In the early 1980s when I began my ministry as a Christian educator, I “met” Verna Dozier in an article published in SHARE, a quarterly publication of essays distributed by JED (Joint Educational Development) of which the Episcopal Church participated. It was during those years that the Episcopal Church regularly sent free materials to all Episcopal churches. Lucky for me I found the packets of shelved envelopes of articles in the back of a Sunday school closet that hadn’t seen the light of day in a long time. In one of those articles, “Affirmations of a Christian Educator” my vocation was just that – affirmed – by Ms. Dozier in the opening section:Continue reading Have You Met Verna Dozier?
From time to time the Forma Facebook Group has a post from someone (clergy, youth minister, Christian educator) who is asking if anyone has a “rubric” for what children should learn in each year of “Sunday School” (or whatever you call it). I don’t want to disparage anyone who asks such a question; we live in a culture of moving from one milestone to another and having to “prove ourselves” in our accomplishments – especially if you want to “move on” to the next step, phase, class, or even graduate with that degree. And often employment, promotion, or a raise is determined by our success. But honestly, this question drives me nuts.
For those of you who have known me for years, I get this sort of question all the time. What curriculum should we be using? What should we be teaching? What does the Church (in my case, the Episcopal Church) say we need to teach? To that I always answer, “There is no one answer. Tell me about your context.” What would Jesus say? “Love one another.”
I don’t want to rehash my mantra here. (I’m saving that for other subsequent posts in the coming weeks as I dig through old boxes of books, articles, and research papers written.) But I will share what I have learned in my 40 years of ministry – benchmarks don’t form disciples of Christ.Continue reading Benchmarks for Christians
Several months ago I was asked to share some recollections of Dr. Amy Gearey Dyer for an article that was being written to be shared with the Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) community upon her retirement. (The article was published in the June Seminary Journal – when a link goes up, I’ll post it here.) What follows is what I responded with, finding it difficult to contain my thoughts in a brief paragraph.
In the summer of 1988 I was a parish educator enrolled in “Teaching in the Church,” a weeklong event at VTS led by Amy Gearey and George Kroupa at the Center for the Ministry of Teaching (CMT), housed in the Packard Laird building. It was the first event of many in which our paths would cross, each encounter further influencing my future vocation and deepening my passion for Christian formation. Continue reading Memories of a Mentor
All this week I have been bookmarking articles and resources that have appeared on my news feeds and social media. I wanted to share a curated list of materials that Christian educators and families can use as we attempt to move forward in constructive ways following the neo-nazi and white supremacist violence that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia on Friday, August 11, 2017.
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry released a video message this afternoon to respond to the continuing rhetoric, violence, and outrage that continues to fester. He asks, “Where do we go from here?” Do we feed chaos or do we build community? He acknowledges the work that is ahead of us, but reminds us that we do have a way – and The Way is to follow Jesus. That is the work that remains ahead of us.
So, I am called to return to my liturgical tradition to see what resources might inform our current times, knowing that there is more to be done than reading a book or teaching a Sunday School lesson. Continue reading The Work Ahead
Meanwhile a new “program” year has begun in our churches, with families returning after a summer hiatus of skipping worship to sleep-in, vacation, or simply doing other things. And hopefully they have returned, along with all the others who have been absent the past few months as October rolls around. With the oncoming Fall and schools back in session, everyone is eager to “begin anew,” making a commitment, at least for a few months to come to church on a more regular basis.
One of the projects that I have been working on (which has taken much longer than I anticipated) is the dissemination of a Curriculum Survey that was distributed across cyberspace in June 2016. Almost 900 individuals took the survey, with 270 taking the time to also share their thoughts in the comment areas provided. And wow – there was a lot to be said.
A few stats first: 70% of the respondents were associated with an Episcopal church, 30% from other denominations; all shared the same themes, needs, and concerns. 87% have some sort of children’s ministry program (75% youth and 75% adult). That sounds amazing. However, 82% of the congregations have 50 or fewer children who regularly attend a Sunday school program. And 50% of the churches have less than 10 middle schoolers and less than 10 high schoolers participating in youth programs. 68% of the congregations who offer adult education programming reported to having less than 30 individuals who regularly participate in those offerings. Continue reading Empty Pews?