Here’s what I presented to my class last night:
Our culture has made a postmodern shift in the way we engage one another and in the way we assimilate information. Religious and secular communities alike have noticed this trend, and the need to address it within their own educational contexts. While both groups have begun research on this topic, neither has yet to draw any definitive conclusions. After hearing this lecture, those listening will understand the importance of helping the church begin to engage its children within a postmodern context.
Two months ago I was asked to sit in on an exploratory committee in my church to begin talking about ways we could change our structure to better align our children’s ministry to fit a postmodern society. We’ve met four times so far and the question we ask each other every time we get together (as well as the question I brought to my research on the articles in practice is): What does a postmodern shift in our culture mean for the church’s ministry to children? We have yet to discover that answer.
The Journal of Research on Christian Education says that, “Postmoderns, generally speaking, are storytellers first, believers second. There is, after all, little in the postmodern world that is certain enough to confess as absolutely true. There are, however, a multitude of stories to tell.”
For 50 plus years, we’ve been drilling into our children the do’s and don’ts of following God’s law. But do we only confess this truth to them, or do we also honestly live it out before them?
Current children’s Sunday School curriculum is designed with the cute, cartoon, clip-art feel in mind. One of the programs our church uses is called Gospel Light – which it is, light on the gospel, – as the stories are more value-driven than gospel-centered. The folder I take home each month with information about the lesson I’m to teach, holds 50 years of notes. 50 years. And we still use it because, well, it worked then. And yes, the Bible is the same today as it was 50 years ago, but the presentation methods our kids respond best to have changed, for better or for worse. Don’t we need to respect that change?
In a 2005 volume of the Journal of Teacher Education, the researchers point out how the computer and the Internet have transformed social relationships, providing children and families with new means of communicating and learning.
Postmodern views of knowledge and discovery are disrupting the up until now taken-for-granted relationship between child development knowledge and the preparation of early childhood teachers, meaning that what is being taught to teachers is not what they need to transfer knowledge to their future learners.
In order for postmodern perspectives to be incorporated into programs of teacher preparation, we have to overcome two challenges: the first, overcoming heavy dominance of developmental psychology in the classroom; the second, and perhaps more debilitating, is that there simply isn’t anything from which to teach these teachers about the use and relevance of postmodern ideas in daily classroom practice.
The Journal of Teacher Education says, “There is not a lot of information available that can assist students and teacher educators to access postmodern ideas in the context of teaching young children.”
Likewise, Research in Religious Education says, “The turn of the millennia is an exciting time for research in the field of religious education. The need for understanding how various streams of religious education are responding to a changing world is critical,” These statements effectively affirm the need, but then don’t offer any solutions for application.
Secular and Christian educators both agree that there is a need to make a change in the way we teach our children, but nobody knows what this should look like or where to begin.
One question each of us should consider in light of this is how can we work to influence change within our own churches for helping our children’s ministries take a more critical look at their methods and practice of teaching children in this postmodern age.