Equip future pastors to teach theology, Juengst says

SAN JOSE — Equipping seminary students “to go out to equip others” is critical, the Rev. Sara Covin Juengst told a group of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) seminary leaders and others gathered for the Committee on Theological Education [] (COTE) Breakfast on June 26.

“We have not placed the emphasis on how to teach theology,” she said. “I‚m talking about basic principles of good teaching that will communicate in a variety of ways the important theology, the biblical studies.”

A Christian educator since the 1950s, Juengst knows all too well the importance of energetic and exciting training. She’s spent most of her life championing the role of Christian educators and debunking the notion that “any warm body will do to teach in our Christian education programs.”

At the breakfast, held during the PC(USA)‚s 218th General Assembly, Juengst was given COTE’s Award for Excellence in Theological Education.

Among other things, COTE allocates money from the PC(USA)‚s Theological Education Fund (TEF) to support the denomination’s seminaries.

“Sara, we are honored to be here with you today to celebrate the wonderful and the inspiring work God has done through you,” said the Rev. Fran Lane-Lawrence, COTE’s chair-elect. “We appreciate your heart for theological education and the way you have shared those gifts with a community of faith throughout all the years.”

Juengst’s career has been broad and expansive and includes service as director of Christian education at Lakeside Church in Richmond, Va.; mission co-worker in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo); and director of continuing education and instructor in Christian education at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Ga.

The author and lecturer currently serves as temporary supply pastor at Lincolnton Church in Lincolnton, Ga.

During her talk Juengst noted a 1990 study that found that among the six major denominations only 21 percent of those teaching in Christian education programs had “any training whatsoever for it, either ongoing or before they started.”

“We have got to close that gap by training, equipping those who are teaching in the church to do it effectively, and to do it in a way that is exciting — because they understand and know the material themselves, are in love with it and are passing that love on,” she said.

“Why is Sunday school so boring for adults?” Juengst asked. “Because we have teachers who are not equipped.”

Juengst urged the group, made up of representatives from the various PC(USA) seminaries, presbyteries and synods, to “beef up our seminary programs‰ to include a required course on how to train teachers.

Making sure people are equipped efficiently means “providing the best training possible for those who are responsible for the work of ministry,‰ she said. It means “making sure that those who feel called by God get competent preparation for answering that call.”