Christian Education Ministry involves the administration and coordination of programs or strategies to facilitate the spiritual growth or discipleship of believers into Christ-likeness. A church needs to develop a sound philosophy for Christian education based on the Word of God. A sound philosophical statement is not enough, however, to experience the transformation of lives. What is on paper must be put into practice for it to make a difference. Too often an incongruence exists between what is on paper and the actual operative philosophy of the church’s leadership (Anthony, 2001).
The Christian Education ministry of the church is not a one person job. It takes many people working at different levels and in different capacities. When working as a team, key leaders of the various areas will have a much greater effectiveness than if they focus only on themselves and their own areas of responsibility. A Director of Christian Education certainly can provide pivotal leadership. Without the support of the pastor and other church leadership, this person can only go so far. Listening to a sermon in the corporate worship service is not enough to facilitate true growth. Discipleship also needs to be happening on the personal level, one-on-one with fellow believers, in small groups, and in mid-size groups. Each of these levels offers a different dynamic to the growth process (Bergler, 2012). This paper shall discuss the education ministry of the church, children, youth and adult.
Education ministry is a redundancy, for no education is really possible apart from the truth of biblical Christianity. As a created being, man is totally dependent upon his Creator if he is to learn anything. Nonetheless, the term “Christian education” is a useful one. In Christian education, the truth of God is brought to bear upon every aspect of daily living. Surely each local church should be vitally concerned with this teaching and learning process (Berkhof, 1989).
The educational program in a local church should look beyond the Sunday school. As important as this ministry has become in the twentieth century, it is unable to accomplish everything in the limited time that it meets. Christian education should be active in many other areas as well: youth clubs, vacation Bible school, camping experiences, family life, the church library, training classes, missions, Bible studies, catechism, etc. By grasping the full scope of Christian education, we begin to understand the great task to which the local church is called (Bolsinger, 2004).
The basis for a Christian education program is given by Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20: making disciples, baptizing them, and “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” R. B. Kuiper has observed, “A noteworthy feature of the great commission is that it bids the apostles and the church of all ages to teach. In fact, teaching is spoken of as their chief missionary task. They are to go in order to teach. Going is but a means to the end of teaching. And they are to baptize those who accept their teaching. But they must teach, whether or not men give heed. And, significantly, they are told not once, but twice, to teach” (The Glorious Body of Christ, p. 245).
But what is such teaching? It is equipping the learner to become like Christ. Ephesians 4:11-16 tells us about gifted pastors and teachers building up the body of Christ into unity and maturity. As you look at the Christian education ministry in your church, how much of this equipping is going on? Are you really “making disciples”? Are the recipients of your teaching being challenged and directed into godly living? Teaching is not telling (“How many times do I have to tell you?”). Christian education is not just a recital of Bible books, catechisms, and creeds, nor careful adherence to a curriculum (getting the quarterly covered in forty-five minutes), nor a bag of tricks to keep children entertained. Pupils may churn out verses they have memorized (perhaps to win a contest), but with little change taking place in the way they live at home. (Remember Psalm 119:11, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”)
The goal of a Christian education program is the growth of the whole church into the image of Christ. As each member develops his own particular gifts and abilities, the whole community of believers grows. The church is people, people changed by the grace of God from darkness into light, but people who still need to be changed throughout their Christian pilgrimage (2 Cor. 3:18; 2 Pet. 3:18). The teacher equips his students by helping them through this growing process. To a large extent, this means helping them teach themselves. What the learner contributes to the learning process is just as important as what the teacher contributes (“I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes,” Ps. 119:99). Probably your church has had lots of “teaching” going on, but how much “training” that helps people live out what has been taught?
Christian education is particularly important as we consider the modern American scene: seven to eight hours of television being watched each day, the baby boomers, groups with special needs, family fragmentation, high mobility, the declining popularity of Christianity, increased secularization, indifference to moral absolutes, entertainment saturation, Bible illiteracy, the explosion of technology to name but a few things. These cultural influences can easily affect the local church adversely. It cannot afford to have its educational ministry characterized by sporadic attendance, unfulfilled assignments, sloppy instruction, boring classes, and limited methods (Cain, 2012). The church of Jesus Christ must stand tall over against the world-and-life view of a pagan society.
Children are a blessing from the Lord. With these blessings also come responsibilities. As stewards of God’s children, parents are responsible for helping children grow physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. Churches have a responsibility toward children, too. We want to provide an environment in which children are safe, are taught at an age-appropriate level, and are encouraged to develop a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Each Sunday, our church children are invited to Sunday School where we use Hands On Worship curriculum to engage the various ages of our children. In Sunday School, faithful, loving teachers guide them through stories of the Bible using singing, scripture and interactive learning. Each week, our children learn to see God at work in their everyday lives with God Sightings that we share with our peers. Our children looked for “God Sightings” and heard how through everything in our lives, God is always with us.
If we are to have a healthy future, it is essential that we have a viable children’s ministry. The purpose of this paper is to help churches develop an effective children’s ministry. This paper will not only give a general introduction, it will also address some specific needs. The bibliography lists a variety of good resources for additional information on children’s ministries.
Church growth: The church preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ. We strive to deliver the message and to provide an environment in which it can be favorably received. Christians rejoice when people believe the gospel, accept Jesus Christ into their lives, and become part of his body, the church. We rejoice when new converts are added to the church, and we rejoice when potential converts begin to attend.
Donald McGavran, in Understanding Church Growth, comments on three types of church growth: biological, transfer and conversion. “Biological growth derives from those born into Christian families. The world is littered with tiny static denominations that obtain chiefly or solely this kind of growth.” Biological growth is good, but it is slow (Cosby, 2012). An effective children’s ministry will facilitate church growth through biological growth, transfer growth and conversion.
Spiritual nourishment: Children’s actions are based largely on emotion. Thomas Armstrong, in In Their Own Way, notes that a child learns only in the presence of either negative or positive emotions. Because of the connection between learning and emotion, a child’s church experience needs to include opportunities for joyful expression of emotion. Children’s spiritual life cannot be separated from their emotions (Dawn, 1997). Children who are given opportunities to be tuned in to their emotions through children’s worship, associating Christianity with joy and love, will learn to be spiritually responsive. Adult worship services are often too abstract to accomplish this. Children do not grasp abstract concepts until the beginning of puberty, and even then not at an adult level. However, a child can experience abstract concepts such as love and acceptance. Therefore, the church needs to nourish children through a “feeling” kind of ministry, in which children learn biblical concepts in an emotionally positive environment. The facts and the emotions work together to teach a consistent message.
Relationship nourishment: Children need other children. They experience joy in making friends. Even infants notice the difference between adults and children. An infant will often ignore adults who come into the room, but will focus on children who enter. Toddlers are attracted to babies and other toddlers. This courtship with peers continues into adolescence and adulthood. Friendships are important. Children’s ministry can help children learn to establish and nourish friendships. It can accomplish this through the following ways: 1) Direct encouragement, such as saying, Be friendly to these children, and they will be good friends. 2) Personal examples of the volunteers as they relate to each other. 3) Grouping children of similar ages so they have the opportunity to interact. 4) Sponsoring children’s activities that are open to community children.
Church-sponsored children’s ministry events: Families in the community are often willing to attend a church that will serve their children’s needs. A children’s ministry can sponsor events that are open to the community. These might be the community members’ first contact with Christianity. A welcoming environment for their children will make them more likely to want to find out more about the church. The church will be seen as relevant and helpful. Adult volunteers and children will be helping to bring people into contact with the gospel.
Help bring children to acceptance of Jesus: A well-planned children’s ministry places its greatest emphasis on leading children to respond to Christ’s love. This can be accomplished in every activity through direct and indirect methods, through instruction and example.
Externally: A children’s ministry that is active and planning ahead has a great opportunity for activities that assist the church in spreading the gospel. Children of non-Christians can be invited to activities without feeling threatened. If the activity is offered without charge or with minimal charge, parents will be more willing to take their children. This is a nonthreatening introduction to the church. Children can make friends, parents can make friends, and the non-Christian friends can be invited to additional church activities, such as small group meetings and worship services.
Children’s ministry also helps church growth by making it easier for new people to attend services. Parents will be able to listen to the messages without distractions. They will be confident that their children are loved, and that they enjoy spending time at church and making new friends. In this way, children’s ministry helps evangelize parents.
Internally: Children’s ministry helps the church’s biological growth because it teaches children about their Savior. It gives them facts and experiences that help them learn about and respond to Jesus. The existence of a children’s ministry helps validate the importance of children within the church. As a result, children feel welcomed and loved at church. Christians need other Christians to help them grow. This is one reason Christ founded the church. Only in a community are humans led to and nurtured in the love of Christ. The same is true for children. Children’s ministry brings adults and children together who might not otherwise get to know each other. This contributes to the building of bonds within the body of Christ. It also brings children together with others their own age, encouraging long-term friendships.
Transfer growth: Americans move on average every two to five years. For this reason alone, Christians are often looking for new fellowships. A vibrant children’s ministry will be attractive to most parents. It may also be attractive to senior citizens, singles and others who want an active role in their church. Many people enjoy working with children (Dean, 2010).
Youth ministry is a challenging calling. Since youth culture globally is very diverse, so are the varieties and philosophies of youth ministry. Whether nurturing relationships and spiritual lives of students in faith communities, or reaching alienated or high-risk youth outside, there is always the challenge of digging deeper into lives and stretching horizons. Youth leaders are usually the initiators, but discussions are a two-way street with leaders and young people learning from each other.
Most experts and studies show an isolation of youth from adult society. Not only are they often “a tribe apart, they also have to interpret a barrage of confusing and contradictory messages from family, schools, and media. Never before have had young people needed relationships with someone who cares and knows how to listen. Youth ministry is defined as: Caring mentors providing young people with a safe place where they can hear another tell her story and find the courage to tell her own story, be affirmed for it and in that context respond to the story of God’s love. A second part of this description of youth ministry is needed. Youth ministry is also about: Empowering young people to resist the manipulation and bondage of an exploitive world so that they can serve community and church in a way that allows for a wild celebration of their significance in Christ (DeVries, 2008).
An act of service: Youth ministry is the act of serving the needs of young people. No matter what the means or particular job description, relationships with young people for the purpose of serving and in the spirit of serving are a form of youth ministry. Obviously, there is a need to restrict the term to understand and describe programs designed to serve youth which have a spiritual dimension. Those who are not coaches, teachers, counselors, etc., but who serve youth full-time out of a church or paraparochial program with such a purpose and spirit are designated youth ministers.
It’s a profession: Professions have a specialized body of knowledge that takes graduate study. They have boards or associations that set standards for the profession. And the general public is educated to trust and respect the status of trained professionals. Professions are about something we care a great deal-our health, our money, our minds.
Call to service: True ministering to the needs of all youth demands the youth minister to be ready to serve as social worker, evangelist, and pastor. He or she does so as a servant leader, learning that young people-not the youth minister-are the experts of their culture and their own lives. But she or he does so with a growing body of information and skills to deal with one of society”s most precious commodities-the souls of its youth. That would seem to be the essence of what it means to be professional in a good sense-to have special wisdom and skill to handle one of the community’s most valuable assets.
It’s a significant calling: Youth ministry is a significant calling. Renowned missionary, speaker, and professor, Dr. Christy Wilson has pointed out how the great mission movements of the 19th and 20th century began in youthful prayer meetings. Pete Ward shows how youth work not only produced many of England”s great church leaders, but also shaped British (and therefore worldwide) Evangelicalism and the worship of the church (Growing Up Evangelical, 1996). Some youth groups are a retreat from the world, but relevant youth ministry must reflect the current culture and demonstrate the power of the Gospel within that culture.
Youth ministry is a often a lonely calling. It has suffered from the society”s general attitude toward adolescents and the youth culture. To the degree that we view adolescence as a holding pattern or necessary evil, youth ministry will merely be a stepping stone to “real ministry.”
A critical need for the church: Dynamic youth ministry will always be a threat to anemic religious institutions and Christian subcultures. Even when well-meaning adults and churches give theoretical assent to the mission of reaching young people in the world, they may fear, with the religious leaders of Christ’s time, what it means to find and serve the lost sheep.
Most theological seminaries recognize youth ministry as a critical need of the church, but few put serious resources into a program to produce such leaders. Many churches and pastors beg seminaries for youth ministers-usually with short-term expectancy-but rarely do they recommend or send candidates for specialized training in youth ministry. Although many youth ministers may want to move into other careers after five or ten years, youth ministry has, and should have, life-time practitioners revered for their experience and knowledge. Kids are not turned off by gray hair on the heads of those they respect.
There are, in the NIV version of the Bible, 53 verses in which the words “youth,” “youths,” or “youthful” appear. Beyond this rather pedantic fact, we know that Joseph was a teenager (17 years of age) when his story begins as a dreamer-and as a misunderstood sibling sold into slavery. Isaac may have been 11-14 years of age when he climbed upon the altar according to his father’s firm command. Joshua was a youth when Moses chose him as his aide. We read that David was a mere boy when he defeated Goliath and attracted the attention of the king. Daniel and his friends were probably teenagers when they were led across the Fertile Crescent into captivity. We can imagine them as young men, quite possibly in their late teens, as they stood strong for Yahweh before the great ruler of awesome Babylon. Ruth was still a young woman when she became a widow and followed Naomi to Bethlehem. Esther may well have been a teen when she won a “beauty contest” and found herself in a pagan harem. Mary herself was a mere youth when the angel appeared to her with unprecedented news of her beatitude.
Some of the disciples were still youth, and Mark probably a teenager, when they began to follow Jesus. St. Paul”s advice to Timothy is a divine injunction that a person should not be despised for youthfulness. Jesus” warnings against the neglect or misleading of children further emphasizes the seriousness of our consideration.
Africa is a youthful continent. Much of its population is under 16 years of age. In 1970, Africa had seven cities with more than a million inhabitants. By 2000, more than 60 African cities will have over a million people-and five will have more than five million inhabitants! Those cities-where church and youth ministry are often weakest-will be filled with young people. Africa entered the 1990s with more than 500 million people; of these, considerably more than 300 million were youth under 24 years of age!
Pastors, Sunday School teachers, and parents all do well to reflect upon the place of children and youth in Holy Scriptures-as well as in society. But for youth ministers, especially it is important to go further to consider a theology of this critical ministry. Of course, most of what we consider about youth ministry is actually applicable to all evangelization and pastoral ministry. Reflections about all ministry and spiritual realities proceed best from contemplation of the Triune God. Youth ministry especially should be grounded in the love of the Father, the gracious intervention and relationships of the Son, and the healing and enabling of the Holy Spirit. Consider how these theological principles apply to actual ministry.
Education ministry of Adults seeks to promote spiritual transformation within the congregation by providing educational opportunities for growing in faith, deepening theological and biblical reflection, and serving others as God’s faithful people. Adult educational ministry team is responsible for developing, implementing and supervising the educational ministry for adults within the church Community through: Adult Church School classes, Bible Studies – (Tuesday Evening class), Summer studies (Supper & Substance), Intergenerational events, Retreats – Men’s Retreat, Women’s Retreat, Women’s Circles and Books & More Study Group.
Have a Christian education board or committee. Even if your church is small, someone needs to be planning for the future. The small church can achieve progress in surveying needs, formulating the program, approving curriculum, selecting personnel, overseeing facilities and equipment, and making the congregation more aware of Christian education.
Enlarge your educational vision. Don’t limit Christian education to Sunday school. Consider implementing such programs as weekday clubs, Bible studies, training classes, outdoor education, and catechism. Broaden your scope to include youth and adult ministries, not just work with children; all three are important areas.
Formulate clear objectives and goals. Remember the need to go beyond mere factual content (as important as that is) to the development of godly lives. Perhaps your church has been guilty of putting up the boards, shingles, and drywall of an educational program before you have really laid the foundation! The Christian education program should be based upon an understanding of what you are really trying to accomplish.
Emphasize your positives. While we need to be realistic about our educational limitations, don’t overlook the particular strengths and advantages of your local situation. This should be done even if you have a small congregation. Says Kenneth 0. Gangel: “Here’s a strange thing: the church that most needs good Christian education is often the church with cramped space, few helpers and outmoded programming. It is sometimes difficult to convince leaders in small churches that the same principles which function adequately in large churches can also function in small churches” (Leadership for Church Education, page 139). Build upon the ability to know everyone by name, your strong family units, the crossing of age lines, your sense of purpose, and your creativity in the use of the facilities and resources that God has given to you.
Work closely with the home. Church and family (as well as day school) must work together to achieve the purpose of preparing individuals to be disciples of Christ. If the student has the influence of the covenant church community and the “twenty-four-hour day” model of Deuteronomy 6:5-9, his educational training will be a cohesive whole. Teachers in your local congregation must communicate regularly with the home to make sure that what is taught at church is being lived at home.
Take advantage of all available resources. In Christian education, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Many resources are available to help any church improve itself, and you should be alert to materials, conferences, books, and seminars that can enrich your educational program. Great Commission Publications, for example, can provide such assistance. Of course, each church is unique, and so a franchise approach, where every program looks like it has been cut out with the same cookie cutter, is not appropriate. Corinth was not Ephesus, and Ephesus was not Thessalonica. The resources of others must be adapted to local needs; you can’t force every idea to work just because it may have worked elsewhere. On the other hand, you should not automatically respond with “That will never work in our situation.” Instead, ask, “How can we use or adapt this in our church?”
Evaluate what you have been doing. In one sense this is being done all the time, but in another sense it is probably rarely done. How often is time scheduled for the purpose of considering how effectively we are accomplishing what we have set out to do? Your educational program must be based solidly upon biblical objectives that are clearly defined, and this calls for ruthlessly honest evaluation!
According to (Prov.29:2, 14:34; Dan.3:28-30; Deut.32:29; John 4:35). Christian youth salvation (moral and social development) will give the Church and the nation at large a generation of righteous leaders. More missionaries, evangelists and Pastors will be raised for greater evangelistic outreaches. It will also rid the Nigeria nation of Satan inspired and corrupt leaders.
In Dan.1:3-4, I Sam.17:33, 37; Lam.3:2) Christian youths are people of great strength and might. Their conversion is a corresponding conversion of physical, social and moral strength to benefit the community, the Church and the nation at large.
Christian youths will find it easier to reach out to other youths who will join to turn the corrupt Nigeria nation and world to the right direction for development and for Christ.
Education is the process that prepares young people for their social inheritance and this involves development of knowledge, training of mental abilities, and development of character. Development of character in Christian youths extended as far back as the Bible days, through Aristotle, Ethics and Socrates and continues through to modern times. Moral and social developments of youths occupy a strategic position in national development, human relationships, and his relationship to God.
Christian Education is concerned with inculcating into individual, the Christ-like life. It is also concerned with ultimate development of character and Christian maturity in the youths. It is centered on Christ and the goal is to be like Christ in all ramifications. Christian education which is the word of God remains the central means by which Christian youths could be won to Christ and be developed socially and morally. Christian education therefore, must be organized around a comprehensive curriculum for growth, challenging the youths in four areas of life: intellectual, physical, spiritual, and emotional. Nigeria youths are expected to meet world class standards not only in College preparatory academic, but also in co-curricular areas of performing arts, school leadership, service to God and humanity through Christian education. The highest objective is that Christian youths become ready to commit themselves to continue improvement towards excellence in all their endeavors.
Anthony, Michael J. (2001). Introducing Christian Education: Foundations for the Twenty-First Century. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic.
Bergler, Thomas E. (2012). The Juvenilization of American Christianity. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
Berkhof, Louis, Cornelius Van Til, and Dennis E. Johnson (1989). Foundations of Christian Education: Addresses to Christian Teachers. Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed.
Bolsinger, Tod E. (2004). It Takes a Church to Raise a Christian: How the Community of God Transforms Lives. Grand Rapids: Brazos.
Cain, Susan (2012). Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. New York: Crown Publishers.
Clark, Robert E., Lin Johnson, and Allyn K. Sloat (1991). Christian Education: Foundations for the Future. Chicago: Moody Press.
Cosby, Brian H. (2012). Giving Up Gimmicks: Reclaiming Youth Ministry from an Entertainment Culture. Phillipsburg, N.J.: P&R.
Dawn, Marva J. (1997). Is It a Lost Cause? Having the Heart of God for the Church’s Children. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
Dean, Kenda Creasy (2010). Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.
DeVries, Mark (2008). Sustainable Youth Ministry: Why Most Youth Ministry Doesn’t Last and What Your Church Can Do About It. Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Books, 2008.
Dunahoo, Charles H. (2005). Making Kingdom Disciples: A New Framework. Phillipsburg: P&R.