Assessing Christian Education in the Church
The 2011 book Move: What 1000 Churches Reveal About Spiritual Growth, by Hawkins and Parkinson explores the question of whether church members actually grow through their participation in Christian education and discipleship programs. The concept behind the book, and the question itself, is remarkable if only because most churches do not practice any formal assessment to speak of.
When asked about the state of Christian education in churches today, one academic educator said, “Given what I see, what churches do is so disconnected from the field of education that I would not call it education at all; and that it is distinctly Christian is suspect. At best, it is a benign enterprise.”
What Hawkins and Parkinson discovered is that “increased participation in church activities by themselves barely moved our people to love God and others more.” The book describes the authors’ response to that dilemma, their findings about spiritual growth, and their pragmatic and programmatic implementations.
How Will You Assess Effectiveness?
There is no lack of resources to help church educators do a better job in their Christian education ministries. Helping people mature in faith as disciples of Christ is the most important thing we do. But how well are we doing it? Are we accomplishing it at all?
One place to start is to explore your response to some basic assessment questions:
- What do we want our church members to learn and be?
- How will we know when they’ve learned it?
- How will we respond when they don’t learn it?
- What will we provide after they do learn it?
- What evidence do we have that what we are doing is actually making a difference in people’s lives?
- Are we meeting the personal and spiritual needs of our members? How do we know?
- Do we have clear goals and objectives for our CE programs that lead to specific demonstrable outcomes?
- What domains of faith do we address and which do we under serve?
- What difference does it make that our members participate in our CE programs?
Israel Galindo is Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning at the Columbia Theological Seminary. He directs the Pastoral Excellence Program at Columbia seminary. 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 & Don Reagan, and Leadership in Ministry: Bowen Theory in the Congregational Context.
His books on education include Mastering the Art of Instruction,The Craft of Christian Teaching (Judson), How to be the Best Christian Study Group Leader (Judson), and Planning for Christian Education Formation (Chalice Press).