Free Self-Study Curriculum Helps Local Church Christian Education Staff

July 07, 2011

NASHVILLE, Tenn., GBOD — A self-study curriculum designed to help local church staff members obtain a sound foundation in Christian formation and education ministry is now available free of charge from the General Board of Discipleship (GBOD).

The Local Church Discipler/Educator Professional Development curriculum, developed by Diana Hynson, Director of Learning and Teaching Ministries at GBOD, is a six-module learning experience for anyone hired by local churches to fill positions related to Christian formation and education.
"We have a large number of churches that have grown to the point where they need more staff help," Hynson said. "But rather than have an appointed staff person, they are hiring locally or from within the congregation."
The person hired for the position often is someone of faith who has skills and experience, but not necessarily a foundation in Christian formation and education, Hynson said.
Although the Board of Higher of Education and Ministry offers certification courses in Christian education, evangelism, children, youth and other areas, those opportunities may be out of reach for some people—too expensive, too time consuming or perhaps too rigorous, she said.
"I think many of these people don't see themselves in a career. They're taking a position to help their church," Hynson said.
The new GBOD curriculum was designed to provide a solid first step for church staff members who want and need a sound foundation upon entering professional ministry, she said. This course is not intended to compete with certification, and ideally, these leaders would, over time, continue their studies through certification or other avenues.
Hynson said the term "discipler/educator" was coined to describe who might benefit from the curriculum because churches use various descriptions for positions, depending on their needs. Some congregations might call a new hire the director of children's ministry, the minister of Christian education or some other job description.
"So for want of a better term, we're calling this generic position a 'local church discipler/educator,'" she said.
The self-guided core curriculum has six modules that require study, work and reflection, in addition to the reading of selected books and group time. The modules, which can be taken in any order, are:
  • My Call and Vocation — Study and reflection activities on self-evaluation, call/identity/vocation, your own story and self-care as a local church professional
  • God and the Bible — Study and reflection activities on Christian theology, Old and New Testaments and Bible resources and helps
  • Faith Formation and Christian Education — Study and reflection activities on basic teaching and learning, tools for teaching, faith development and teacher development
  • The United Methodist Church — Study and reflection activities on United Methodist History 101, polity, church structure and United Methodist distinctiveness
  • My Congregation and Context — Study and reflection activities on your local church culture and context, asset identification, discipleship systems, family systems and group dynamics
  • Administration and Leadership — Study and reflection activities on creating a team, working with volunteers, working with staff-parish relations committee and other staff, policies and procedures, budget and adaptive leadership
The resource also includes two implementation guides—one for Annual Conferences and churches, and one for the disciple/educator which describes the course and how to get started and also helps the individual work with his or her staff-parish relations committee.
"The self-study guide is highly interactive," Hynson said. "Some of it says, 'Read this and reflect on it.' But in other instances, the activity will be to interview your church leaders in specific position, observe the classes and groups that are going on, or talk to the council director about he or she leads that group and organizes for ministry."
Everyone who participates in the self-study will be encouraged to have an accountability partner, who can be anyone except the person's supervisor.
 "This person is sort of a friend in faith, who they can bounce things off of and ask questions and who, hopefully, will ask them some pointed questions about whether they are doing what they said they would do," Hynson said.
In addition, another component is a peer study group, which provides the student an opportunity to talk with others in the field, including members of the Christian education professional group Christian Educators Fellowship. CEF is an association of United Methodists and persons from other denominations who have responsibility for Christian education in any of its diverse forms, in and beyond the local church.
To obtain the full curriculum, including the modules and implementation guides, go to the GBOD website at

GBOD's mission is to support annual conference and local church leaders for their task of equipping world-changing disciples. An agency of The United Methodist Church, GBOD is located at 1908 Grand Ave. in Nashville, Tenn. Visit for more information or call the Communications Office at (877) 899-2780, Ext. 1726.