Christian education? What’s that?
What images come to mind when you hear the words Christian education? Are your first thoughts of children in classrooms studying the Bible? For many of us the Sunday school is the primary place that we think of when we consider what it means to provide Christian education. But exactly what is it that happens in a Sunday school class that enables Christian education and formation to take place?
Christian education happens when people...
- Learn the Bible People learn about God’s love as they hear the stories of the Bible. In surveys that ask the question, “What is the most important thing children learn in Sunday school?” the answer is most often “the Bible.” It is in Christian education settings that children learn the stories of the people of God and become familiar with God’s teachings through their study of the Bible. It is in Sunday school that children develop a Christian understanding of the purposes of Scripture, and it is through their experiences in Sunday school that they learn to recognize God’s call to them through the stories of the Bible as well as through the lives of the Christians who surround them.
- Accept God’s Grace Knowing the Bible is not enough. In fact, many people who are not Christians know more about the Bible than many of us who are Christians. Knowledge of the Bible doesn’t create Christians. The belief that the words of the Bible are God’s message to us is what impels a person to become a Christian. It is the recognition that God’s love shown through Jesus Christ is real. It is the acceptance of God’s saving grace offered through Jesus Christ as a special gift that enables one to become the person God created him or her to be.
- Grow in Christian Faith Christian faith becomes a reality when the stories of the Bible and our personal experiences of God’s love and grace inspire us to love God and to trust God’s guidance, as we make decisions about living our lives each day. Christians want to learn more about Jesus’ teachings. Christians want to discover the gifts of God that come through the Holy Spirit. Christians want to turn their full attention to learning more about what it means to live as a person of faith. Christians are not satisfied simply to know the Bible and to believe in God; Christians want to grow in their understanding of God’s purposes. Christians want their relationship with God to grow deeper day by day and year by year.
- Become Part of a Christian Community Christians recognize that the ability to grow in relationship to God is possible only in fellowship with other Christians. Although Christians value time alone in prayer and communion with God, Christians also welcome times to praise God and give thanks for God’s gracious love and care in worship and prayer with one another. Through the bond of Christian relationship that develops, Christians strengthen one another so that they are able to carry their experience of God’s presence and love into the activities of their everyday lives.
- Answer God’s Call to Christian Living Living a Christian life does not come automatically. It comes through study, worship, and learning together. Sunday school is a beginning for children and youth. Sunday school, as well as many other settings for Christian formation, is essential for adults! When people learn to follow the example of Jesus Christ, they become Christian examples, revealing the love of God through their own actions at home, at work, at play, at church, or anywhere they may be. A yearning to follow the example of Jesus leads Christians to recognize the needs of others and to seek ways to serve in God’s name. Through Christian education activities at church individuals and families find ways to serve God by serving others.
Christian education does not happen quickly. Christian education is not something we do once as children—then when we get older, we’ve simply got it. No, Christian education is a lifelong process of learning, believing, growing, and serving. Christian education is a never-ending process that is enabled in Christian community, as Christians continue to study, worship, fellowship, and serve together.
The lessons of Christian education make it possible for us to practice love and to live as children of God. How well we—children, youth, or adults—learn those lessons day by day will determine what kind of church we are Sunday by Sunday.
Christian education is a sacred responsibility. To give Christian education less than our best would be unfaithful to the life God has called us to live and to the world God has called us to serve. If there is ever a generation somewhere, sometime, that does not know the power of God’s love, it will be because some generation did not continue to teach and learn.
Christian Education? What’s That? is published by Cokesbury and is available for free distribution. Permission is granted to duplicate for church use. For additional information about curriculum resources, call Curric-U-Phone at 800•251•8591, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was reprinted with permission of Cokesbury.