by Jennie Langham
I’ve been thinking a lot about Christian education and Christian educators recently. I’m retired, but I haven’t retired my mind and several things have converged to push my mind into overdrive. Observing in a children’s church school class, being introduced as a new member at a Sunday morning service, a constant hearing of the word “change” and the reading of a delightful article covering the latest gathering of the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators (APSE) by educator cheerleader, Jack Haberer, have driven me to put thoughts to paper.
When I joined my new church home, the pastor was most gracious in my introduction to the congregation. He said some very nice things, welcomed me heartily and concluded with “she’s a Christian educator, a career that is becoming extinct.” Oops! Those probably were not his exact words, but they sure were his exact meaning. And, guess what! I am finding it to be a statement that nails it as it is. Oh, sure there are persons who may be filling a space on the church staff, but are they really Christian educators?
All this thinking took me back to 1976 (yes, I’m an antique), the year my husband died. The pastor of our church at that time was as much into Christian education as I was. I proposed that we use memorial funds for a Christian education workshop and invite all those in the area who were involved in C.E. That wonderful young pastor agreed and we went “for the gold.”
We invited Don Griggs who at that time was the educators’ educator. He responded that he would lead us because he had never been asked to serve as part of a memorial before. Don was a very busy man, and requested that his wife Pat attend with him. The memorial fund did not completely cover expenses so each participating church paid a small registration fee. It was a glorious weekend. Many who wanted to learn attended Saturday. They wanted to know who they were teaching, what they were teaching and how to teach those they were teaching.
Don Griggs was a prolific writer. Google him, find out for yourself. In 2003 he revised his book, “Teaching Teachers to Teach.” It is now titled, “Teaching Today’s Teachers to Teach.” I ordered two copies. I am praying they will be put to use.
Don Griggs acknowledges the fact of change. Debbie Hough, ACPE’s “Educator of the Year” acknowledges change. Debbie encourages us to do more even with less. The alternative is not an option. If you have not read the March 3, 2014 issue of the Outlook where she is featured, please get a copy. Urge officers, pastors and presbytery officials to plan intentionally, recruit well and make teaching today’s teachers to teach a priority.
Yes, you may convince me that things have changed, but I respond with, “Needs haven’t.” The need to know who we are and to whom we belong and to be able to convey our story, our long history as God’s covenant people, to give and receive hope and peace in a climate of loving relationships has not changed. I’m in there for the long haul. How about you?
JENNIE LANGHAM is a “been there, done that” PC(USA) ruling elder and a retired certified Christian educator living in New Orleans.