Read my classmate post. Think and write your thoughts and feelings about his post. (1 Page)
I had never seen it before. I was about 50 years old at the time, had been conducting workshops for Bible teachers for about 15 years, and I was surprised, almost stunned even, when I saw it. I had to stop and look carefully to see if I really was seeing what I thought I was seeing. It was. Posted behind acrylic, beside the door frame of that classroom in southern Oklahoma, was a typed list. The elders of the congregation had carefully considered the educational program of that congregation. They had determined and explicitly stated for all to see exactly what the members of that class were expected to know when the class was complete. It was not a matter of what classroom experiences they might have had or what projects they had completed; it was what Bible knowledge students should have before they promote to the next class. As I looked further, I realized that all the classrooms had expectations listed outside the door! That congregation was the epitome of educational organization.
Conversely, in a small Tennessee congregation I visited, teachers openly stated that they “just do whatever [they] want.” I do not know if the congregation did not have elders, or if their leadership was in name only, but I do know that the congregation lacked active oversight of their educational program. Teachers were comfortable (read complacent) because no one was observing their level of success while students complained that they kept hearing the same stories again! This congregation had no structure and little success in their educational program.
Most congregations, though, fall somewhere in-between. Generally, someone has counted the classrooms, divided the students as evenly as possible into those rooms, found a body to fill the role of teacher in each, and bought some workbooks. Occasionally, the teacher’s work is supported through training classes, workshops, and/or a resource room. Success is assumed when a child has progressed through at least most of the classes as he grows up in the congregation, but rarely does anyone ensure that students are “growing in wisdom” (Luke 2:52) and becoming more Christlike.
It would be easy to charge such ineffective leaders of congregational educational programs with a lack of both zeal and knowledge (Rom. 10:2), but that may not be fair. Sometimes, such a leader does truly care; he just does not know what to do. He may go to the extreme of gimmickry and marketing ploys to bring in the crowds or he may go to the other extreme of using the same old material year after year ad nauseam because it worked when he was a child. What can be done to help congregational educational programs be effective and full of zeal and knowledge?
Yount argues that organization is key. I agree. God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33). Flying by the seat of your pants is not a God-approved method for teaching our children – or our adults either. Each classroom should have organized lessons that fit logically into the congregational curriculum. Each teacher should be trained in the Bible material and in teaching. Each department should have a leader, and each department leader should report to the congregational educational leader. Records should be kept of students’ learning success so that growth or stagnation can be readily identified. Such organization keeps everyone working together to help students mature in Bible knowledge and Christlikeness.
Many church members would consider such an approach radical and unnecessary. I consider it an idea whose time is way past due. Study after study reports on the dismal lack of Bible knowledge not just in our culture, but in our churches. If we are going to fulfill our commission to teach our children to know God (Judges 2:10), we must both give them factual knowledge and teach them how to apply it. Isaiah wrote, “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little” (28:10). How can we know what line to give them next if their learning is not structured? Will we give them the right little at the right time if we are not organized?
Organization at the congregational level is essential to success. Having one or two good teachers is a blessing, but it is not enough. Having someone with the proper knowledge to administer an effective educational program is the way to fulfill God’s expectations, retain our youth, and encourage Christlikeness among our congregation. I am excited about this course. For twenty years, I have trained teachers to be better Bible class teachers. I am eager to take the next step, to learn how to help congregations better organize and develop their programs.