Does having a Christian educator on church staff matter anymore? Research says “yes”!
One of the alarming trends I see in churches today is the downsizing of church staff, which unfortunately often includes the Minister of Education/Christian education director position. While it may seem to make sense to reduce staff by eliminating this time-honored position, is that a truly wise decision? I think not. And I can prove it.
I served two churches for almost 20 years as Minister of Christian Education, and I can point to ways my role contributed to the growth of the Sunday School, and to the spiritual growth of its members and guests. But don’t just take my word for it. What are surveys telling us these days?
Here is something for us to consider from the journal Christian Century, and the results of a survey of churches of all sizes and denominations. The question being asked was, “Does it make a difference whether or not a church has a Christian education director? The results may surprise you. Here’s the answer that came through the survey:
No matter the size, those churches that have a paid Christian educator reported more consistency in attendance, a wider range of learning opportunities and curricular resources. So size does not matter—but having a Christian educator does.
We aren’t prioritizing Christian formation when…that person changes from year to year. How can we ever hope to develop a consistent foundation of the biblical story or congregational plan for education? We must press our congregations to take time to discuss and then discern what the Christian formation mission is for their particular congregation. Only then can they choose curricular resources that support that ministry. It is not a task to be taken lightly (Christian Century, Feb. 19, 2014).
In another even more telling research project conducted by a doctoral candidate at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, biblical illiteracy was examined. Participants were given a basic Bible knowledge survey, and their scores were compared to the size of the church’s Sunday School, the tenure of the member, and the frequency of Sunday School attendance on the part of the member. Here, in a nutshell, is the conclusion of the researcher after examining the results of a Bible knowledge survey among churches up to 350 in Sunday School attendance: there are many benefits of having a Christian education leader on church staff:
There was a significant relationship between Bible scores and whether congregations surveyed had a person in charge of the education program…This research study has identified the importance of congregations having an educational director. By identifying educational directors as a significant variable in relation to test scores, congregations would want to place gifted and qualified individuals in leadership roles overseeing the education program…The bottom line is that the local church needs to set aside specific resources to educate and train individuals in the educational administrative positions in the church (Christian Education Journal, Series 3, Vol. 10, No. 1, 2013).
Christian educators who serve churches of all sizes can add value by properly enlisting volunteer leaders, scheduling training opportunities for group leaders, evaluating the effectiveness of teaching, making recommendations for improving the quality of the church’s Bible teaching ministry, guiding the choice of curriculum, and providing an organized approach to studying God’s Word in age-appropriate groups. In smaller churches, the role of Christian educator could be assumed by a lay leader such as a Sunday School Director. In medium and large churches, a Minister of Education is often sought out to fill this role. Today, the Minister of Education position may be called “Grow Pastor” or “Discipleship Pastor,” but whatever the term being used, the function is generally the same.
Can churches afford to have a Christian educator? My question is, “Can they afford not to have one?”
Ken Braddy is manager of Lifeway’s ongoing Bible studies. He leads a weekly Bible study group at his church, and blogs daily about Sunday School at kenbraddy.com.