Lutherans in the Twin Cities

Educating for a lifetime of Christian faithfulness

Fifty years ago, leaders within the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) recognized that many of the classroom teachers serving LCMS schools during the week were also being asked to lead congregational Christian education on Sundays. A synodical resolution at that time encouraged the development of specialized training programs for congregational educators.

The Concordia college (now university) system responded — first the schools in Seward [Nebraska] and Chicago — and developed a common program to train individuals to be both classroom teachers and parish educators, according to Kevin Hall, director of the Director of Christian Education program at Concordia University, St. Paul (CSP). Ten years later, CSP began a program that provided Christian educators an option to specialize in parish education, classroom instruction, or both.

Local Directors of Christian Education recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of a specialized training program at Concordia University, St. Paul, in the university’s Graebner Memorial Chapel. Photo provided by Concordia University

Recently, CSP celebrated the tenth anniversary of its Director of Christian Education (DCE) program, with a special chapel service at the school’s Graebner Memorial Chapel. Current students and graduates came together to show their gratitude for this ministry within the LCMS.

“We see [the Directors of Christian Education] as lifespan educators within congregations, playing various roles.”

During the chapel service, Hall reflected on the goals and impact of the DCE program: “[DCEs] serve in ministry settings (like congregations and camps, for example) as life-span educational leaders; they plan, lead, and assess ministry that nurtures people for spiritual maturity, service, and witness in home, job, congregation, community, and the world. … DCEs empower, equip, collaborate, … all with the goal of helping people know Christ —and his grace — won for each of us through his death and resurrection.”

Concordia St. Paul has long history with DCE program

The LCMS has two categories for Ministers of the Gospel, according to Hall. “We have the ordained ministry, of course,” he explained. “And we have a separate category called commissioned ministry. These include the DCEs, the DCOs [directors of Christian outreach], and Lutheran teachers.” He said these are all recognized as forms of public ministry.

DCEs have a unique contribution to make. “We see them as lifespan educators within congregations, playing various roles,” said Hall. “Children and youth ministry are core [to the work of DCEs], but adult education also falls within the area of a DCE.”

Normally DCEs specialize in one area or another. Within a congregation their job description may vary depending on the abilities and interests of other staff members, especially the pastor.

CSP has produced 452 DCEs in the 40 years of the program. Currently, 132 are still serving in congregational settings.

Students receive a cross-curricular foundation, with a major in education that includes educational theory, psychology, and child development. They are awarded a minor in religion. And they receive practical emphases in family ministry and faith formation.

The degree requires five years, which includes an internship the year before a student’s final year. The internship before senior year is unique to CSP’s program. (Six schools within the Concordia system offer a DCE degree.)

What is the future for this ministry within the LCMS? Hall said, “DCEs are uniquely suited to help the church address the needs of ministry in our churchs and our communities in coming decades.”

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