Part of my calling is to help churches and individuals equip disciples and connect faith to real life through Christian education ministries. The culture has changed: through technology, changing family structures, increasing diversity and many other factors, the society we grew up in is looking quite different, isn’t it? Not necessarily a bad thing, it just is. In the course I lead for BeADisciple, IFD 186 Active Learning for Today’s Children, we discover multi-sensory teaching methods and the why behind those methods. We also explore caring community, the teacher’s role and much more. It is evident that children are connecting with the Bible Story in different ways in the information age. But we must build relationships with their families in different ways to reach them in the first place.
I’m one to want to connect faith and real life. With all the areas I’m involved with as a Christian Educator, I’m continuously putting it all together in my mind and approach. Two excellent quick reads that I’ve just finished and recommend are: Right Here, Right Now: Everyday Mission for Everyday People by Alan Hirsch and Lance Ford, 2011, Baker Books and Get Their Name: Grow Your Church By Building New Relationships by Bob Farr, Doug Anderson, and Kay Kotan, 2013, Abingdon Press.
Here are a few takeaways from my recent work:
- We need to be the church in the world 7 days a week to reach children and families, which is exactly how the early church functioned. So we’re actually going back to our roots. For you Methodists coming from the Wesleyan approach, John Wesley and Francis Asbury were all about taking the message out of the building, especially to people who were not in the English educated classes and hence did not attend church.
- We must pay attention to everybody we come into contact with in our community. Right Here, Right Now uses the metaphor of movie and talks about meeting and beholding as Christ did the “extras” or ignored human scenery in your everyday life. I’ve always joked that I should write a book on “How to Be a Christian in a Big Box Store” – it is hard, I know: trying to get through blocked isles with shoppers oblivious to anyone else, stressed-out clerks that don’t look up, almost getting hit in the pedestrian walk, and the shopping carts that take too much time and energy to put into the corral. I’ve challenged myself to greet clerks first with a smile-leading to some briefly sharing a life circumstance they are going through. Patience is also a virtue I work on by being pleasant to rude or harried people. Could you smile, make eye contact, or start a brief, friendly conversation with an overwhelmed parent or grandparent you don’t know?
- Jesus Christ became one of us, hung out with us (especially the “wrong crowd”), listened to us, learned our culture and language, all so that we could connect with him and he with us. Luke 19: 1-10 (The Message) tells the story of Zacchaeus: “Today is my day to be a guest in your home…Everyone who saw the incident was indignant and grumped, ‘What business does he have getting cozy with this crook?’” St. Paul spoke the local culture with people wherever he happened to be in his widespread journeys. So should we. My challenge is getting outside of my tunnel vision world of people just like me. Do you go out of your way to experience your local culture (or sub-culture as it may be)?
- Relationships are key. No one wants to hear what you know or about faith until they know you and how much you care about them as a person. Helping with needs through your local schools is a great way to be the visible serving Church in the world. Relationship quality has decreased. People are lonely even when surrounded by others in a busy world. I’m learning to listen much better. Listen first to families and children. Ask them questions. Enter their world.
- The attraction model is over. We can no longer expect people to show up at Church because it is the expected thing to do and here we and our beautiful building are. It’s now all about being invitational, being real and flawed, and getting to know different people during the week. I’m working on this! Have you invited a family or individual to coffee, a meal, or to an appealing Church ministry or event?
What are YOUR thoughts?
Pamela Deck, based in western North Carolina, is a Certified Associate in Christian Education in the United Methodist Church. With over 25 years experience in education ministry, she hopes to co-learn with you this February 2014 in two online courses, IFD 186 Active Learning for Today’s Children and IFD 185 Becoming An Even Better Sunday School or Small Group Teacher. View her website here and Facebook page: pdeckconsulting.