Tag Archives: Michael Lawson

Defining Methodologies in Christian Education

Two of my favorite professors, Drs. Glenn Kreider and Mike Lawson, have impressed upon me the importance of defining terms. When you have uncertainty as to what you mean, then others will too. Therefore, I want to talk about the five methodologies in Christian education and what I mean by them.

Why would I want to do something as dull as that?

For one, because I want to be clear in communication. Two, as I work through this idea, this process will help me solidify my own thinking and distinguish it from other lines of thought. Three, as I think through the implications of how to apply it in various settings, it will help that process the more precisely I can identify the methodologies themselves. Four, I realize that I conceive of these definitions in their ideal sense, recognizing that when you take institutional realities and sin nature into account, distortion occurs.

My caveat: these working understandings may change as I gather more information and incorporate it.

  1. Communication and rhetoric: strategies for persuading others for behavioral change. This involves a good faith transaction on the part of the hearer and the speaker, where the hearer acts in good faith to assume the speaker has something useful to say, and the speaker acts in good faith that the hearer will give consideration to the words of the speaker. These fall under the broader term of dialectics.
  2. Leadership and management: strategies for organizing people and processes for the purpose of creating an meaningful change, or resisting change, in the environment. Leadership involves the people side while management tends to involve the process side (although it’s difficult to draw a hard line between the two). These fall under the broader term of administration.
  3. Teaching and learning: strategies for shaping the mind (knowledge, values, and will) of the individual. Teaching refers to the acts and strategies of the teacher while learning refers to the acts and strategies of the student. These fall under the broader term of education.
  4. Policy and evaluation: strategies for developing and implementing operational principles and determining the effectiveness of those principles. These fall under the broader term of governance.
  5. Research and modeling: strategies for gathering information, and for predicting outcomes based upon that information. Recognize that specific research methodology varies by field, even though the general strategies remain the same; natural science research looks different than social science research, even though both generally employ the scientific method of hypothesis, testing, conclusion.

Parents, your children use these strategies when encountering the world, and you need to encourage and cultivate them. Churches, consider how you might use these to organize your volunteers, to structure your ministerial strategies, and to train the people in your church. Teachers, recognize these as the primary drives of your students and teach them how to harness these drives in order achieve academic success.

May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts help others to be acceptable in God’s sight.

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Defining Christian Education

While having a discussion with someone about the differences between the leadership degree and Christian education degree at Dallas Theological Seminary, they made the comment that (paraphrased) people who want to teach Sunday school or lead children’s ministries should choose Christian education (with the implication that anyone else should choose leadership). I have this discussion often, unfortunately. This common misconception plagues us (particularly in protestant evangelical circles) because it shows we really don’t understand Christian education. Today, lets try to remedy some of that by giving a couple of definitions.

Definition #1: In the interest of representing him well, I need to note that I gleaned this particular information from Dr. Mike Lawson, former chair of the Christian Education department at DTS, from several conversations with him and his students. He answers this problem by defining a Christian and defining education, boiling the essence of the definition into a core issue or phrase. Given our conversations, I suspect the root of his Christian education philosophy comes from Deuteronomy 6.

  • He describes a Christian as one who loves God through Jesus. Scriptural support comes from John 14:6 (I am the way…), Matthew 22:37 (love the lord your God…), and 1 Corinthians 15 (the definition of the Gospel).
  • He describes education as teaching which occurs at all times any by any means. I know that he recognizes education is more than teaching, but includes learning, curriculum, programs, and the environment, to name a few issues. However, at it’s essence, and when it comes to the actions and responsibility of the teacher, teaching is the main focus. Scriptural support comes from Deuteronomy 6, and particularly verses 6 through 9.

Therefore, one can define Christian education as “Teaching others to love God, through Jesus, by any means and at all times.”

Definition #2: Without disagreeing with a man who has forgotten more than I will ever know about Christian education, I follow his lead but take a slightly broader definition of Christian education. Deliberately relying on not only my understanding of the Bible, but also a broader theological base, I come up with the following:

  • There is a God.
  • God reveals Himself through creation (the universe), Christ, and canon (scripture).
  • We respond to that revelation, Christ being the highest revelation of God.
  • The appropriate response to God’s revelation is to trust and accept that revelation, and then to alter our behavior, values and beliefs accordingly.

Therefore, I define Christian education as, “Teaching others to respond appropriately to God’s revelation.

To tip my hand, I do not assume that everyone (namely the students) within Christian education are actually Christian, and so I believe that Christian education retains an evangelistic mission. I, in part, derive this from Deuteronomy 4, where God gives the reasons for giving the law in the first place (to make you wise and to bring Him glory). I believe that if Christians educate well, that educational excellence will draw people in to marvel at the God we serve. I believe we can and should promote and propagate the gospel through excellence in education.

Christian education: more than teaching Sunday school, however you define it.

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