Christian Faith, the Bible, and Public Schools

My mother began her teaching career in the public schools in the early 1970s. Over the years, she has recounted the times when she was expected to read the Bible to students. She remembers lovingly sharing Bible stories and even praying with her elementary-aged students. However, as the years passed, those expectations changed, and by the time she retired a few years ago, she no longer read—and wonders if she would have been allowed to read—Bible stories to students.

There is no question that the role of the Bible and Christian faith in the public schools has changed dramatically over the last half century. Some of these changes have been for the better; others have been less positive. Still, it has left some wondering, “Is there a place for the Bible and Christian faith in American public schools today? And, if so, what is it?”

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WWJT

This last Saturday I was with a group from Salem Presbytery exploring what it means to be The Hopeful Church. We looked at the current state of Christian education in mainline churches, particularly the PC(USA). We talked  about how difficult it is to change the model of Sunday School with which many of us have grown up.

Then we tried an activity to break us out of our preconceived notions of what Christian Education is about. I called it WWJT, which could be translated “What Would Jesus Teach?” or “Where Would Jesus Teach?” Continue reading

All Aboard the Intergenerational Train!

In their seminal work Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584-2069, William Strauss and Neil Howe describe generations metaphorically as distinct trains carrying groups of like-minded people to stations that represent the different stages of life. For instance, today, the “Millennial” train is passing through the rising adulthood station and the “Generation X” train is passing through the midlife station. Strauss and Howe posit that each train looks different to observers as they come through each station because each generation has a distinct character.

Generation theory (and its precursors) has been around for a quarter-century now. Perhaps an older notion than that is the presumption of a “gap” between each generation that makes living together more difficult. This perception has been aided by a trend in American society toward age segregation over the last 100 years, with the youngest Americans receiving an education separate from adults, who are in the workplace, and separate from the oldest Americans, who are retired. That is a major shift from what was previously a largely agrarian society. Continue reading

Back to School

It took me by surprise this week that the schools in my region were back in session. Where had the summer gone? As teachers set up their classrooms and families purchase their school supplies for another year, what are some ways that the church can be involved in supporting this yearly transition? Continue reading

Protecting Children through Educator Certification

Having recently finished the process of becoming a Certified Christian Educator through the Presbyterian Church USA I am so appreciative of all I’ve learned and put into practice at my church, Wildwood Presbyterian Church in Grayslake, IL, as the Director of Christian Education. Each course that I completed was immediately applicable to my work as an educator and leader and the completion of the exam for certification was at the pinnacle of putting all that I learned into practice in my ministry. The exam involved designing, implementing, and evaluating an educational event within the context of my current educational ministry. I chose to lead the Christian Education Committee through a process to review and update our Child Protection Policy because we were faced with some new insurance requirements. The ten year old policy had only been updated once, seven years ago, and was long overdue for a review.

I offer the lesson plan, handouts and resource research, and the underlying educational and theological rationale essays, from my exam work for use by the Hope4CE community. Perhaps your faith community’s policy needs a review or you are interested in starting a task force to address policy issues. You are invited to glean ideas, use resources, or borrow any concepts from this design for your own project. The lesson plan file associated with this post contains an introduction to the project, lesson plan outline and details, handouts and resources, and an evaluation of my experience implementing the project. Perhaps you are just interested in what value the certification process may hold for you in your educational ministry. If so, you may want to read the rationale essays, each in it’s own file, which detail how my learning from four of the certification areas was integrated into the educational design.

May God bless your learning and teaching!

Gillmore Lesson Plan for Child Protection Policy Review

Gillmore Rationale Essay Biblical Interpretation

Gillmore Rationale Essay Human Growth and Faith Development

Gillmore Rationale Essay Religious Education Theory and Practice 

Gillmore Rationale Essay Reformed Theology

Kathy Gillmore
Director of Christian Education
Wildwood Presbyterian Church

Vacation Bible School-Yesterday and Today

It’s that time of year again when churches around the country hold Vacation Bible Schools in various formats. For a week or more the church is turned into a biblical marketplace or an underwater reef or a host of other locales to combine Scripture, music, crafts, and games to communicate the Gospel to children and others.

But where did this tradition begin? It seems that the first recorded summer Bible school in the United States was instituted by Mrs. Walker Aylette Hawes in 1898 in conjunction with Epiphany Baptist Church on New York City’s east side. Mrs. Hawes noticed how many immigrant children were roaming the streets in the summer, so she searched for a rented facility where she could begin a six-week summer school. The only available facility was a saloon and thus VBS was born in a bar. Continue reading

Stepping Stones in Faith

One Church’s Process to Identify the Basic Milestones on the Journey of Faith…

Over twenty years ago in my early days as Minister of Education at Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, GA we began to talk together about what were the most important concepts to teach our children, youth and adults. We needed a plan and a goal. So we formed a committee! But what a gift this committee became to me and our ministry together. For as we met over more than a year and a half we began to solidify what became the foundational book of our Christian Education at Peachtree – Stepping Stones on the Journey of Faith. I don’t remember the term milestones at that point in time but our work does seem to relate to the emphasis that is now found in many churches in providing milestones for the journey of faith.

As we got started I did some research to see if there was a document in existence that listed what the important concepts of our faith were and at what age they should be taught. I remember having a conversation with Liz McWhorter at the PC(USA) national offices who told me they had always talked about creating something like this but never had that she knew of. She challenged me to create it. So we began our work together at ground zero and it was well worth it.

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