What’s NEXT for Christian Education?

Report from 2015 NEXT Church Conference                                                                                    Fourth Presbyterian Church                                                                                                    Chicago, March 16-18

What is the NEXT Church?

It’s a movement within the PC(USA) that—in the midst of severe drops in giving, worship attendance and controversial issues like gay rights and Israel-Palestine conflict—shows that the denomination (and it’s churches) aren’t dead. But instead the PC(USA) is changing, expanding and transforming into the body of Christ that God calls it to be. Here’s how the NEXT Church expresses it on their website.

For me, what truly nourishes my heart and soul at the NEXT Church Conferences is morning and evening worship, connecting with friends and colleagues (as well as making new ones), the presentations on new ways of doing ministry/cultural trends/justice and societal issues, and workshops.

While the conference doesn’t explicitly talk about Christian Education ministry, it is faithfully educating Christians about what it means to be the body of Christ and to do God’s work in the world—to (according to this year’s theme) go “beyond our walls, our fears and ourselves” to be Christ’s hands and feet. Continue reading

Next Church Conference

On March 16, 2015, we looked at a database of Christian Educators of the 20th Century. Today we focus on emerging leaders in the church, specifically the Presbyterian Church (USA) and what they may be thinking about educational ministry and faith formation for the present and future church. The Next Church movement is a network of leaders in the PC(USA) committed to hopeful conversations and reflections on ministry that is more relational, diverse, and collaborative. They host an annual conference and regional gatherings to carry out their mission. If you want to catch this year’s annual conference that began yesterday, they are offering live streaming on their website. There are also members of our Hope4CE Facebook group in attendance this year, who will be contributing their insights via Twitter, Facebook, or through this site.

A portion of this conference is set aside to present short Ignite talks (no more than seven minutes) that detail innovative ideas on a variety of topics. One of these talks from last year, by Landon Whitsitt is linked here. It launched a site of free resources (short videos with accompanying study guides) for new member and church officer training called Theocademy. Although designed specifically to address theology and polity in the Reformed tradition, they may be useful to others beyond the PC(USA) or to “ignite” your own ideas regarding educational ministry for these groups.

I wonder how you address new member and officer training in your church or denomination.

Kathy Dawson, Associate Professor of Christian Education, Columbia Theological Seminary