The Basic Functions of a Congregational Educator
August 4, 2014—I had an interesting discussion with a lay person who has just accepted the call to lead her congregation’s Christian education ministries. She was feeling a bit overwhelmed (close to panic, actually) as she started to get a grasp of the scope of the job she’s taken on. She called me to help her get a handle on what it is she was supposed to do as the leader of the Christian education enterprise of her church. At one point she asked, “What does a church’s Christian educator do, anyway?”
The work of a congregational education director is demanding and comprehensive, whatever the title a congregation uses (Director of Christian education, Associate for Congregational Formation, Director of Christian Formation, Minister for Discipleship, etc.). What resident Christian educators do is fulfill the Great Commission’s mandate of making disciples. And that is what makes it both challenging and meaningful. Christian education is central to the mission and purpose of the congregation, and therefore, it must be done well.
Congregational Christian education directors may end up doing a lot of things that come with the job (like supervising building and grounds issues!). And there are certain groups or aspects for which they have a predilection (children or youth, retreats, small groups, spiritual direction, or Sunday school), but by and large, congregational Christian educators are generalists who need to know a little about a lot of things. The effective Christian educator, however, must also give attention to certain basic functions of the job.
While context determines the job, here are some of the basic functions that comprise the work of the congregational Christian educator:
- Participating in the pastoral functions of the church as necessary
- Shaping and articulating a vision for Christian education appropriate to context
- Teaching and interpreting the Biblical story in the context of the congregation, and, for the public
- Supporting pastoral and church staff in their work
- Providing educational expertise to the church at large
- Supervising hired staff and volunteer educators
- Managing church and organizational resources
- Training church leaders and educators
- Designing and implementing church curriculum
- Programming for effective education, training, and nurture
- Providing resources for leaders, educators, and programs
- Evaluating the effectiveness of the church’s Christian education programs
- Assessing the growth in discipleship of the members of the church.
That’s quite a list, but it answers the question my friend asked, “What does a church’s Christian educator do, anyway?” Demanding? Yes! Fulfilling? Certainly!
By the way, if you need support or help in any of those areas, call us at the Center for Lifelong Learning. We’re here to help.
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