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Yes, Christian educators need to know how to run an effective Sunday School, and they need to know how to do that well.
But “real” Christian educators need to know certain other foundational things to inform their work.
Without a deep knowledge of these foundations, educators will be hampered in their effectiveness.
Here’s what “real educators” know:
Educational theory and philosophy. No Christian educator will get far without a clear understanding of educational theory and clarity about his or her educational philosophy.
Educational history. Knowledge of history cultivates discernment and perspective, two capacities every Christian educator needs.
Developmental theory. A lack of understanding about how people are formed leads to ineffectiveness in addressing faith development or spiritual formation.
Theories of teaching and learning. If you don’t know the pedagogical theory that informs methods, approaches, techniques, and the assessment of learning, you will never be effective in the practice of teaching. Further, your learners will suffer for it.
Educational process (administration, supervision, planning). Understanding educational process is the difference between being a real educator and pretending to be one by merely going through the motions. Novices follow rules and procedures; experts work out of principles and processes. As such, they can be innovative, creative, and resilient.
Curriculum principles and design. No self respecting real educator is perpetually dependent on published, canned, curriculum. Especially in the congregational context, in which life together in the church is the real curriculum, real Christian educators know how to make church life the curriculum for faith formation.
Ecclesiology. Without a theological understanding of the nature and mission of the Church no Christian educator can hope to be effective in providing an authentic Christian education enterprise in the church.
How deep is your understanding of those areas? What do you need to cultivate and develop to become a more effective Christian educator?
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 Academic Leadership: Practical Wisdom for Deans and Administartors, 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).