For 27 years, Laurie Farquharson, has served as the director of Christian Education at Wekiva Presbyterian Church in Longwood, Florida. A lifelong Presbyterian, she has been a member of Central Florida Presbytery’s commission on ministry, a General Assembly commissioner and an ordination exam reader.
This year, Farquharson is the recipient of the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators Enrich Award for Educator of the Year. This peer-nominated award is given to one Christian educator annually in recognition for the ways his or her ministry has enriched others’ lives and continues to do so.
Outlook: What some of the factors and experiences that have influenced your identity as a Christian educator?
Farquharson: I’m a cradle Presbyterian with wonderful Presbyterian parents who was blessed to be nurtured in faith at a small rural church (Madison Presbyterian Church in Madison, Virginia), where I learned that everyone of every age was crucial to the body of Christ, was loved and had a responsibility to fulfill. That was a big shaping influence. I also have been so fortunate to have wonderful colleagues who’ve helped shape my identity as an educator – from Dr. Sam Massey, who was crucial to my professional ministry beginnings, to Dr. John Dalles, with whom I’ve worked for nearly 20 years, to wonderful associate pastors, musicians and presbytery friends. And probably most critical in helping me focus my ministry were the amazing educators teaching certification classes and many, many workshops through the years – people like Drs. Freda Gardner, Mary Ann Fowlkes, Don Griggs, Rodger Nishioka and others. The Holy Spirit used all of that and a congregation I love to shape my Christian educator identity.
Outlook: Why do you think it’s important for youth and adults to participate in Christian education (CE)?
Farquharson: It’s so important for youth and adults to participate in CE because we can never stop learning and growing closer to God! Maturity in faith is just beginning at confirmation ages. It’s when we can just begin to understand seriously how we are called to be God’s helpers in bringing in the kingdom. The joy in encountering Scripture with fresh eyes as an adult is empowering. We never stop needing faith nurture and we never stop being useful to God.
Outlook: How have you witnessed CE changing?
Farquharson: CE has indeed changed a lot over the years as changes in how we communicate are changing our brains and how we learn, There’s much more focus on visual learning and interactive learning. In my ministry, there’s much more focus on adult learning, on intergenerational CE experiences and on empowerment of parents as primary faith nurturers for their children. It’s harder to get people to teach or to make longer commitments, so we have to be very creative in taking CE to people where they already are.
Outlook: What gives you hope for the future of CE?
Farquharson: What gives me hope for the future of CE is that the changes in Christ’s church are clearly of God. God is in the midst of doing something new. As always, it’s our job to figure out how we are called to participate. And Christian educators are the most creative, faithful, persistent people I know. There is faithful innovation happening everywhere. The wind of the Spirit is blowing through the church!