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Christian educators organization offers support, advocacy

 


Christian educators organization offers support, advocacy

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Kathy L. Gilbert

The Rev. Grace Imathiu greets students after one of her Bible studies.
Oct. 26, 2004

By Kathy L. Gilbert*

NEW ORLEANS (UMNS) — Are there any teachers in your church who are passionate and committed but have never had any formal training?

Christian educators are those "grassroots workers" who are helping churches grow but often they are left to lead without any formal training, according to Chris Jackson, president of the Christian Educators Fellowship board of directors.

More than 700 Christian educators met Oct. 14-18 in New Orleans for the fellowship’s national conference to network and build relationships with others from around the United States.

The need for trained Christian educators is "bubbling to the surface" as churches start to understand the need to concentrate on Sunday school, noted Corinne Van Buren, a fellowship director.

"From what I hear through seminaries and the United Methodist Publishing House, churches are becoming more aware that Sunday school is needing the attention that perhaps it hasn’t had in the last few years," she said. "So the need for people to be trained and feel supported in the teaching learning ministries of the church is bubbling to the surface again."

The Christian Educators Fellowship is an organization that will help "brand new" Christian educators and those who have been teaching for 20 years, Jackson pointed out.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Kathy L. Gilbert

The Louisiana Christian Educators Fellowship Children�s Choir participated in the Saturday worship service.
"One of the things we are doing now is trying to meet the needs of those brand-new Christian educators who may have been in public school education in their local communities, or social workers that have felt a call to get involved in their local church," he said. "They are coming to Christian education with a lot of passion and commitment but not a lot of formal education."

The fellowship’s mission is to nurture, support, challenge and advocate for any person with responsibility for fostering discipleship through Christian education, he explained. The fellowship meets every two years and has recently "crossed a new barrier" by increasing its membership to 1,003 educators.

"The Christian Educators Fellowship was founded in 1968, (and) we were the first organization to establish a relationship with the new United Methodist Church," he said. "Our first conference was held right here in New Orleans in this same hotel. We want to be able to continue into the future with that close relationship with the church."

A large number of participants in this conference were students from seminaries and United Methodist-related schools as well as many ethnic minorities and members of Pan-Methodist churches. Their presence helped make the conference’s theme, "Reflecting the Face of God," really show the church’s diversity, Jackson added.

A seminar introduced before the conference, "PEP: Professional Education Preparation," covered the basic competencies involved in the responsibilities and tasks of a Christian education position. "We hope to offer this seminar in other settings throughout the year," Van Buren said.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Kathy L. Gilbert

The Broadmoor United Methodist Church liturgical dancers shared during the Saturday worship service.
By attending a seminar such as PEP, Jackson hopes to help those new to Christian education go on to more extensive training, such as certification courses offered by the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry or courses taught in a United Methodist seminary or college.

For Karli Pidgeon, a second-year student at United Methodist-related Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, the conference was a "wealth of information."

"The worship services have been phenomenal, and I have really had the freedom to network with other Christian educators," she said.

Each day featured a morning Bible study lead by the Rev. Grace Imathiu, assistant director of development at Kenya Methodist University.

"I am delighted with the presence of so many students this year," said Peggy Eshelman of the Missouri Annual (regional) Conference. "The Bible study with Grace has been a highlight of the conference for me. It has been done with such care, and the power of something done so carefully honors the Scriptures."

Sherrie Randall, a student at Pfeiffer University, Misenheimer, N.C., called the conference was "a great opportunity to gain the experience of older, more experience Christian educators." The workshops "gave me new ideas and reinforced what I am learning in school."

In addition to Fleming and Imathiu, other conference leaders were the Rev. Jeremy Bassett, Church of the Servant, Oklahoma Annual Conference; the Rev. Carol Cotton Winn and the Rev. John Winn, directors of Spiritual Formation, Louisiana Annual Conference; the Rev. Victor McCullough, pastor of the historic Mount Zion United Methodist Church, New Orleans; and the Rev. Deborah Kaye Wallace-Padgett, Prestonsburg (Ky.) District superintendent. Jorge A. Lockward, a native of the Dominican Republic and Global Praise Program coordinator for the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, served as music director.

The 2006 Christian Educators Fellowship conference will be held in Lake Junaluska, N.C. For more information about the fellowship, contact Corinne Van Buren at P.O. Box 24930, Nashville, Tenn., 37202; (866) 629-3113; or e-mail cef@cefumc.org.

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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