The Different Genre of Christian Education
D. A. Lonergan
Why are we losing our Middle and High School students, especially males? This question permeates many Christian Education meetings. After over 30 years of experience as a Christian Ed teacher I have discovered there is a basic flaw in our concepts. I have sat in many meetings with teachers complaining that the students expect to be entertained. My immediate reaction was to think—isn't that what Jesus did? Jesus taught by signs and parables. How can we do less?
I recently read David Murrow's book, How Women Help Men Find God. Murrow has a theory as to why we lose students from middle and high school, especially boys. He states that our traditional style of education does not work when we are trying to get the students to Know God. Specifically he mentions our classroom style of teaching where students are seated and expected to read, regurgitate and share their feelings. Hello...does this sound threatening to you? When I first became involved in small groups as an adult we had to follow the same pattern. The leader or facilitator of the group would go around the room asking us to read certain passages and then share our thoughts—I was a female adult and I hated it! When Murrow brought this style to my attention I thought wow, how much more intimidating for a middle or high school teen! Murrow's corrective suggestions include expanding the kinetic high energy activity time and cutting the discussion time. He suggests using props and bringing the scriptures to life. When possible male students should go with males and females with females.
I became excited when I read his suggestions and though I realize the males with males may not work out because of the lack of volunteers I also became hopeful about the prospects of enlivening our programs. Perhaps one of the first things we should consider is changing the name from Sunday School to something else perhaps to... “Disciple Training”. Many teens, male or female, are familiar with “training” for the big game or competition. Training has an active connotation while School has a passive connotation.
There is no doubt that there is no way to please everyone but there is also no reason to not try something out of the box. We should not continue to pursue the classic classroom style just because this is the way we have always done it. In scripture we are told the people followed Jesus because He taught like no other. They followed because of the signs and stories, they stayed because they came to Know God.