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Christian Methodist Episcopal

Department of Christian Education

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+ Nurture
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Formation + Nurture + Leadership = Mission

Christian education in the African American church context is often limited in the mindsets of most people to teaching, learning, and schooling.  Without a doubt it includes these things, but those three aspects too narrowly define the true essence of Christian education.  The argument is that the definition should include the formation and nurture of people.   Christian education is to be understood as the business of guiding people toward Christian formation in the likeness of the One we follow as disciples. We are helping people find their way to loving God with all their heart, mind, body, and strength and loving their neighbors as they love themselves. 
Eugene C. Roehlkepartain speaking on the subject Christian education says that there must be an emphasis on nurture.   Anne Wimberly says, “We need to do more to make African American Christian education nurturing spaces.”   Actually education is an aspect of nurture, but sometimes what we label as education does not always entail nurture.  For example, when we stand in front a group of people and pour out information for long periods of time without inviting participation we call it education.  However, often the participants are left feeling overwhelmed and overloaded with information and not engaged.  This is often what happens in church settings and it produces very little, if any, growth in individuals.

The problem with education is that it often only entails imparting information and usually in a class room environment. What is attempted through the process of nurturing is to move people toward loving God and loving neighbor.

It is what I believe Schipani means by “human emergence.”  It is my contention that all we do as Christian educators embodies a ministry of helping people engender the witness of love commanded by Jesus.  The church’s purpose to love God is expressed through nurture.  It is helping people get to know God.  Nurture is a process and not a program of learning.  It is intentional in nature. 
Nurture involves helping people know and love God more.  It is the priority of the church.  Jesus is the model we follow (Matthew 9:35; John 17:6-8, 14, 17, 20).  The Apostles also are models (Acts 2:42; 5:42).  Lastly, it is commanded by Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20).  It seems that God places a high priority on the training ministry of the Church..

Additional Resources

Discipleship in Principle and in Practice, by Bishop Marshall Gilmore, CME Church, 1993.

Discipleship 2000, by Bishop Ronald Cunningham, CME Church.