International conference on Christian education held in Estonia
April 5, 2006
Bishop Oystein Olson
By United Methodist News Service
The first Northern European Conference on Christian Education drew 40 people
from Norway, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Finland, Estonia and the United States
to discuss the education, formation and recruitment of future church leaders
in Christian education.
The conference, held at the Baltic United Methodist Mission Center in Tallinn,
Estonia, March 24-26, centered on “Lifelong Christian Education Today.”
Thea Kant, conference coordinator and Christian education coordinator for
Estonia, invited participants to claim the rich Methodist heritage of disciplined
faith that has always valued education. The United Methodist Board of Global
Ministries sponsored the conference.
“Education ? especially of leaders in the church ? is one
of the ministry focuses for the Central Conference this quadrennial,” said
Bishop Oystein Olson, Nordic and Baltic Area.
“When the leadership is shaped through education and formation it will
have a strong impact on the way we function and serve, and it will enhance
the recruitment of youth and young people to be actively involved in the life
of the church,” he said.
Barbara Bruce, keynote speaker and author of the book Start
Here: Teaching and Learning with Adults, helped participants recognize the seven different
intelligences by which people learn. Her book has been translated into Estonian.
Bruce demonstrated how to use a variety of teaching
methods and styles that would allow people to become active learners. One
said, “I never knew all of these ways of learning existed. It’s
like opening a door for me.”
One session included time for sharing what each country is doing with Christian
- Lithuania reported translating 37 books,
plus 6 for Sunday school, representing a big step forward after having no
11 years ago.
- Latvia has strong after school programs, as well as camping ministries.
The biggest challenge is to have more systematic teaching with strong leaders.
They are conducting seminars twice a year to train Sunday school teachers of
children and adults.
- In Finland, the Swedish United Methodist Church formed a Board of Discipleship
and Church Growth five years ago that offers seminars, retreats and consultants
who listen, analyze and provide feedback to local churches. Of 12 churches,
only 2-3 have Sunday schools.
- In Norway, the Natural Church Development
Committee coaches churches on their purpose and mission. Alpha Courses, Walk
and the Timothy
Course provide training for leaders.
- Each of the four annual conferences
in Russia has unique teaching/learning ministries. They include a theological
and Bible school; training
seminars for Disciple Bible Study; small groups for men, women and youth; district
and international camps; student forums; Sunday schools and special projects
like Youth Peace Prayer, Footsteps, Coconut Service and World Day of Prayer.
- In Estonia, there are annual conference committees working on children’s,
youth, and lay education. They have translated children’s and teachers
books using a core curriculum written by Joy Carr and Shirley Wu. This is the
same project in which Latvia and Lithuania are involved. Each of the countries
puts their contextual stories in the curriculum. Currently, Essential
Passages for Youth is being translated for youth leaders. Confirmation material has
been written with 39 sessions using a CD.
- The Russian church in Estonia has its
own materials for five groupings in Sunday school. They have offered specialized
in language, computer,
cooking for orphaned and unchurched children, along with youth camps, Alpha
Courses and weekly youth programs.
|A UMNS photo by Corinne Van Buren
exchange information at a resource display at the Northern European
Conference on Christian Education, Tallinn, Estonia.
The United Methodist Christian Educators Fellowship
was represented at the conference by Corinne Van Buren, director. She presented
sessions on “Sunday
School ? It’s for Life,” and Internet resources.
The fellowship is exploring ways that Christian educators in the United States
can network and be in relationship with Christian education leaders in these
countries, she said. Plans began to take shape as dialog continued during the
In the closing session, strong hope was expressed that another conference
on Christian education will be held again in two years.
*Information for this story was provided by Corrine Van Buren, director of
the United Methodist Christian Educators Fellowship.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or