Models for Christian Education Ministry
Too often the way programs within the church are structured is based on
- tradition .... the way you've always done it
- imitation .... the way another church or ministry does it
- limitation .... the way the leader knows how to do it
- stipulation .... the way the leader is allowed to do it
The best way to determine the structure is let it grow out of a ministry assessment. Some of the factors to consider include:
The Students: how many people participate in the program and the age breakdown of those people
The Workers: how many workers you potentially have and what type of workers they are (i.e., leaders, teachers, helpers, etc.)
The Curriculum: how rigid you must be in using a certain curriculum and how adept leaders or teachers are at developing materials or adjusting curriculum to fit your setting
The Facilities: how many rooms you have to work with and what is the size and flexibility of each room
Your answers to the above factors will guide you in determining which model would work best in a given program. The various programs may each use a different model. You may possibly find that a combination of models may work within a program.
Some of the general models that can be used within a program or strategy are reviewed below in accordance with the factors mentioned above. Scroll down or click on the following links:
Large Group/Small Group Model
Learning Centers Model
- Traditional Model: People are divided by age groups and stay with the same teacher in the same classroom for the entire session.
Students: Structuring developmentally helps students to be able to learn according to their abilities. However, it may pose some difficulties for smaller churches that only have a small number of students in some of the age brackets and none in others. Age levels would have to be combined, making a far from ideal situation. The potential would also exist for sessions in which only one or two students show up which makes it difficult for teachers to adapt the lesson plan. Larger churches, on the other hand, may have so many students in one age level that they must develop more than one class for each age. This can become a logistical struggle.
Workers: You need a teacher for every class each week who must be committed to high preparation. This can make recruitment difficult. Many churches have resorted to scheduling workers to teach only once or twice a month. Some ask for a one month weekly commitment or per unit commitment and alternate that way. While these types of schedules may fit the workers better, it is not conducive to consistency required for the development of good relationships among teachers and students.
Curriculum: Much curriculum is already written in this format. This kind of curriculum lends itself to much control over the teaching-learning process. - List of curriculum companies
Facilities: You need a classroom or space free of distractions for each age breakdown. Depending on the size of the church, this could mean many classes.
- Large Group/Small Group Model: All ages meet together in the beginning of the session for worship and a Bible lesson. People are then divided into small discipleship groups by age.
Students: This kind of set up may be especially good for when you have age gaps. Depending on the size of the church, you may want to still do separate lessons per age division.
Workers: You only need one person to teach an actual lesson and that will not go the whole length of the session. Therefore you only need to recruit one person for a higher preparation commitment. Small group leaders, although required to do some preparation, do not prepare an actual lesson. They are more like facilitators. Although you only need one main teacher, you do need a large number of small group leaders as groups must be kept small for effective discipleship. This approach is therefore more volunteer intensive than the traditional model. You need more workers but with less preparation required.
Curriculum: Some curriculum does exist for this model like Group Publishing's Living Inside Out. The lesson must be appropriate for all ages and requires follow-up guides appropriate for small groups.
Facilities: You need a room large enough for the total group meeting and enough room or space free of distractions for all the breakout groups.
- Rotation Model: The same lesson is presented over the course of 4-5 weeks with 4-5 different learning stations. Each week students go with a group of students their age to a different theme-based room to study the lesson from a different approach.
Students: Over the course of the 4-5 weeks the students are bound to hit a week that fits their learning styles. Although each week is different, students may still get bored studying the same lesson for 4-5 weeks if there isn't a sufficient enough new emphasis.
Workers: Recruitment of workers can go beyond looking for teachers to those with special skills or interests. You need 4-5 workers per unit to each be in charge of a different station. Each week they would have a different group of students, usually of a different age level. They would therefore need to be able to adapt what they are doing to the different ages. If the groups are large, you would also need additional adults for children's classes. These workers would not be required to prepare but rather to be there to assist the main worker. The preparation for the main worker for each station could be very intensive for the first week but then lessens as weeks go on because only adjustments must be made.
Curriculum: The Rotation Model seems to be most widely used in the Lutheran, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, and United Methodist churches. Curriculum for the Rotation Model published by people in those denominations can be found at rotation.org, cstones.com, and potters-publishing.com.
Facilities: To get maximum benefit from this approach, the rooms should be decorated according to the theme which can be very time and cost intensive. Theme rooms should stay decorated for the whole unit as it would take much effort to re-do them each week. This could be a problem if the rooms are needed for different programs.
- Learning Centers: Within a given session, students rotate around to different learning stations (i.e., arts/crafts, music, drama, games, computer, storytelling, prayer, etc.). A different lesson is presented each week. Get helpful tips for thinking through the logistics of using learning centers in this worksheet: Using Learning Centers
Students: Students generally like the variety which hits on various learning styles within the same session. No more than 10-15 students should be at a given station so the larger the church, the more stations you would need.
Workers: Recruitment of workers can go beyond looking for teachers to those with special skills or interests. You need one worker for each station. If the students are younger or the group is large or the activity is involved, you will probably need additional workers at some or all of the stations. You may have students divided into groups to travel from station to station according to age. In that case, the worker would need to be able to adapt the activity to the different ages all within the same session.
Curriculum: There is not a lot of good curriculum developed for learning centers but there is some like Group's Faith Weaver Friends for children. With a little time and effort, almost any curriculum could be set up into learning centers by making each part into a station. Great care must be taken to make the connection at each of the centers to the theme or the session won't be as meaningful or impacting as a flowing lesson.
Facilities: You need different rooms or a large enough room to accommodate each of the stations far enough from each other so as not to be distracting.
- Intergenerational Model: Students are not broken down according to age at any point in the session but rather stay with their families in a group of 2-3 other families. Singles become part of a family unit.
Students: Rather than pull families apart, this approach brings them together. Singles, teens, and the elderly may struggle with the idea of being in with children, but, if done right, it can become a very positive experience for everyone and promote true body life.
Workers: This approach requires several group leaders but they are more facilitators than actual teachers. Minimal preparation is required of the group leader. Parents get involved in the nurturing process.
Curriculum: Good curriculum for this approach is hard to find.
Facilities: You need rooms large enough to accommodate 2-3 families, and enough rooms for the number of units you have.