I am pleased to be sharing our third “Mini-theme” issue of the Christian Education Journal with our readers. Along with our regular articles, this issue has a collection of seven articles focused on educational ministry with and for those beyond the age of 55.
Demographic realities provide one component of the rationale for the choice of the theme for the current issue of the Christian Education Journal. Consider that more than 70% of those age 65 and older say that religion is very important in their lives, an additional 19% say religion is fairly important while only 9% say religion is not important at all. By contrast, less than half of those between the ages of 18 and 29 say that religion is very important and 20% say it is not important at all (Newport, 2006). This attitudinal variance between young adults and older adults has been consistent for decades of Gallup polling (Moberg, 1997). Older adults value the spiritual dimension of their lives.
Aging is a gracious gift given by God to cause us to ask about and work on the real issues of life. The Bible presents three main themes on aging. Achieving old age is a Divine Tribute. People in the last half of life are to be honored and respected. Growing older brings about Definite Testing along with blessing. Adults in the last third of their lives can glorify God uniquely. New understandings and spiritual depth can be developed. The process of aging well can be a Distinctive Triumph. How we see the issue of ministry with older adults depends largely on our vision of the old. In a culture striving to remain youthful and avoid any evidence of growing old, we would do well to allow our values about aging to be shaped by the age-related themes found in Scripture.
The baby boomers, the generation born between 1946 and 1964, are aging differently than previous generations. The events that shaped this generation and the sheer size of the cohort suggest that the aging baby boomers will have significant influence on the culture of aging. As a result, Christian baby boomers will bring different expectations and demands to their church and ministry life that will reshape the way ministry with adults past 60 is construed.
The current generation of baby boomers is aging differently than previous generations. The activism of the 60's generation is morphing into an experience of active retirement. This article suggests that as Christian educators consider characteristics of the baby boomers, the lenses of calling/ vocation and wisdom be used to guide our thinking about spiritual formation for this generation.
Fostering creativity and faith formation with mature adults in church settings is a crucial task facing congregations across denominations. Our task is to create learning environments that invite participants to participate in transformative teaching and learning that leads to more faithful living. Such emancipatory education involves open and dialogical experiences where deep listening, on-going reflection and mutual respect are practiced. Being free to raise hard questions and to explore "what if" possibilities can help older adults grow in faith and in discipleship that offers compassion and works for justice.
Christian conversion rates are highest in early and middle age, then drop dramatically after age 50. An analysis of senior adult conversions identifies variables that can increase the effectiveness of evangelization approaches with older adults.
Though grandparents hope to influence the new generation, to pass on their values, understanding, wisdom, and faith, little empirical evidence exists that reveals if (or how) grandparents actually influence their grandchildren spiritually. To investigate this issue, the authors revisit the raw data from Allen's 2002 qualitative dissertation on children's spirituality and analyze what the 40 children in the field research said about their grandparents. The statements of these children as well as data from other empirical studies offer strong support for the idea that grandparents nurture their grandchildren's relationship with God through their frequent prayers, their stories, their clear example, their quiet witness, their availability, and especially their ability to lavish love, grace, and mercy on grandchildren in deep need of such gifts.
This annotated bibliography is designed to introduce both scholars and practitioners to the range of sources that address the intersection between religion, spirituality, aging and ministry by and for those in the last third of life. The inclusion of several annotated bibliographies in this source has allowed less concern that, in a limited list, key sources will be left out. Because the focus of this theme issue is on the transition we are experiencing and will continue to experience in ministry with senior adults, a few sources about the baby boomers are included as well.
From its inception in 1812 to the early 20th century, Princeton Seminary articulated a distinctive piety of nurture consistent with its Calvinist orthodoxy. Princetonians countered the view of revivalists that demanded a dramatic conversion experience as evidence of the Christian life. They proposed instead development beginning at childhood, continuing through familial instruction, pastoral oversight, and faithful use of the sacraments culminating in adult profession of faith and mature Christian living.
This three-part series considers the current and widespread trend of church-based small groups for adult spiritual formation. It is proposed that a focus on relationships must be kept in balance with learning and application of biblical truth in order for greater spiritual growth to result. The mini-series appears in three parts: The first article (Spring 2008) assesses small group ministries for an understanding of the current state of its sometimes blemished practice. In addition, a review of Christian-oriented small group literature is included, as well as an annotated bibliography of non- Christian-oriented small group literature. The second article (Fall 2008) is intended to augment small group practice by adapting key educational insights from the academic disciplines of group dynamics, communication theory, and educational psychology. The third article (Spring 2009) anchors small group practice by delving into the unique spiritual aspects of learning and addresses the biblical/ theological apologetic for the centrality of Scripture. Finally, suggested applications are given for small group leaders and trainers of leaders as to how adults may be more effectively stimulated to learn and grow through such group involvement.
2008 marks the fiftieth anniversary of Lois LeBar’s classic Christian education text, Education That is Christian. During her tenure as a professor at Wheaton College, LeBar wrote several influential texts, including Children in the Bible School (1952) and Focus on People in Church Education (1968).However, it was Education That is Christian that established this educator as an influential leader in the field of Christian education. Nearly all historical examinations of evangelical Christian education include LeBar as a spokesperson, and this commendation is typically attached to her 1958 book (e.g., Pazmino,1988; Burgess, 1996; Anthony and Benson, 2003). The book was highly regarded at the time of its publication, and its revised editions retain wide usage in colleges, Bible schools, and seminaries around the world. In this brief article, I hope to discuss the development of LeBar’s text, wrestle with some of its key themes, and comment on what I see as its enduring value academically and pedagogically.
Helping our children grow in faith: how the church can nurture the spiritual development of kids. By Robert Keeley. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books. 2008. 160 pp. $14.99. paper.
Review by Susan E. Payne, Assistant Professor, Christian Ministries, Northwestern College, St. Paul, MN.
Review by Gregory C. Carlson, Chair and Professor of Christian Ministries, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL.
Review by Holly Catterton Allen, Associate Professor of Christian Ministries and Director of Children and Family Ministries, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR.