More than 700 Christian educators, teachers and leaders gathered in New Orleans for the biennial Christian Educators Conference on Oct. 14-18, 2004. The conference, sponsored by the Christian Educators Fellowship, was part of a larger effort by the United Methodist Church (UMC) to give formal training to the “grassroots workers” and passionate teachers of the church.
The Christian Educators Fellowship (CEF) was founded in 1968 to help “brand new” Christian educators and those who have “been teaching for 20 years” receive formal training.
"One of the things we are doing now is trying to meet the needs of those brand-new Christian educators who may have been in public school education in their local communities, or social workers that have felt a call to get involved in their local church," said Chris Jackson, president of the Christian Educators Fellowship board of directors. "They are coming to Christian education with a lot of passion and commitment but not a lot of formal education."
Corinne Van Buren, a fellowship director, agreed with Jackson, saying that the need for trained Christian educators is “bubbling to the surface.”
"From what I hear through seminaries and the United Methodist Publishing House, churches are becoming more aware that Sunday school is needing the attention that perhaps it hasn’t had in the last few years," said Van Buren. "So the need for people to be trained and feel supported in the teaching learning ministries of the church is bubbling to the surface again."
According to Jackson, the fellowship’s mission is to nurture, support, challenge and advocate for any individuals wishing to strengthen their discipleship training through Christian education. Currently, the fellowship has 1003 educators, many of whom are part of the UMC.
"The Christian Educators Fellowship was founded in 1968, (and) we were the first organization to establish a relationship with the new United Methodist Church," said Jackson. "Our first conference was held right here in New Orleans in this same hotel. We want to be able to continue into the future with that close relationship with the church."
This year, the conference featured a seminar on education, entitled, “"PEP: Professional Education Preparation." PEP, a program that covers the “basic competencies” involved in the responsibilities and tasks of a Christian education position, is the first preliminary program students go through before going on to more extensive certification courses.
In addition to the PEP course, the conference featured daily morning Bible Studies led by the Rev. Grace Imathiu, assistant director of development at Kenya Methodist University.
The 2006 Christian Educators Fellowship conference has been slated for Lake Junaluska, N.C. For more information about the fellowship, contact Corinne Van Buren at P.O. Box 24930, Nashville, Tenn., 37202; (866) 629-3113