Authority. Review the information of the first gathering, core values and wishes from the second, and resources shown to be used from the third. What themes, values, and wishes do you choose to bring into being in the future? Create provocative propositions from this review (examples: people understand and recognize their faith development; leadership is a behavior not a role; our values are modeled in liturgy and education which will make a difference in the lives of the people). Prioritize the propositions generated.
- Issues of Authority: Leadership Development. Develop plans for what is needed to accomplish each “goal”: leadership roles and training, the engagement of children and youth in the goal, what materials or resources are needed, roles and responsibilities, a definition of being called to live out one’s baptism in the context of the goal.
- Issues of Mission. After several months, review how things are going. How are resources being used as well as roles and responsibilities being lived out? Does there need to be an adjustment? Are education, advocacy, liturgy, and formation integrated? Use the Children’s Charter as an evaluative goal. Are education and mission connected? How are new leaders being developed for the future?
- Issues of Mission: Accountability. Leaders continue to need support and new life infused within small groups which most likely have formed around the various ministries renewed or begun. Reach out to diocesan and church-wide resources and initiatives such as the Way of Love, Good News Gardens, and racial reconciliation to name just a few.
Download the whole outline of Educational Inquiry to give you a step-by-step guide to the process, along with handouts for worship and evaluation.