3 Stars Out Of 5
CE with Excellence
October 24, 2013
At our church, we thankfully have a robust and growing Christian Education program (hereafter as CE) that I am privileged to help lead. When Kregel first alerted me to this book, I became excited because I wanted to see what I could learn from it to implement so CE could become even better. The purpose of this blog is to provide a short review of this resource.
The main point of this book is summed up quite well in the foreword of the book, "Any undertaking by the body of Christ for the cause of Christ should be done with excellence" (9). I couldn't agree more! When business professionals go to work, they know they need to do their work with excellence; yet, some of these same people are very haphazard about how they serve in church and, at times, never concerned with the quality of what is done but only the "heart" of who does it. We have probably all heard that solo in church that was sung poorly and then people said, "Well, at least they have a good heart." I have a problem with that kind of idea; the problem is that it is unbiblical. Paul tells the Corinthians to do everything to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31) and that includes doing everything our best. And this book is a good reminder that Sunday school, or CE, needs to be done with excellence. I truly enjoy this emphasis in this book and agree that in every aspect of Sunday school, we need to consider how to serve with excellence: in teacher training, in teaching, in small congregations, in various settings, and so forth. If excellence is our standard, that should change how we plan, execute, and review what we do.
One emphasis, however, of this book that I did not find helpful is the association of success in Sunday school ministries with quantitative growth, or, if you have more people coming, then the Sunday school must be successful. In ch. 16 by Steve R. Parr, he lists several churches that have Sunday schools that excel; the first metric of success for the first church he lists is their growth in attendance (190). But, I wonder if that is always the case, or even usually the case. Attendance grows and diminishes for a variety of reasons - the time of the year, the content, the requirements of the courses, the personal compatibility of the teacher(s) with the students, etc. - and to make the number of attendees one of the first metrics for success is simplistic, and, well, unbiblical. Jesus was successful (Philippians 2:5-11) but he didn't worry about numbers, even when almost everyone left him (e.g. John 6:66-71). We all have to guard against this temptation to think that numerical growth equals success because that thought is not always the case, especially for Jesus.
On a more positive note, however, I learned numerous lessons from this book that I plan to apply to CE, specifically regarding teacher training; in this way, some of the chapters are quite helpful (e.g. ch. 15). This book is worthy of purchase for this value and also for the emphasis on excellence.