So, if we are imagining a church that does not use the "church school" model of religious education, what does that mean for the mid and large sized churches that have paid staff to oversee such programs? The good news is, the religious educator is absolutely critical to the functioning of a religious community. Just take a look at this list of possible ways trained educators can add to the social fabric of the church by:
1. creating meaningful and varied "children time" portions of the worship experience. I mean going beyond the book and story methodology and introducing theater, music, movement, art even science experiments that engage everyone in the pews.
2. offering a wide range of parenting programs, from Deep Listening skills to how to bring spirituality back into the home. From parent-oriented book titles to potlucks, time for parents to share and learn from each other is critical to forming a sense of community.
3. championing and overseeing lifespan human relationship and sexuality programs.
4. crafting special retreats for families and singles and couples to enjoy together; retreats that meet the needs of body, mind, and spirit. For instance perhaps you will earn to weave baskets together and then have a service where each person tells how their basket resembles them in some way. Fold together experience with consciousness in new and delightful ways.
5. working with the choir director to encourage the participation of children in at least some of the musical offerings of the year.
6. serving as an expert of community services aimed at helping families through financial, health or psychological issues. Actively network with the community at large and bring in speakers who address the needs of modern families.
7. creating a dynamic after-school program for latch-key children in your church.
8. overseeing, if you have land or a yard, the installation of a garden or greenhouse where the community can start their plants or enjoy a community vegetable patch. Or find a corner of the church that can become a meditation corner and teach both the adults and children how to use this kind of sacred space. Or spearhead the installation of a labyrinth. See the space of the church with a new eye.
9. creating REALLY GREAT holiday celebrations that showcase the talents in your church across the lifespan and bring in "highlights" from your local community as well.
10. creating storytelling digital videos to share on the church web site for each day of the week. Work these stories along the lines of the Sunday worship topic.
I could go on and on and on, and I know you could make this list swell to bursting as well. Do you see the amazing possibilities and creative energy that is unleashed when your religious educator is freed to become a dynamic and integral member of the clergy? And the other plus? Since there won't be church school, the religious educator will be able to participate in the wholeness of the community, hearing the sermon, sometimes giving the sermon, engaged with the music, the joys and concerns. You'll reduce the burnout associated with this position because not only will you be folding the children back into the heart of the community, you'll also welcome back the religious education director as well. Religio means "to bind back" and I challenge you to take this step, binding our children and our adults back into the services, even as we free up the creative energy to imagine new ways of being in relationship together.
It can be an exciting and rewarding process toward a new kind of wholeness for your church community.