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 . . .
While trying to make Sunday School “fun,” we’ve lost many who did not make the connection from the games and craft projects to becoming a disciple of Jesus 24/7/365. What was once seen a sporadic attendance at worship and education offerings is now considered “regular attendance” (once or twice a month). Christian Smith, in his longitudinal studies explored in Soul Searching and Souls in Transition, describes the theology of today’s young adults (and I would theorize many adults and high schoolers) as Moral Therapeutic Deism.
God exists, created the world, and watches over the earth.
God wants people to be good and nice to others.
The central goal of life is to be happy.
The only time God needs to be personally involved in one’s life is when one has a problem needing to be resolved.
Over the next several days and posts, I will share a presentation given at the 3rd Annual “Spring Training for God’s Mission” Day 2015 for the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, March 21, 2015.
Part One: How Did We Get Here?
The world around us is changing – is our church changing for the context in which we now find ourselves? However, we must remember that the gospel message has not changed at all – but how we share it and the methods we use to engage others in following The Way needs to meet people where they are – children, youth, and adults. In order to understand where we need to go, we need to understand why we do what we do today and where we have come from.
A little history . . . since the time of Christ there have been times of transition that influenced and were influenced by theology and educational praxis (how we learn and practice) of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus: (1) Apostolic Age – first four centuries – disciples went forth into communities to share the gospel in a world that did not know Christ; (2) Christendom – 4th→10th/11th centuries – Christianity became part of the “state”; (3) Middle Ages in which the Church, as an institution, held a monopoly on the gospel that left lay people “in the dark” → leading to the Reformation, a transitional time of being drawn back to the roots of Christianity for the people; (4) Modernity [the Age of Reason when answers were sought to all questions] – 17th→20th century; and Post-Modernity = Today. And we are in yet another transitional time. Read more: Phyllis Tickle’s The Great Emergence.Continue reading Christian Formation in a Changing Church: Part 1→
As springtime rolls around for Christian educators (even in the midst of Lent), thoughts turn to reviewing curricula, especially if your church is feeling the need for a change or what you have been using is about to be discontinued. Now is the time to begin the research, as it really takes a concerted effort to evaluate what you’ve been using, what’s been working, what’s not been working, what direction you want to go (or continue on), and how the needs of your church (and its families and children) have changed.
With that in mind, springtime has meant a time for me to update the curriculum overview charts that I’ve been doing for 10+ years. Most of the time, each year I simply need to make sure the website address for each resource is correct and update the prices (which inevitably go up a few dollars and cents every year). There’s always a program that is no longer being published or a new one making its debut.
All that remains true for the 2014-2015 program year, with a few additional changes I’ve discovered as I updated, added, and subtracted from my 2013 charts:
Despite churches having fewer funds to purchase curricula and more “writing their own” (see the results from the curricula survey I did a year ago), a few publishers are cranking out more new products in a field that is already full of stuff.
Older resources are being converted to pay-and-download only (which may be extending their life) for a less-expensive fee.
Most publishers offer webinars to introduce new curriculum and/or videos on their website (or YouTube). Teacher training is also offered via video on the websites.
There is an increase in video usage in programs, but not all DVD-based. Use of life-streaming is making an appearance.
More resources and actual modules for home use. For some, the “Sunday School” portion of the material is a small part of the lesson plan – the rest is meant to be done at home as a family.
Pricing is increasing to a license-based model (especially on-line and downloadable material) and as these are often based on average Sunday attendance, the number of children in your program or (now) whether it is used in a home-setting (for homeschoolers).
I’ve expanded the chart this year with several additions – some new curricula (Whirl, Shine On), programs I wouldn’t exactly call curriculum but I know are being used as such (Messy Church), and a few that publishers actually contacted me about, wanting their materials listed on the chart (Discipleland, Faith Practices). So . . . here it is . . . my 2014 Children’s Curriculum Chart!
Many of you know that every 18-months or so I conduct a curriculum survey. I began the practice during my tenure as Children’s Ministries & Christian Education Coordinator in the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut as a means to determine what curricula was being used in congregations in the diocese as well as learn what needs churches and their leadership had that I might be able to offer assistance. When I was called to a new position as Christian Formation Specialist for Church Publishing in 2007, I continued the practice, only offering it church-wide and across denominations.
Perhaps more than anything else, I’m known for the curriculum charts I produce every Spring that gives an overview of a growing list of curricular resources: their theology, publisher, content, format, cost, age-level, and more – all in a handy-dandy multi-page chart. Now my survey results are also looked at with interest. They aren’t scientific, and any true statistician would find all sorts of flaws in my process. But I believe over the years I can see trends. And I hear from real people with real joys, concerns, and questions.
About six months ago I was contacted by Christian Century (the only print magazine I now subscribe to). They were interested in an article about what types of curriculum are being used in mainline churches today. They were interested in what their editorial board were surmising was a greater interest in Godly Play. Would I be able to write a piece? Wow. What an honor.
So, many drafts and edits later, my article has appeared in the February 19, 2014 issue of The Christian Century. I knew it would be coming out soon, but didn’t quite know when. Until I got my bi-weekly e-mail of the issue via e-mail yesterday, listing all the articles. Volume 131, No. 4 is entitled, “Theologians in Residence.”
I didn’t choose the title, but perhaps it does speak to the issue facing our church today. I invite your to post your responses on the space offered on The Christian Centuries website / Facebook page and join in the conversation!