Friday, February 11, 2011

A Core Curriculum for Christian Formation

A while back when we gathered for our annual clergy conference, Kevin Martin (dean of St. Matthew's Episcopal Cathedral in Dallas, Texas) joined us to talk about the challenges Episcopalians face with congregational development and leadership within a declining denomination in a post-Christian culture. Along the way, he briefly shared a core curriculum for Christian formation which churches do well to offer on a regular basis. The components of this core curriculum are:

  1. Scripture
  2. Christian Believing
  3. Anglican Spirituality: The Book of Common Prayer & How to Use It
  4. Spiritual Gifts for Ministry

The idea is to offer this curriculum over the course of two years.

For some, all of this may seem so basic! Why offer this regularly to adults?

There are lots of reasons, including the fact that many Episcopalians come from other Christian traditions and thus aren't all that familiar with the Episcopal/Anglican tradition. There's also the reality that, increasingly, many young adults who come to us have limited to no experience with the Church. They aren't familiar with the stories of the Bible and they don't know the content and practices of the Christian faith. Add to it that a curriculum like this can be conducted in ways that allow for small groups, and it provides a ready-made way for people to find a niche where they can come to know other people and get plugged into parish life.

Kevin also talked about the differences between two tracks for incorporating persons into the life of the church. The first track is membership, and the second track is discipleship. There can be a big difference, of course, between being a church member and being a disciple of Jesus. Important as they are, showing up for worship and participating in church activities on a regular basis is not necessarily the same as taking on the discipline of Jesus. The core curriculum for Christian formation is intended to be one way to help people move from being merely a Church member to becoming a disciple.

A question to keep in mind throughout the process is: "Where are you with Christ in your life?"

And along the way, Kevin noted, it's important to help people articulate what they need - what it would take - for them to believe.

There's a lot more to think through from Kevin over at his blog. It's called Kevin on Congregations.


plsdeacon said...

Just a quick correction. St. Matthew's Cathedral is in Dallas, not Houston.

Other than that, Dean Kevin is spot on on the need to make disciples out of members.

At my congregation, Trinity Dallas, we have a small group (ASA of 40) but we have between 15 and 20 involved in Christian Ed. in the morning. We have only one class that is split between a Bible Study (on Mark) and a catechism class (based on the Cursillo talks). It is doing quite well.

Phil Snyder

Bryan Owen said...

Thanks for the correction, Phil!

I'm glad to hear your parish is doing well with Christian education and formation. It's difficult to overemphasize how important that is!