Rethinking Christian Education


              A seminary professor asserted that truly biblical education is relational and tied to fieldwork in churches. A student asked, “Would that not do away with most seminary courses?” The professor frowned, then smiled and admitted, “Let’s not say that too loudly around here!” Consider these crucial questions:

(1) Would biblical training methods help churches and parents do a better job with children?
(2) Would a New Testament type of training avoid so many youth straying during their teen years?

              Let parents do what God tells them to do with their children. Most Christian parents, especially fathers, could do much more educating, and most churches could add more activities that embrace the whole family. Lionel Mota, pastor in Los Angeles, reported that he reorganized his Sunday School to include teaching in family-oriented small groups meeting in homes; it brought many to Christ, restored family unity, and revitalized the entire church body.

              Mix ages. Children and teens of all cultures crave attention from older children, yet many schoolchildren in the West never receive enough. Give young people the tools to lead and disciple younger people, and watch both grow rapidly! The common Western practice of segregating age groups, if carried to an extreme, so cripples young people’s social development, that they fail to relate normally to older, including their own parents, or younger persons. It is normal to seek peers of the same age, but not exclusively. Most children get enough of that in school. Churches must deal decisively with the growing breakdown of families and the oceans of misery it causes. Simply preaching about it will not stem the evil tide. Most churches in the West need to supplement age-graded classrooms to provide family activities and opportunities for young people to disciple younger people.

              Form groups small enough for biblical shepherding. Many churches desperately need to reorganize to shepherd people in groups small enough to practice the biblical “one-another” commands: correct one another, share one another’s burdens, confess faults to one another, instruct one another, etc. Let believers hear what the others are doing for Christ, their needs and ministry opportunities. If your group or class is too large for this and you dare not break it up, then appoint helpers who will give every person and family the shepherding that God requires.

              Listen to learners before teaching them. Because truly biblical teaching responds to immediate needs and ministry opportunities, wise teachers listen to those whom they teach, as Jesus did. Supplement a linear curriculum with menu-driven teaching, to meet felt needs in a relational way. Having a menu of edifying options helps teachers and students deal with current needs and interests. Exclusive use of a “cookie-cutter,” linear curriculum stifles spontaneity and freedom in the Spirit, whereas no two Christians or churches follow identical paths to maturity, or always have the same needs.

              Let children take an active part in worship. Imagine a child saying, “Uncle Bob, will you come watch me help teach the story of the Prodigal Son? I’m the rear end of the fattened calf.” Uncle Bob and his family will probably come to the worship meeting, especially if his children get minor parts, too.

              Train trainers as Jesus and Paul did. Let leaders raise up apprentice leaders. This is a pastoral responsibility, as much as preaching or administrating the sacraments. Jesus and His apostles modeled this approach, and 2 Timothy 2:2 and Titus 1:5 require it. Pastors who fulfill this duty, in a receptive pioneer field, provide enough new leaders to keep churches multiplying normally.

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