What Constitutes Christian Education?
In the Hebrew Scriptures the "schools of the prophets" are spoken of,
which appear to have been started by Samuel. The most information we
have about these schools come from the narratives concerning the lives
of Elijah and Elisha, which were both heads of these schools. In the
New Testament the most descriptive relationships between teacher and
student are between Jesus and his disciples and between Paul and
Timothy. You may want to look into a couple of books in this area by
Roy Zuck: Teaching as Paul Taught and Teaching as Jesus Taught. Roy
Zuck also has some other books that you might be interested in Adult
Education in the Church and Youth Education in the Church. I haven't
read these last two books so I can't recommend them one way or the
other. But based on his other books I would guess that they are good.
There are three components that comprise any education: the teacher,
the student, and the subject matter. In Christian education, though,
the teacher is not just imparting knowledge and skills. The Shema can
be instructive to us here, for the principles that it speaks of apply
to the Christian teacher and not just the parent:
"Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love
the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with
all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be
on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall
talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way
and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a
sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You
shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates"
(Deut 6:4-9, NASU).
This tells us first of all that Christian education is not just a
matter of going to a class, but rather that it is an every moment of
the day experience. And that experience is centered around our
consciousness of God in all we do. Further, it tells us that education
is founded in the family. This family is ideally our blood relations
but can be extended to our brothers and sisters in the Lord. The
teacher should have as his goal teaching his students the following
principles from the Shema: binding them on our hand refers to
everything that we touch will have the influence of God's words;
putting them on our forehead refers to our mind framing everything in
the context of God's words; putting them on our doorposts refers to
the God's words being the pillar on which our life stands.
Additionally the teacher should be a servant like Jesus (John
13:13-15) and teach priorities, time management (Eph 5:16), and
discipline (Prov 12:1). And the student should be willing to be
corrected (Prov. 21:1).
The spiritual things must be the foundations to the other levels of
education. The next level of importance are the nuts and bolts kinds
of things we need to learn to be useful to others. Things like
reading, writing and arithmetic. God wants us to useful to others
around us. And the next level is the physical education. If we neglect
the health of our bodies then there may come a time when God would
want us to do something, and because of our neglect, we are unable to
do it. Along this same line is the idea of the Sabbath. Aside from the
theological and spiritual implications of the Sabbath there is
embedded in it the physical principle of resting. This includes
overextending ourselves with obligations. Jethro taught Moses to not
take on more responsibility than he could physically handle (see
Exod. 18). So the teacher and student must not take on more than is
physically healthy. But, of course, that is not an excuse to be lazy
either; we are not to be like the wicked servant in the Parable of the
Talents (Luke 19:12-27).
The bottom line of Christian education is to bring the student to
learn to abide in Christ such that they bear the fruit of the Spirit.