I admit, while I like to plan for the future, I also look to the past. Recently I have been cleaning out boxes that have been in storage; boxes full of papers and notes from conferences and classes of years gone by. The cartons have included books, mostly old titles regarding “Religious Education,” including a number written by Dora Chaplin, a woman who paved the way for many of us Christian educators.
Dr. Chaplin, who was educated in England, taught at General Seminary from 1953 until retiring in 1971. In 1964 she was named a full professor, the first woman to become a full professor at the Episcopal seminary. Before that she was affiliated with the National Council of the Episcopal Church. She died in 1990 at the age of 84 and was a well-known writer of articles on religion and spirituality as well as the author of several books, including ”The Privilege of Teaching” (Morehouse-Barlow, 1962) and ”Children and Religion” (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1948). It is of this first book noted that I would like to share some “back to the future” insights.
Written more than fifty years ago, the content of her books exhibit the language of her time: masculine language for God, women as teachers, men as ordained, and Sunday School as a growing phenomena of the Church. While today is different: inclusive language for God, women in ordained leadership, and church attendance along with Sunday School participation declining, much of her theses can still apply to today. So here are some nuggets to ponder . . . remember this was published in 1962 . . .
We all have gifts, graces, and talents given to us by God. As Christians, we are called to serve God and use these gifts, graces, and talents. Congregations would not be able to offer its programs or opportunities for ministry without volunteers. Leadership is often “tasked” with finding volunteers to serve a variety of roles, including that of teacher and mentor for children and youth. It’s not about recruiting warm bodies, it as about an invitation into ministry. Here are some tips and pointers to invite others to share their gifts through the ministries of teaching and learning in your congregation. It is a call to ministry.
The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Matthew 9:37
vol·un·teer – n. one who chooses freely to do something vt. To offer or give of one’s own free will. vi. To offer to enter into service of one’s own free will.
Why do people volunteer?
They want to be needed
They want to help others and make a difference
They want to learn new skills or use skills they already have
They want to belong to a caring community and feel accepted as members
They seek self-esteem and affirmation
They want to grow in their faith and share their God-given gifts
Recently I have been invited to give workshops in numerous locations on the basics; the core documents and key websites that I believe anyone involved in Christian formation with children, youth, or adults needs to know about. For January’s Forma Conference workshop, I put together a handout where they are all located in one place.
But for those who want the documents with more of an explanation – here goes. Think of it as a catechism for Episcopal educators: a question with some answers. These are the questions I am frequently asked, and how I respond:
Q. What is the curriculum authorized by the Episcopal Church?
I can always tell when mid-August hits. The peepers are loud outside my windows at night and in the morning my in-box is full of queries: How do I access my curriculum subscription? Do you have a teacher commissioning service? I can’t find your planning calendar. What do you recommend for first communion instruction (with the caveat – “I know, but the parents were raised Catholic.”). The same questions appear year after year and I’ve tried to curate many of those answers within this site.
Churches have a variety of understanding as to what constitutes “youth.” For some this incorporates all ministry with those under 18 years of age (in High School and below). For others, it means teenagers. And there is a huge disparity in the attention span, interests, physical development, and maturity between a 13-year-old (Middle Schooler) and 18-year-old (soon-to-graduate High Schooler). Add the new label of a Tween (older elementary / early Middle School) individual who is living in two worlds – one of a child and one of a teen; an “in-between-er.”
There are a variety of curricular programs and resources for all of these age levels. But it takes an astute volunteer or youth leader to know the different needs of each group and how best to minister with them.
Recently someone posted a request on the Forma Facebook Group page for ideas as to where one might go to receive further training or continuing education in youth ministry. And of course, there was an abundance of suggestions. So, with thanks to all those folks, here are the organizations and conferences they’ve listed, plus a few that I’m aware of: Continue reading Youth Ministry Training→