LOUISVILLE – Christian education cannot be separated from lifelong faith formation. That’s the direction a special committee formed by the 2016 General Assembly is taking in its work.
The 2016 General Assembly created the Special Committee to Study the Reformed Perspective of Christian Education in the 21st Century – and that committee met in conjunction with the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators national gathering in Louisville Jan. 31- Feb. 3.
The special committee was charged with several tasks, including being asked to:
- Assess the historic roles Christian education has played in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.);
- Investigate how Christian educators can serve as resources to the denomination;
- Study current trends in the employment of Christian educators by PC(USA) congregations; and
- Explore ways to create awareness of Christian education while helping the church to think critically about the role education plays in congregations.
The committee is made up of nine members appointed by the assembly co-moderators, plus two staff members – one each from the Office of the General Assembly and the Presbyterian Mission Agency. Of the nine appointed members, six work for congregations, two for seminaries and one for a hospital – all with training as educators or as pastors who also have degrees in Christian education.
On Feb. 1, the special committee held a topic forum, inviting conference participants to learn about the work of the committee and to share feedback.
Two committee members, Melissa Kirkpatrick and Becky D’Angelo Veitch, shared with APCE participants the results of their research on the current context and experience of Presbyterian Christian educators. The committee conducted research through an online survey that received 547 responses.
The trends show, they said, that the future of Christian education will include a focus on intergenerational ministry, and the training, resourcing and lifting up of a variety of educators, including certified Christian educators, pastors and committed congregational leaders.
Stephanie Fritz, a committee member and director of mission and faith formation at Central Presbyterian Church in Denver, said that “as the committee examined Christian education across the denomination, we began to notice an important shift that’s happening. Christian educators are increasingly using the language of ‘Christian formation’ over the more traditional ‘Christian education.’ Identifying this shift was important for how we went about our work together.”
The special committee’s recommendations are not yet finalized, but committee members said they are considering making recommendations that would involve the work of Presbyterian seminaries, the Presbyterian Mission Agency, the Educator Certification Committee and local congregations.
They sought feedback on their work from the APCE participants and asked specifically:
- What do you value about the certification process?
- What resources do you need?
- What would you seek out to equip you for your call in an education context?