In the last post, I told you there were two things that had happened since schools became the main academic teachers and churches became the main religious teachers. Whereas Sunday schools began as a way of teaching academics and training in religious instruction....the churches and schools had since split up those responsibilities. I also discussed the first of those changes and that was that religion left the public schools.
The next change is the one that we are still smack in the middle of today, in my opinion. And here is where I'm wading into the waters known as "trouble." I'm NOT trying to step on any one's toes here....just reporting what has occurred to me.
This next change, that is still ongoing, is that learning is leaving the church. Have you noticed this? In the 70s when I was growing up, we always had an "Education Minister." He was in charge of selecting the curriculum for all the classes from the nursery to the older adults. The 9:00 Bible hour and the mid-week Bible classes were his domain. He recruited teachers, made sure they had everything they needed, and kept the Bible classes running smoothly. In fact, the church we attended when the girls were really little had an education minister.
You don't see a lot of education ministers today. Mostly because, we don't have an education mindset when it comes to Bible classes. I know this is certainly not true everywhere in America....I'm just telling you what I see from where I stand. (And I don't live in Podunkville either--so I can see quite a lot from where I stand.) In fact, we have moved from "Christian Education" to "Children's Ministry." Do you hear the really big difference of focus in those two phrases?
To me, "Christian Education" implies that my children will learn at church. "Children's Ministry" implies that my children will be ministered to at church. Do my children need to be ministered to? No, not really. However, all the seekers' kids need to be ministered to. But surely they don't need to learn. That doesn't appeal to people. People don't want their children to learn at church. They learn all week. What they want is for their children to have fun and like church. I have known families who left their church home to find another and did....because their kids liked the DVD curriculum and upbeat activities.
In fact, we really don't even call it Sunday school or Bible class anymore. Now it's "Kid's Quest" or "Journeyland" or "Kingdom Kids."
So I know this little boy who goes to a more traditional old-school church (ha ha) and he can say all the books of the Old and New Testament. He's 6. It's really not that amazing...he just goes to a church that still believes in teaching. In general, what I see is that of course our children are still learning something when they go to Bible class, but they aren't learning a sequential scope and sequence set of things that you can be sure all 5th graders will leave the children's program knowing. We aren't set up like that anymore.
It's ministry, not Christian education. Will the pendulum swing back the other way? Maybe. But maybe it doesn't even matter. I'll explain why next time.
Last post in the series found here.