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Friday, December 16, 2016

"Teaching the Next Generations" (Terence D. Linhart)

TITLE: Teaching the Next Generations: A Comprehensive Guide for Teaching Christian Formation
AUTHOR: Terence D. Linhart
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2016, (352 pages).

It has been often said that the young is the future of our society. In churches all over the world, the young are also the future of the leadership of the Church. How the children and formed when young often becomes the way they help lead the Church in the future. What then are the factors to guide them? How can the leaders of today help the formation of the leaders of tomorrow? How can we navigate the complex realities today for an unknown tomorrow? If adults are already facing difficult challenges, how can we expect the young to tackle their generational challenges if we do not lead by example? This book's premise is that teaching Christian Formation is an imperative, not an option. We need to help them understand spiricual formation and that learning happens at all ages. We need to be guided by important theologies and appropriate theories. We need a repertoire of creative methods and to be committed to the spiritual disciplines like prayer, and spiritual transformation. We need to teach not merely to download information but to work toward spiritual transformation and growth. This means working toward maturity and be anchored in Christ. It also means discipleship. The book is subdivided into five sections.

1) Core Concepts
Allen Jackson links teaching with discipleship and presents various models on discipleship. From the Old Testament, Jeff Keuss gives a theological angle by understanding our formation in terms of "cycles in our faith journey." Ron Belsterling adopts several New Testament passages to show us the scriptural basis of teaching. Bob MacRae looks at the quality of the teacher and reflects on the six characteristics of an effective Christian teacher. Mark Cannister describes the five basic philosophies of education; the three curriculums; the three educational objectives; and gives us a broad overview before encouraging us to adopt and adapt them to our contexts. Andrew Root connects the shape of human knowledge and Christian ministry to help us teach the young to stay balanced even as they ponder upon their own spiritual journeys.

2) Influences that Shape Learning
This section provides a dialogue between theology and educational psychology. Barrett McRay looks at the way people learn and the three dimensions of learning: Cognitive; Behavioral; and Dispositional. Karen Jones recognizes the unique learning abilities of individuals and compares the global and analytic characteristics of learning. She uses Howard Gardner's eight intelligences and the five learning styles inventories to show us that the key to learning is to understand our own learning dispositions. Sharon Galgay Ketcham adopts a social theory of learning and the importance of community to the educational objectives of the organization. David Rahn believes that the key to learning is motivation while Ginny Olson notices the intricate relationship between culture and diversity of learning.  

3) Three Curricular Implications for Teaching 
Effective teaching requires a good roadmap. Terry Linhart says that there are currently two types of curricular theories. The first is the "technical one" where one identifies the desired outcome and then plans accordingly. The second is the experiential one where one literally learns on the fly.  He then lists several curriculum formats one can use. Scottie May chooses to focus on teaching children and suggests six concepts. Amanda Drury believes that teaching young adults requires an understanding of stages of faith theory. Brenda Snailum sees families as integral to the learning experience of the children. Ken Castor sees equipping generative faith and leadership as fundamental ways to influence young adults. Mark Hayse takes a look at educational technology and provides us some useful questions to mix and match resources with methods.

4) Methods for Christian Teaching
This section focuses on the how-to ways to teach. Duffy Robbins looks at the laws of learning and the importance of learning by doing. Troy Temple uses the discussion platform to facilitate learning. Jason Lanker gives some tips on how to teach large groups. James Hampton adopts the storyline technique while Karen McKinney points out the way to learn via simulation. Doug Gilmer contrasts and asserts the importance of learning outdoors in a world where people are increasingly living indoors.

5) Managing Teaching for Maximum Impact
Teaching for impact is a concern for many teachers. No one likes their students to learn quickly and forget quickly. Kerry Loescher says that constant evaluations facilitates continuous learning experiences. Robert Brandt believes that equipping others to teach is a way forward to pass the learning and teaching baton. Freddy Cardoza gives a theology of technology and uses modern technologies for learning.

This book is one of the most comprehensive handbooks on Christian Education and learning. With 26 different contributors all coming from different walks of life and experiences, all of them share the same passion and concern: To enable better learning for all. The title of the book suggests the focus is the next generations, which is also about passing down the baton to the next in line. By putting together their shared expertise and knowledge, this book itself has gotten the ball rolling. With the rich experiences shared, this is an invaluable resource for any teacher to begin with. Whether it is planning something from ground zero, or to improve existing curriculums, or enrich present learning environments, it challenges us to think beyond our existing boxes of learning.

I appreciate the way the various articles have been categorized. Each article is brief and clearly demarcated with points and easy to follow arguments. There are questions at the end of each chapter to help us engage with the content and also to summarize important learning pointers. The bibliography at the end provides advanced readers some resources for further research. This resource is particularly helpful because not only does it show us how to learn, it reveals many insights on how we learn.

Terry Linhart is Professor of Youth Ministry at Bethel College in Indiana. He is also advisor to Youth Specialties and all things youth ministries.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book has been provided courtesy of Baker Academic and NetGalley without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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