The biggest challenged faced by the church is its identity of itself. Does it want to be a private clubhouse, deciding who can or cannot be a member, or does it want to be in the transformation business? Does the church want to be a mega entertainment industry hiring expensive stars to entertain people, and give the a few hours of feeling good, or does it want to do the work of Jesus, helping the blind to see clearly to walk his way out of darkness, and helping the many crippled by doubt and fear, to take up his bed and walk. What are we going to do about all of this confused thinking and mental demons, how do we cast them out? The question is what would Jesus do about some of the people in the church? The bible said, he healed them, and sent them on their way. If the church is a hospital for sinners, then where do the well people go?

Churches should consider working together to help solve some of societies needs and also to save the Church from its decline in certain communities. Churches have not changed but understanding the role of the Church in American society has stopped and is no longer carried from generation to generation. Churches must find some way to have a pipeline of information passed down intergenerational. Our seniors may not know how to work all the technological devices used in program development, but they still have the physical, intellectual and historical computer working. They know how to get things done moving around human behaviors. The Church of the 21st century will not survive without the wisdom of the religious people managers of the 20th century. We still have to sit at the feet of Socrates Plata and Aristotle for the wisdom of the world.

 

The question is, why should the church be concerned about education? Some may say, let the schools take care of the education of the children and the church should be in the business of preaching the Gospel and saving souls. Some may quote scripture and say, render unto Caesar the things, which are Caesars, and unto God, the things, which are Gods. Education is Caesars business. They are correct. However, in today’s world, education is both Caesar’s business and God’s business. This is to say that the government is in the business of educating children, but the church is also in the same business. The Black church was responsible for the record of excellence demonstrated in the school systems around the country. The strict involvement of children with reading the Bible, and memorizing Bible verses, helped them to excel in school. The Black church also promoted drama and speech opportunities for young people, and as results the students were well spoken and sought after as leaders. Integration, and mass migration out of the south brought the church north with a different set of challenges.

Churches became the political center of communities and cities. In Harlem, the Black cultural and intellectual center of Black America, private schools and community centers were owned and operated by some of the largest churches in the city. The success of many of these churches in preparing people to move up in society resulted another mass migration out of Harlem, and into the suburbs.

Many churches lost their congregations during this second migration. New members moved into the communities, but without the role models of the churches, the community began to decline. As church membership declined, so did programs for youth. The older members, who were left in the churches, did not welcome the new comers. Many churches became museums. There were inter-generational conflicts. Pastors unable to handle the conflicts found it easier to preach to a congregation of senior citizens, than to meet the challenges of the new world. Churches discontinued Sunday school and youth programs.

They locked their doors and retreated within their walls. Many pastors left the ministry defeated in how to handle this impasse. They could not fight strong members, who through a lack of information believed that they owned the churches, and had a right to say who could or could not come into the church, and which programs would or would not be part of the church.[1] Since in most traditional mainline churches, the congregation does not own the church, the governing body of the churches closed many churches and combines others. Education could have solved some of these problems. Religious education programs, as part of the church could have helped the membership to understand the ownership position, and educational programs could have been conducted to help solve some of the problems.

When some of the churches were involved in community programs, and out reach programs, there was little time for some of the conflicts.   Many of these churches were in communities with failing schools. They did not call the politicians in to discuss the problems and some solutions. The churches remained quiet, and closed it doors even tighter. Children are not the only ones who could benefit from an active religious education program. Pastors will be surprised to know that many members have little ideas about the creed, customs, disciplines and religious beliefs of their church and denomination. A great deal of church conflict occur because some people are in the wrong denomination, and are trying to change the church to fit their particular understanding of the rules of the church. Religious education program can assume the responsibility of helping members understand the difference between a Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian and a Catholic. Pentecostal members may understand why some Methodist Anthems are sung with a different musical beat. Churches involved in considering its role in education in the 21st century, are advised to consider partnering with other churches, in order to meet some of the challenges.

This is an excellent opportunity for ecumenical cooperation. Rather than one church going off and doing its own thing, several small churches could combine around the issue of children and education. Churches would then be able to work with local schools to inform them of the services available in the areas. Each church could center on a specific theme such as music, math and technology, sports, art and drama, homework assistance and academic advancement etc. The development of educational program in your church can be mutually beneficial for all concerned.

The church has already been approved to work with and serve people, so from a legal stand point; the church is ahead of the game. The biggest responsibility will come from space allocation and staffing. If you find that you are short of space, do not be afraid to use the sanctuary for classes. Children can be trained to respect the environment. Volunteers are not a good source of people to work with children. State laws have changed significantly with respect to who can or cannot work with children. All individuals who work with children must submit to background checks and have up to date medicals on file. It will be necessary for the church to start out charging a small fee to the parents. Parents, who receive assistance, can submit the bill to their agency, and the church will become part of a third party arrangement procedure. It is recommended that where possible you hire a certified teacher. This individual will have the credentials to satisfy state and legal guidelines required for the program. Initially the process will seem complicated. This is designed to protect the church and its responsibility for any and all activity that takes place in its buildings.

Working with children is not the time to consider doing missionary or rehabilitative work with individuals who may have experienced difficult times. The pastor should work with these individuals in his office, and not permit them to interact with other children.

The state will give you guidelines with respect to the procedures you must follow with respect to written records and security. In order to follow these guidelines, the church must have a paid staff. The funds collected from fees paid by the parents, should cover the expense of the program. The church may also consider underwriting a significant portion of the program.

Church programs are not the place for individuals with challenging behavior needs. It is also not the place for challenging physical needs. As tempting as it is to want to extend the church in these areas, you will have to hire additional professionally trained staff to work with individuals with challenging needs. Insurance is also an important variable.

The church always has building insurance, but if it is considering adding additional children’s programs this information must be given to your insurance company. Separate bank accounts for program operations should be set up.

It is suggested that a church considering expanding its religious program to include school children, consider working with the local colleges, universities and hospitals. They will provide you with students in training to work in your program. Nurses in hospitals must have a significant amount of time working with well children. This program is very valuable to the church, and can be responsible for increasing your congregation significantly. The pastor, who should have a background and educational credentials in religious education and ministry, would have the qualification to serve as director or supervisor until a replacement is found. Spare no financial expense in hiring a teacher. Notify the police department of the program, and it should be possible to secure volunteers from firemen and policemen.

Working in the area of education and religion is not easy, and many churches avoid it. If however, your church believes that it has the ability to bring children into the church, you will find a lively church, and a future church. Church leadership takes courage. Usually courage’s people do not enter into the field of ministry. Christianity is the religion of the gentle. However, as the major religion, we are in the fight of our life. Recent converts to Islam from Christianity, gave as their reason, that Christianity did not give clear guideline for behavior and life.

Ministers must find the voice and the courage to deal with some tough issues. Some of these are, Christian behavior in the world and relationships, Behaviors in Christian families and its relations to the spread of HIV/AIDS among Christians. How to identify Christians by their words and behaviors, and how can the church save the children in Christian families? Discuss these topics in your churches, and see who is willing to turn in their Jesus papers, and really be prepared to be born again.

The RDLC religious ministries seek to provide information to churches seeking to develop out reach programs. Plans and procedures will be available through this website and are free to be used by any church working in the field of education

 

[1] This information is based on the UMC, members do not own the church, and this is also true of most mainline traditional churches.

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