Thursday, July 13, 2006

Christian Education in the 21st Century

In the last several years, I have noted a trend in churches away from talking about "Christian education" to discussing "spiritual formation" or "Christian formation." Churches are no longer looking for "ministers of education" but are seeking "ministers of spiritual formation" or some similar title.

My question is, "What has driven this shift in nomenclature?" Is this just a fad or does it represent a fundamental change in our approach to adult faith development? If it is a fundamental change, does this mean that Sunday school is on the back burner and has been replaced by something else or does it mean that we are still looking for viable alternatives to SS?

5 comments:

Joe Livesay said...

I see Christian Formation as the next step in our spiritual journey. Most members of churches have been in a Sunday School class as long as they can remember. Sunday school gave us an opportunity to read and study the Bible and at times find out how a particular passage could be applicable to our lives. It is the last aspect (application) that I see my class wanting more. They know the bible verses and the stories. Now, how do we make those verses and stories real for us and come to life? Christian Formation or Spiritual Formation, whatever you call it, is the natural progression of a life time of study. I don't know about others, but as for me, I am looking for ways to be more Christlike, to walk with Christ and understand that he is walking with me. That makes Sunday School relevant.

Ircel said...

SS has had an interesting history. Originally a way to reach children of the working class both to teach them the Bible and how to read, it evolved into "the outreach arm of the church" for adults with Bible knowledge as a byproduct. Southern Baptists developed Discipleship Training (Training Union) into a program to form Christians, but it failed to make the transition into the 21st century. Perhaps it failed because it was mre about content than formation. So what about "spiritual formation"? Probably time for us to take a look at how the church has done it for twenty centuries, not just the last two hundred. Christians were in the formation business long before SS came along. Perhaps we are in onen of those "back to future" moments.

Cory said...
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Cory said...

This blog post (http://readshlog.blogspot.com/2006/07/dismantling-event-church.html) and some of the comments following seem to tie into this discussion. Discipelship/formation is such a critical component of the church's mission, yet it seems to be a great weakness for a lot of churches.

baptistlikeme said...

I think the term "spiritual formation" is a better one. After all, we're not merely trying to educate people in the modernistic sense of facts and formulae. There was a time when that seemed to be enough; we're learning that true spiritual growth requires more kinds of learning (relation, service, and so on).