DENVER (Outlook) – After being involved in the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators (APCE) for over 20 years, Holly Inglis will lead the organization as its president for the next year.
A colleague encouraged her to attend an APCE conference – and she’s only missed one national conference since then.
Inglis has served the last three years on the APCE leadership team, is the associate pastor for nurture at Palms Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, and is the author of “Sticky Learning: How Neuroscience Supports Teaching That’s Remembered.” (You can read her recent Outlook article about using a brain-savvy approach to navigate change here.)
Outlook: How do you think APCE is supporting the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s efforts to advance educational ministries?
Inglis: I think APCE is supporting the PC(USA)’s effort to advance educational ministries by serving as one of the most available, well-equipped and underutilized resources we have in the denomination. When you look at the number of people who come to an event such as this – 650, from all over the country and all over the world – and then we go back and we have resources to share and skill sets that can equip others. I feel like we could offer a great deal to the denomination – [yet] that [contribution] is underutilized and under-seen. But we’re very eager and ready to support the work of the denomination’s efforts to advance educational ministries. We want to be partners. We want to be asked and invited [and] be at the table, [so] reach out to us.
I think we are [being asked] in some arenas. Churches and presbyteries have big stuff going on right now. And it’s so easy to get caught up in the weeds of what’s right in front of us and not look up to see, “So, what might we need to do for the future of the church?” And I think educators and APCE are a wonderful resource to engage in that conversation. We’re some of the people that are forward-thinkers and we’re always thinking about “what’s next?” and “what do we need to be doing?” and “what are the trends?” and “what are the new resources?” and “how can we reach more people with different developmental needs and [levels of] faith development?” Those are the questions we ask all the time. So my hope is that we can strengthen the relationship between APCE and the PC(USA) and our other denominational partners as well.
Outlook: Describe some of your hopes for APCE in the coming years.
Inglis: We are the great collaborators. It’s what we do. My hope for APCE is that we can collaborate across broader denominational lines, beginning with conversations with [our current partnerships and those in other denominations] and begin to have conversations of: What is life like for you all as educators? What’s happening in your denomination? How can we support each other? How can we connect? How can we nurture each other so that we all don’t just stay in our little silos and dwindle. That’s my big hope for APCE in the coming years is that you’ll see more people from other denominations attending our event, and hopefully some of our folks who maybe aren’t able to get to our annual event will be able to take advantage of some other events in their area and by that that collaborative partnership we’re all enriched.
Outlook: What are some of the exciting things you’re seeing happen in Christian education?
Inglis: I think there are exciting things happening that we may not be aware of. This is a challenge for APCE: There are wonderful educators all over everywhere who are doing innovative things; we just have to find out what they are. And that involves using our network of connectors and leaders to reach out and say, “What are you doing? What are you excited about?” Because there is all kinds of creativity in this organization.
The other exciting thing I see happening is that de-siloing. I see that with conferences that have broad sweep across denominations. … Even some of the NEXT stuff; there are a number of us that are planning to go to the NEXT Church conference [March 13-15 in Kansas City]. So these big-picture conferences that are happening to look at big-picture questions about the church, APCE is there; APCE’s a part of that. I think that we can strengthen that relationship and that’s the exciting thing that I see happening in Christian education. It’s not just about Sunday school, markers and crayons – what people might think APCE’s about. We’re big-picture thinkers. We see what’s happening in the church. We want to have big-picture conversations. And we have crayons and markers and Legos and stickers and all those other fun things, too. …
I don’t have data for us … but I have a sense that there an image of what APCE is based on maybe what APCE was, maybe 20 years ago. Certainly the nature of Christian of education has changed over time, and the nature of the educators has changed over time. … It’s not your APCE of 20 years ago any more. People need to check us out, find out what we have to offer and invite us to the table for conversation. … We have 90 people involved in leadership teams. That’s 90 people who are spread out everywhere, feet on the ground, who now bring all of that creativity to the planning, strategy and work of this organization. It makes us richer and deeper.
Outlook: What do you wish more Presbyterians knew about Christian education?
Inglis: There are options. We don’t have to do things the way we’ve always done them, [just] because we can’t figure out another way to do it. I wish more Presbyterians knew that there were technological ways to do Christian education. I wish more Presbyterians accessed online resources. I wish more Presbyterians understood that Christian education isn’t just about children, isn’t just about Sunday school – it’s about faith formation in the home, in the car, at the playground, in the school. It’s the work of milestones ministries. It’s being where the people are. I think sometimes we have that image we’ve always had of Christian education equals Sunday school. Well, it certainly does – but it’s the post-modern, it’s the both/and; it’s not the either/or anymore. I’m not suggesting that we throw out tradition, but I’m suggesting that what I wish more Presbyterians knew about is the … breadth of resources that are available now for a variety of ways to do Christian education and a variety of settings. And that they access the educators in their area to help them figure that out.