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The thought of watching my youngest pick up her high school diploma tomorrow has started me pondering education—in our nation and in the church.

I've been concerned about both, and I'm hardly alone. Teachers, students, parents, and administrators all can wax eloquent about the problems of public education. And anyone who has taught Sunday school knows that the joy of being with children during that hour is accompanied by concern about what exactly is being accomplished. In many churches, Sunday school feels like baby-sitting with a lesson attached.

Sensing a problem, we've created other venues to educate children—VBS, AWANAs, and so forth. Mostly, the church tells parents (rightly!) it is their "teaching" that ultimately matters the most. Yikes! This sends a bolt of fear through every parent's heart. I have a seminary degree, and I can tell you that I was often clueless about how exactly to teach my children about the faith.

One reason we feel inadequate is that we have inadvertently imbibed a sub-Christian notion of what it means to educate our children in the faith. This is natural, given the culture we inhabit, but it doesn't need to paralyze us. A 2001 essay by Debra Dean Murphy that originally appeared in Theology Today, "Worship as Catechesis: Knowledge, Desire, and Christian Formation," clarified some of my thoughts about Christian education.

Murphy argues that in the industrialized West, education normally takes place within the structured environment of a classroom, where a teacher makes use of various tools and techniques to transfer content to pupils. Knowledge has been mostly considered a repository of neutral facts conveyed by an expert in teaching technique, and mastery of these facts is the goal of education. ...

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