What Happened to Christian Education?

April 04, 2019

Rev. Dr. Jim Westmoreland-Pastor Emeritus, First United Methodist Church-Gastonia, NC

I have spent the majority of my ministry as a Minister of Christian Education. Serving one
church for 17 years, and another for 32 years.
 
I have watched Methodist Colleges eliminate the Christian Education degree. In many situations,
churches were giving this area to someone without having had some training.
 
TLC is known for tender, loving care. I would like to use them as a way to remember important
characteristics of Christian Education.
 
T is for Trust.
There are not a lot of places where trust is primary. Small groups are where trust can be nurtured.
My experience has found that the curriculum is really a secondary influence. People want a place to
belong to. CE at its best is based on relationships. For this to happen it will require leaders willing
to help that to happen.
 
There are tools that can help a leader develop their group. As people develop their faith, they will
tell their story and faith journey. That’s why trust is so important.
 
L for Loving.
This is a given. Everyone wants to be loved through it may not seem that way. People know if
their leaders care about them and even have love for them. Each person has to act out loving in
ways that are comfortable to them. A word of caution is to not let your discussion groups become
therapy or counseling groups. That will lead to one person dominating your group and losing
members,
 
C for Caring.
Worship is vital to our faith journey. As I already said, small groups are the places that an
attitude of caring can be lived out. Worship is the heartbeat of our faith, however, small groups
are where our faith is developed.
 
There are many books about how to, but I am convinced that the greatest tool a leader has is their
love of Christ and their faith journey.
 
Let me share a personal example that is not for everyone in the climate we live in today. My
personality and many years in ministry have enabled me to be a hugger. The church knows that
and accepts that. There are several men and women will come for a hug following worship.
There was a woman who would stand around and wait for everyone to go by, then she would
come up and say I came by for my hug. I would take that lightly until one Sunday several years
ago. She said that hug will be the only time I will be touched until I come back to church next
week. I never leave the Sanctuary until I make sure if she is there, and that I see her.
 
Caring comes in many ways, shapes, and forms. With Safe Sanctuary policies, we need to be

mindful of protecting our members in this culture we live in. There are many ways to express
love and caring,
 
Christian Education is the way we trust, love and care for those we encounter.
 
Jesus said love God and love each other. That is our calling.
 
These characteristics can be used with all ages. The key is to find your way. We may begin by
knowing about Jesus but, C.E, I believe calls us not to just know about Jesus but to know Jesus.
 
May your journey be one of Joy and hope-filled with trust, love and caring.

Follow Jesus. Make Disciples. Transform the World.