The Common Good

The Church's Call in Educating Their Community's Children

I love October. As a teacher, it was that time of year where rhythms were becoming established and the seeds of learning were beginning to sprout. In ministry, it is the time where I find myself riding the waves of my student’s school schedules in an effort to connect and converse. In either case, education, shapes not on the schedule of my life but the purpose.

As I breathe in the crisp autumn breeze, it reminds me to consider the larger partnership between the educators and the church. When we, as ministers and church leaders, consider what role education plays in the life of the church, we have to consider the active part of the church in the education of not only the church community, but its larger context.

Education, in the public context, is a constant topic of political struggle and strife. Education, in the ecclesial context, in its best is in-depth Bible study and at its worst is education by osmosis and observation. What is the call or consideration of the church to the topic of education? What role does the church have in the education of the community?

Sitting in the place of a teacher, my often frustration was the lack of understanding from my community about the struggles of the student in my classroom. Simply understand Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” and you will realize that students are not going to do their best if they are sitting in the classroom hungry. Beyond that, teachers are not going to teach at their best if building are overcrowded and supplies are not available.

I think of the parable of the sower, Matthew 13.

“… A farmer went out to sow his seed.As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop — a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” – Matthew 13:3b-8 NRSV

I often wonder if we consider the preparation of the ground as we exegete this passage. Who is in charge of preparing the ground for the farmer? What if the church worked as hard at preparing the ground as they did at planting the seeds? What if the church prepared the soil for the educators in our community to plant the seeds of wisdom and knowledge?

The local church, at every level of resources, has the ability to partner with the educators in its community to meet the needs of the student and the teachers. Start a conversation with your neighborhood school or your local school district to see where the needs are and then collaborate with your community on meeting those needs.

The local church, within its own walls, has the ability to form the theological conversations in a way that facilitates education for all the participants. When was the last time you explained the why behind the what? Teaching the why can enable your community to engage in deeper, more meaningful discourse about the way they worship, their own understanding of God, and the way they speak about their own faith journeys.

Both of these possibilities, partnering with local educators and becoming educators within the church walls, will transform the church into a resource for the community. Education is something that can help the church to transcend the walls of their building in a way that is applicable and almost immediately impactful to the spiritual development of every participant.

Let’s go prepare the soil for the educators among us and pray that the seeds sown will produce a crop — a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.

This post was featured in Sojourners' monthly Faith in Action newsletter, which you can join by clicking here.

Rev. Micah James currently serves as Minister to Families and Children at Northway Christian Church in Dallas. A certified teacher, she feels a deep commitment to education as a part of her call to ministry. Micah graduated from TCU in 2005 with a BS in Education and graduated from Brite Divinity School in 2012 with her M.Div. She is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

Image: Community illustration, Sweet Lana / Shutterstock.com

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