Tag Archives: Church School teachers

Passing on Faith

Words of Wisdom for Passing on the Christian Faith

For many churches, this Sunday is the beginning of a new program year. Children and families return to church as Church School, youth group, and other formation activities start up. Some call this new beginning, “Kick Off Sunday” (after all it’s football season), or “Rally Day” (never really understood what racing had to do with it) or “Homecoming Sunday” (for those who seem to disappear during the summer).

As I prepare to lead some teacher trainings this fall, I recall the wisdom of Christian educators from our past and present.

What is the true idea of Christian education? That the child is to grow up a Christian, and never to know her/him self as being otherwise. In other words, the aim, effort and expectation should be, not as is commonly assumed, that the child is to grow up in sin, to be converted after he/she comes to a mature age; but that he/she is open on the world as one that is spiritually renewed, not remember the time when he/she went through a technical experience, but seeming rather to have loved what is good for her/his earlier years. Horace Bushnell, 19th C educator and theologian

Children will never have faith unless there is a community of faith for them to live in and be influenced by. The Rev. Dr. John Westerhoff III, Episcopal priest and educator (1976)

The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. The right defense against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the sensibility of our pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes. For famished nature will be avenged and a hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head. C. S. Lewis

If you ask almost any adult about the impact of church school on his or her growth, he or she will not tell you about books or curriculum or Bible stories or anything like that. The central memory is of the teacher, learning is meetingWalter Brueggemman, theologian (1987)

According to Genesis, we were each created in the image and likeness of God. The ultimate goal of all Christian Formation is to assist people of all ages to realize and act on who they were created to be: the living and utterly unique images of God in this worldVicki Garvey (2006)

I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit. John Steinbeck

The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its childrenDietrich Bonhoeffer

Prayers for all who teach and all who learn as we recommit to passing on the faith from generation to generation.

Come Away With Me

I always enjoy being with Christian educators. They are a species that is passionate about storytelling, creativity and thinking outside-of-the-box. They are (usually) open to new ideas and trying on new things.

This August I was privileged to lead some reflections at the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina’s annual spiritual retreat for those involved in Christian formation. Volunteer teachers, staff educators and clergy gathered at St. Francis Springs Retreat Center, a beautiful retreat center in the midst of nature in north central North Carolina. We focused on Mark Bozzuti-Jones’ wonderful book of inspiration and reflection, Informed by Faith: A Spiritual Handbook for Christian Educators and Parents.

The mission of teachers is to talk about God’s activities in the world, to study the Bible, to be transformed by the Bible, and to show ways in which the Bible and the Christian life bring decisive action to bear on the events of our lives. In creation God teaches us much about who God is and how God acts. Mark Francisco Bozzuti-Jones (Informed by Faith. Boston: Cowley Publications, 2004).

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Our day was marked with shared meals, prayer, reflections, conversation and time to just “be.” There were areas for dabbling in creative activities and meditation – coloring mandalas, walking a labyrinth (on a canvas and with one’s finger), making all sorts of prayer beads and ropes, praying in color, reflecting on stones, water, shells and feathers. A time for walking in the woods to discover the variety of mushroom all within a short distance from each other.  To be fully human in God’s creation.

We were fed by stories of each other’s ministries as well as wonderfully prepared meals and the Eucharist. We danced. We sang. We shared resources and ideas. Hospitality abounded.  All in 24 hours.

So many of us educators are a “Martha” in need of time to be “Mary.” How might you invite others in your congregation, diocese, or synod to provide such a retreat for educators?

Don’t Recruit – Discern & Invite

God did not sit back and wait for people to volunteer.

He often went to extraordinary measures to call workers. God used a burning bush to get Moses’ attention. He used a storm and a big fish to emphasize to Jonah that he was serious about him going to Nineveh. It wasn’t until after Isaiah saw a vision of the Lord on His throne that he said, “Here am I. Send me!” Paul accepted the call of God in his life after hearing the Lord’s voice in a blinding light. Jesus met common, ordinary people where they were in calling the twelve disciples. Simon Peter and Andrew were “casting a net into the lake” when Jesus said, “Come, follow me” (Matthew 4:18-19). James and John “were in a boat with their father” (Matthew 4:21). Matthew was “sitting at the tax collector’s booth” (Matthew 9:9).

The end of the summer was always crunch time for me to fill all those empty slots where I still needed Church School teachers. People would turn the other way when they saw me walking toward them during coffee hour. They knew I was on a mission.

Until I began to gather a team to discern who might be called to the ministry of teaching.

List the qualities you are looking for – develop a position description (like this one for a Church School Teacher).

  1. Develop a team.
  2. Communicate.
  3. Pray.
  4. Invite.
  5. Support them.

Invite your volunteers to ministry positions through a theology of call instead of one of recruitment. Download more of my thoughts and some ideas on this topic.