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Chapter 6: Guiding Principles

We’ve covered a lot of material, considered many factors, focused on important guidelines, and widened our understanding of teaching and learning as we strive to build/improve the Christian education ministry within our small membership churches. Even though we already know this, it bears repeating: there is no one right way to do Christian education. So, what do we need to keep in mind as we educate in the small membership church? What guiding principles should remain before us as we think, dream, plan and do this important ministry? Certainly we refer often to the who, what, where, when, and how of Christian education as reminders of our mission. Additionally, the author provides big-picture insight and inspiration for education in the small church. Share these lovely quotes with your teachers during the year.

“Our small size is to be celebrated and cherished for the gifts it brings. We aren’t just a little church, or we don’t just have forty in worship on Sunday. We are a cell in the Body of Christ and can faithfully educate our members to do and live as God would have us. Small is beautiful.” (p. 84)

“Our work is to know and understand our particular small church and, working as a team with others in the church, to think through together what will work and what won’t in our educational ministry.”        (p. 85)

“Every community that wants to last beyond a single generation must concern itself with education…Whatever our size, education is essential in the community of faith.” (p. 85)

“Too often the resources we already have are hidden from view because we are focusing so much on what we don’t have…It is really a matter of learning to see in new ways. To use what we have, we have to see what we have. So start looking – you will be surprised at what you find!” (p. 87)

“Innovate, avoid ruts, adapt, and keep it interesting. That’s what the principle of imagine and improvise is all about.” (p. 87)

“…we don’t wait until failure is upon us to pray. Christian education in the small membership church is rooted and centered in prayer from the very beginning. Prayer reminds us of who’s really in charge here.” (p. 89)

“We cannot be too small to be faithful to God’s call. We cannot be too small to carry out effective Christian education. Without apology and without excuse, may we carry out the work of Christian education in the small membership church, knowing that God is with us and the world awaits. May we be faithful to the task!” (p. 91-92)

All quotes within this series of reviews are from the book “Christian Education in the Small Membership Church”, by Karen B. Tye, which is available for purchase through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books A Million. The book was reviewed by Anna-Sarah Farha, an associate of the Antiochian Orthodox Department of Christian Education. Anna-Sarah enthusiastically supports the needs and efforts of Sunday Church School Directors and can be reached at For further support, join the Orthodox community of church school directors on Facebook.

Let us as educators and church school directors looking forward to a new church school year consider the words of St. John Chrysostom from his Lessons of Education, “Having children is a matter of nature; but raising them and educating them in the virtues is a matter of mind and will…Your children will always be sufficiently wealthy if they receive from you a good upbringing that is able to order their moral life and behavior. Thus, strive not to make them rich, but rather to make them pious masters of their passions, rich in virtues. Teach them not to think up illusory needs, reckoning their worth according to worldly standards…The youth to whom you give a good upbringing will not only enjoy general respect, he will also become dearer to you yourselves! Your attachment to him will not be a mere natural attraction—it will be the fruit of his virtue.”