Leverette, G.S. On Christian Education. S. Hamilton, MA: Center for Youth Studies.
“What is the best way to transfer information, skills, and biblical values to young people so that they may be effective Christian decision makers?” Youth ministry, spending countless hours in Bible study, catechism, youth groups, worship, and even social outings, conveys relentless streams of religious doctrine. Most youth ministers and other laity feel secure in their church’s educational programs; yet, many are still building rudderless ships. Young people are often cast into a sea of changing rules, relativism, and stormy inconsistencies, armed only with untried doctrine that has never been internalized or applied to life situations. A multitude of research supports new teaching strategies that emphasize critical thinking-the ability to “learn how to learn.” Those in youth ministry should understand and employ these techniques in educative ministries. With critical thinking skills, young people will have the tools (rudder) they need in order to successfully navigate the tough seas over which they travel.
There are four ingredients necessary to build an effective instructional, educational foundation in youth ministry: educative philosophy, appropriate strategy selection, implementation, and evaluation.
Educative Philosophy: Central to any educative philosophy is the relationship between the teacher and student. Traditional church roles delegate complete authority to the teacher; students are assumed to have a “blank chalkboard” mentality. Another philosophy for teaching adolescents is to view the teacher as a facilitator (or co-learner) and students as learners.
Strategy Selection: Appropriate strategy selection must adapt to the issue being studied; each strategy should be selected based on the learning styles of students. Learning styles are characterized by mode (visual, aural, tactile, and kinaestheic), intelligence (spatial, lingual, analytical, etc. [see Gardner’s seven intelligences]), or developmental scaffolds (cognitive, affective, and psychomotor [see Bloom’s Taxonomy]).
Implementation: Implementation phases include instructor disposition, expectations, attitude, knowledge of the teaching strategy (inductive, deductive, lecture, guided inquiry, guided imagery, cooperative small group, etc.), and content.
Evaluation: Finally, include an ingredient which is absent in most church programs-the evaluation. How does one know that the curricular and instructional objectives have been learned? Portfolio evaluation, performance based assessment, pen and pencil tests, oral recitation, dramas, plays, musical/choral arrangements, and role playing are only a few examples.
Implications: Churches should build solid educative ministries dedicated to developing effective Christian decision making skills in young people. Traditional one-way discussion is not always the most motivational method of teaching. Innovative, eclectic strategies improve the quality of classrooms and sermons, and help young people develop into critical thinkers who are more effective and knowledgeable Christians.
Glen S. Leverette
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