Published by B&H Academic on July 1, 2020
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The Educational Ministry of the Church, 2nd Edition is a treasure-trove of resources for those involved in Christian education within the context of the local church. This second edition, edited by J. Jonathan Kim, updates Charles A. Tidwell’s milestone contribution to the field of Christian education, summarizing changes in the field since its last edit in 1996 and introducing the next generation of church leaders to various methods of educational administration.
Every church that I’ve ever worked in has struggled with its educational ministry. There’s a loose idea that we should be teaching, a general idea of how to teach, but rarely anything that coheres into a model of teaching that encompasses nursery to senior citizens. The Educational Ministry of a Church is the comprehensive guide to solve all those problems.
Constructed like a textbook, The Educational Ministry of a Church is great for classroom or boardroom use. It can be used to create a new ministry from scratch, to realign ministries in existing churches, or help develop written standards and policies. Particularly in small churches, the educational work is piecemeal, put together by volunteers on a shoe-string budget. Other times, educational philosophies are holdovers from a bygone time that worked well then, but don’t fit the church’s current context. Volunteers are doing their best, but a lack of time or education or training keeps the church from operating at full potential. This is the book they need. Whether your church is ten people or ten thousand people, there’s something you can learn.
The opening chapters discuss the philosophical and biblical foundations of church ministry. How did the early church educate? How has Christian education worked throughout church history? How should the church engage learners? These are important questions, particularly as studies are showing that Christians are increasingly educationally disconnected from their faith life.
DeVargas, in particular, pens a wonderful chapter on meeting the needs of different groups of people. People will attend churches where they feel comfortable and where their needs are being met. Families with children, in particular, are looking for good children’s ministries where they know their kids will have good mentors and good community.
The second part of the book outlines the skeletal structure of educational ministry, showing how it embeds itself into every part of the church. Even music ministry should be seen as educational, as participants grow spiritually as well as in their musical art. This section in particular addresses a number of practical questions, such as how to develop a small group or choose curriculum. It addresses concerns of space: how to use the facility, how to move outside the facility, and so on.
Part three is about leadership—both lay level and clergy. Many churches have only one paid member on staff: the pastor. This makes developing a robust volunteer program a necessity for any successful ministry. (It also follows the biblical mandate of pastors to equip the saints!). This section covers spiritual concerns and practical concerns, from how to vet a potential volunteer to professional background checks to offering spiritual guidance.
The final part addresses how to grow as a leader and how to provide your staff and learners with a firm vision and appropriate resources. There are even checklists and graphs to help facilitate this.
Overall, The Educational Ministry of a Church is going to be a mainstay on my pastoral shelf until there’s a new edition. Whether you are just starting a church or you’re leading an establishing congregation, this book will help you take your community deeper into discipleship.