Shifting Toward A Formation Approach in Christian Education

Shifting Toward A Formation Approach in Christian Education

By Israel Galindo, Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning

In 1966 Jerome Bruner, Harvard psychologist and educator, wrote:

There is a dilemma in describing a course of study. One must begin by setting forth the intellectual substance of what is to be taught, else there can be no sense of what challenges and shapes the curiosity of the student. Yet the moment one succumbs to the temptation to “get across” the subject, at that moment the ingredient of pedagogy is in jeopardy. For it is only in a trivial sense that one gives a course to “get something across,” merely to impart information. There are better means to that end than teaching. Unless the learner also masters himself, disciplines his taste, deepens his view of the world, the “something” that is got across is hardly worth the effort of transmission.

Bruner’s challenge relates to education in a global sense, but he provides a challenge that is at the heart of Christian education. The phrase “there are better means to that end than teaching” suggests that at the heart of teaching is the relationship between teacher and student that “shapes” the persons involved in the enterprise of learning.

This is in part what an emphasis on “spiritual formation” (or “Christian formation” or “Christian education formation”) as a replacement for “Christian education” has as its focus. In part it’s a shift from an over-focus on the content of belief to more attention on the development of the believer. I think this is a good thing provided:

Israel Galindo is Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning at the Columbia Theological Seminary. Formerly, he was Dean at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. He is the author of the bestseller, The Hidden Lives of Congregations (Alban), Perspectives on Congregational Leadership (Educational Consultants), and A Family Genogram Workbook (Educational Consultants), with Elaine Boomer and Don Reagan.

His books on Christian education include The Craft of Christian Teaching (Judson), How to be the Best Christian Study Group Leader (Judson), Planning for Christian Education Formation (Chalice), and A Christian Educator’s Book of Lists (S&H).

Galindo contributes to the Wabash Center’s blog for theological school deans and the Digital Flipchart blog.

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