What Makes Education Christian?

This blogpost is in response to an assigned reading, “What Makes Education Christian” by James Riley Estep, Jr. from the 2008 book A Theology for Christian Education.

How would you have defined Christian education prior to reading this chapter?

            Before reading this chapter, I would likely have not really defined Christian education. My first thought was church-run schools that I have seen which basically added some Bible classes to a regular curriculum. I certainly wouldn’t have thought of Christian education in terms of discipleship. Primarily my thoughts go to content delivery.

What about now?

            Now I see Christian education as a form of discipleship not limited to “Christian schools” but a part of the Spiritual formation of all the members of the church. While it seems likely that this book was written for those who run Christian schools, there are principles that apply to the church. What we teach is important, therefore, how we teach it is important. We do not have time to waste on junk content and moral lessons.

Which do you value more or know better: theology or the social sciences? Why?

            Obviously, I know theology better as it was the subject of my bachelor’s degree. My program contained very little in the social sciences. While things learned from the social sciences may prove to be valuable tools, theology is how we learn about God and our place within His creation.

On a scale of 1 to 5, how well do you currently fulfill the above stated practical implications?

            Using Estep’s practical implications from the article, I would have to rate myself a “1”. As someone who is neither an educator (in the academic sense) nor a curriculum developer, I have never engaged with educational theory.

What areas of improvement did this chapter evoke for you?

            I can see the value that some other tools might bring to Christian education. Knowing for instance, what is normal for a stage of life enables one to more effectively engage that group with theological themes. We have historically divided our Sunday School classes by grade and stage of life. We do not seem to account for varying spiritual maturity levels among believers of the same age group. Sometimes a teenager can be more mature in her faith than a senior citizen who is a new believer. I feel as if understanding both the life stage and social background of an individual as well as their level of spiritual maturity, which can vary widely would be the key to developing an educational program for each one. This really requires more one on one discipleship.