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The Daily Voice
Jan 25

Written by: Different Voice
1/25/2010 7:00 AM  RssIcon

A few weeks ago, I was asked by a long-time Christian educator what trends were emerging in Christian education. Little did he know that trend-watching is a subject I took a significant interest in many years ago, so I was more than happy to respond with a list of some of the trends I am watching or expecting to develop. Each of the ten trends below has implications for faith formation in your congregation, so I encourage you to take this list and discuss it with your ministry boards and staff.  In truth, some of these trends have been around for several years now, I'd say, but they are beginning to move from the larger congregations to the mid-sized and smaller churches. 

After you read my list, post a comment and tell me about the Christian education trends you are noticing in your corner of the world. Agree or disagree, I'd love to hear your opinion! (I'll run a Part 2 with some additional trends based on your feedback and ideas.) 

  1. Digital downloads will become expected from curriculum publishers—both printable handouts/lesson plans as well as associated videos. Many publishers are already providing extra content online, but I believe consumers will increasingly expect to print only the pages they want to print to save money, and they'll prefer curriculum with downloadable content.
  2. Book Clubs are growing in popularity, and more small groups will focus around fiction/nonfiction books rather than small group studies. Two of the many pieces of evidence: Abingdon Press now offers a series of fiction books, and major publishers (e.g. Harper Collins) are frequently offering discussion guides online or in the back of religion books by major authors.
  3. Congregation members are increasingly participating in more than one congregation, which has all sorts of implications for the way a church does Christian education. A recent Pew Forum study found that a whopping 35% of us now claim to attend more than one congregation, with about a quarter of those folks reporting they participate in multiple faiths. Read this important study here.
  4. Relevance will only continue to grow in importance. People do not have a lot of extra time, and if something does not appear to be relevant to their lives, out it goes. A Sunday school class that doesn't get to the point is, these days, missing the point for many people.
  5. A theological shift to the margins is underway. The decline in the number and scope of denominational publishers is likely to increase, so independent publishers are going to pick up new customers looking for options. That will likely mean the more conservative (e.g. Group, Nelson) and the more liberal (LTQ, the forthcoming curriculum from will grow in popularity. But it will also mean that a growing number of niche companies will serve particular church interests. (I'll be doing an expanded article about this trend in a few weeks.)
  6. Christian educators will FINALLY start to embrace technology in a big way. I foresee a growing, and even urgent, interest in faith formation-related blogging, the development of secondary church websites devoted to formation, increased usage of sites like YouTube in the classroom, ways to use Facebook or email to extend the classroom experience, and so on.
  7. Parishioners will have a greater expectation of choice within the church. The church that appears to offer the greatest number of niche opportunities for faith development will thrive; the church that continues to offer just one option (e.g. a single adult Sunday school class) will not.
  8. I suspect we'll start to see churches advertising more "hybridized" staff positions and fewer "traditional" ones. Churches will seek out people with a broad array of gifts in faith formation, technology, music, etc. who can be involved in a variety of positions rather than individuals who specialize in children's ministry or Christian education in general. An example: the Director of Discipleship, Technology, and Communications at my own church, filled by an individual with a wide range of ministry and technical gifts. 
  9. We'll soon see enormous growth in resources, classes, and training for older adult ministry, as churches seek to find new ways to reach out to and engage an aging but still very active population.
  10. As denominational staff at local and national levels shrink, and as churches who are "on the bubble" financially look to cut staff, an opportunity will grow for persons interested in being freelance Christian educators - i.e. consultants, teacher trainers, curriculum developers, retreat leaders, website consultants, etc., who will work with a variety of churches in their state or around the country. I've personally connected with several of these folks in the past year through Facebook, and most of them left full-time ministry within a church in the past two years.

~ by Tim Gossett

Copyright ©2010 Different Voice

3 comment(s) so far...


Re: 10 Christian education trends for 2010 and beyond


Thank you for your insigtful remarks! I need to start learning about downloadables so I can offer those as options!!!

By csolomon on   1/25/2010 3:14 PM

Re: 10 Christian education trends for 2010 and beyond

Response to Tim Goddard and his very fine article on C. Education Trends
I want to start in a different place to respond – The American Protestant Church.

Since the 1970’s we have seen a startling trend of American Protestant Churches either getting bigger or smaller, the medium size church may be an endangered species. This trend, perhaps started by Willowcreek, is easily documented by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research. In the 1960’s we had approx. 6 mega-churches, those worshiping more than 2000. Today we have over 1200 churches and the number is growing. These churches (and churches modeling themselves after them) have ultimately wanted specialists to do ministry, thus they have fueled the growth of youth ministers, children ministers, worship leaders, and even church staff position in communications. (and, of course, away from a Christian Education generalist who did everything) However, many of these churches have added numbers to worship by adding worship services including adding services during the Christian Education model of “Sunday” sometimes called “Church” School hour. This make small group spiritual formation classes at another time besides Sunday morning, even more important if these churches intend to help Christians grow in their faith. Thus another trend may be less and less focus on Sunday morning as a Christian education time in large churches.

Those churches that are shrinking face a different Christian education challenge, who will teach and who will attend these classes. For example in Mississippi and Alabama over half of the United Methodist Churches, we are talking well over 1,000 churches, worship less than 50 folks on Sunday. Most of these churches are not pastured by a seminary education full-time pastor BUT by a part-time pastor often with little or no educational credentials. How these churches will do Christian education in the future is not clear, but many of them seem to be turning to prerecorded music for worship, some even use prerecorded sermons. One could argue that a trend will be the use of totally pre-recorded curriculum becoming even more fashionable with the lack of a clear “teacher” in charge.

Ed Trimmer

By etrimmer on   1/27/2010 10:38 AM

Re: 10 Christian education trends for 2010 and beyond

Our church currently uses a downloadable curriculum for our Elementary Christian Ed program. The curriculum offers many different options for differently organized Sunday School programs, and includes options for music and multi-media productions as well. Our Jr. and Sr. High programs have purchased curriculum on CD that the teacher would print out the sesson of their choice. Having the curriculum in a digital format saves space in our closets for all that curriculum that no one wants to throw away, too.

I have noticed many of our adult Christian Ed programs have been moving toward the book club idea - choosing a specific book, most often fiction, and discussing them.

As to "Hybridized" staff positions, I think the medium-to-large-sized church this is true of. Small churches, like Ed mentioned, cannot afford to even hire a full-time pastor, let alone extra program staff. Mega-churches seem to have very specified roles for thier staff - even going to the extreme of hiringroles such as a "Male Jr. High Volunteer Coordinator" and a seperate female counterpart to that position.

I personally think that relevance AND relationship is the key to Christian Education. Both are needed to entice people to keep showing up, participating, and growing and learning.

By Karina on   1/28/2010 8:39 AM
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