Christian educators gather online to discuss curricula in presbyteries, churches and homes
by Beth Waltemath | Presbyterian News Service
DECATUR, Georgia — “Are we innkeepers? Are we family? Are we guardians?”
Presbyterian educators recently intoned these questions in the opening of a virtual session addressing the changing modalities of Christian formation and support networks within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
“Are we interpreters? Are we tour guides? Are we first responders?” The litany of metaphors foreshadowed a frank discussion of the many types of people and programs in charge of formation in today’s worshiping communities.
On Wednesday, the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation and the Office of Christian Formation of the Presbyterian Mission Agency hosted an event for Christian educators around the country. For 20 years, the event has been marketed to educators within the network of Presbyterians Organized in Nurture and Teaching (POINT) and focused on all the curricula and books published by Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. This year, the training was shortened from three hours to 90 minutes and focused only on new publications.
The Presbyterian Publishing Corporation debuted its Spanish and Korean resources first, noting the intentional expansion of curriculum for children, adults and ordered ministry. The Rev. Marissa Galván-Valle, Spanish Resource Editor, introduced liturgical aids, “Ayudas litúrgicas,” based on the weekly lectionary written by Spanish-speaking pastors and leaders. “They’re very concise and precise,” she said, noting the aids are also bilingual and accessible to English-speaking congregations. Presbyterian Publishing Corporation also offers free Spanish-language Christian education resources packaged in sets of one to four sessions. Topics focus on the Bible or on Christian practices like visiting the sick.
Bible Basic Infographics, a favorite of educators because they appeal to the visual learner and can be printed and hung in a dedicated classroom, viewed on a tablet or projected on a wall in a multipurpose space, will soon be available in Spanish.
Dr. Sunkyoo Park, Korean Resource Editor, presented a complete catalog of original Korean language resources. Presbyterian Publishing Corporation sources material from Korean-speaking writers rather than relying too heavily on past translations of English resources. Highlights of this year’s offering include a 12-lesson small group study called “Kingdom Life,” a training manual for deacons and elders, as well as collections of devotionals written by 44 Korean pastors.
A popular annual resource for Korean churches, “Family Community” is being produced as a bilingual resource with the help of a bilingual congregation in Indiana in hopes that Korean and English churches in partnership can use the study together.
While all the resources are already available to order online through the PC(USA) Store, the new resource catalog is “fresh off the press,” according to the Rev. David Maxwell, Vice President for Curriculum and Church Resources. It will be available at the Association of Partners in Christian Education (APCE) conference next week in Birmingham, Alabama, and sent via mail in the week to come. “On the English-language curriculum side, we are working on two ongoing curriculum,” said Maxwell, who introduced the topics for a second year of the “Follow Me” curriculum and four new units of “Growing in God’s Love,” a curriculum for children ages 5–10 based on the popular story Bible edited by Carol A. Wehrheim and Elizabeth F. Caldwell. Meg Rift, Children’s Editor, described “Growing in God’s Love” in its third and final year as a “slowed down curriculum” rooted in wondering questions and open conversation around the 148 Bible stories covered in the units.
The “Follow Me” series has an extensive digital resource library on the web. Maxwell noted its flexible use “whether you have a full-blown Christian education program, or just use this to preach a sermon series, access the children’s bulletins or need a discussion guide for an adult group that can be self-led.” Rift pointed out that the “Follow Me” Bible infographics are useful resources for any classroom “that can engage children of all ages” and universal enough to be used with any curricula or lesson. On the web, Rift has added bonus materials such as a media kit, overviews of the Scripture passages and a catalog of illustrated children’s books that are referenced in the curriculum.
Rift introduced four new children’s titles from Flyaway Books on topics such as grieving a loved one or showing sensitivity to families who are housing insecure. Amy-Jill Levine and Sandy Eisenberg Sasso have added to their illustrated tales based on popular stories told by Jesus with “The Good for Nothing Tree” based on the tale of the cursed fig tree.
Locating and selecting the right curriculum can be a challenge, so the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation developed a “Growing Faith Resources” YouTube channel addressing how to locate and use the various curricula of the PC(USA). The channel also includes conversation starter videos for each session of the adult “Follow Me” curriculum.
Maxwell regretted that budget constraints within the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, the only agency of the PC(USA) that relies solely on sales profits, necessitated the elimination of a designated staff coordinator for POINT and curriculum training in late 2022. Rift presented a timeline of the curriculum developed with the help of POINT members and led the group in a litany to celebrate over 20 years of the POINT network. Rift promised to continue POINT’s regular email newsletter highlighting curricula and resources published by the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation under the title of “Growing Faith Resources,” and Stephanie Fritz, coordinator for Christian Formation in the Presbyterian Mission Agency, emphasized the need for “multiple entry points” to network and reach communities of formation. The Office of Christian Formation will debut virtual gatherings on a planned topic offered twice hoping participants will choose times convenient for them as part-time or full-time staff or volunteer educators. On Feb. 9 at 1 p.m. Eastern Time and Feb. 28 at 8 p.m. Eastern Time, this gathering will dedicate 30 minutes to the topic of intergenerational ministry and allow 30 minutes for more general support and discussion.
At the Jan. 18 event, participants split into four groups to offer feedback on new ideas for resources and networking that support faith formation in the post-pandemic church and among families at home. Another POINT training will be held in person at APCE on Wednesday, January 25, at 9:30 a.m. Central Time in Birmingham. Fritz, Rift and Maxwell hope to continue the conversation about the future of the POINT network in that space.
“In the Presbyterian Mission Agency, we have a word every year,” Fritz said as she addressed the whole group of participants and noted that “emerge” is this year’s word. “We’re learning new ways to take us into the future. What emerging ways can we network Christian educators and faith formation leaders? What are the new ways in which we can reach out to new worshiping communities; our smaller churches; our racial, ethnic and new immigrant communities; and all of the different expressions of church that are in our denomination now?”
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Categories: Christian Formation, Curriculum, Partner Associations
Tags: amy-jill levine, APCE, association of partners in christian education, Ayudas litúrgicas, carol a. wehrheim, Dr. Sunkyoo Park, elizabeth caldwell, family & community, flyaway books, follow me, growing faith resources, growing in god's love, kingdom life, meg rift, office of christian formation, point, Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, Presbyterians Organized in Nurture and Teaching, rev. david maxwell, Rev. Marissa Galván-Valle, sandy eisenberg sasso, stephanie fritz, the good for nothing tree
Ministries: Office of Christian Formation, Partner Associations