Church being a community: implications for catechesis from an educationalist point of view

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Dr. A. de Kock, Protestant Theological University (PThU), The Netherlands

Paper presented at the conference “Being surprised by God: embodied ecclesiology in local contexts”, Utrecht, The Netherlands, 21 – 24 June 2010.

About the author
Dr. A. (Jos) de Kock is an education expert and theologian. He worked as researcher, consultant, teacher and senior policy advisor in higher education. His specializations are in the area of curriculum development, educational innovations, professional identity, religious identity, catechesis, and `religion and society´. Now he is head of the master program Learning & Innovation at the Christian University for Teacher Education Driestar educatief, The Netherlands and senior researcher at the Protestant Theological University, The Netherlands. Dr. De Kock is engaged in research on faith learning and catechetical learning environments in church communities, and is leading a research program on religious identity development among orthodox Christian and orthodox Muslim youngsters.

Contact the author at: adekock@pthu.nl

 

1. Introduction

One of the characteristics one might apply to local church congregations is that these are communities of believers. A community implies togetherness among participants: they share more or less their time and life spheres with each other in the local context of the church, both in and in the environment of the church.

As a result of a rapidly changing religious and cultural landscape, local churches in The Netherlands are challenged in their ‘ being a community’ . This is especially true when it comes to Christian youth participating in Dutch churches. The religious identity development of Dutch youth is not merely connected to one local church community anymore and is highly fragmented nowadays.

Not only youth identity development is fragmented, also the local churches become more and more fragmented in what they offer as religious formation. Churches seem no longer to be ´learning communities´ but religious organisations offering a variety of disconnected activities in which both youth and elder people can learn more on diverse religious issues. This tendency is also observed in how catechesis is organised in nowadays Dutch churches and the roles ‘teachers’ and ‘learners’ have in catechesis practices.

Against this background, The central questions in this paper are:

1. How may in the modern context of The Netherlands at the beginning of the 21st century religious identity development of Christian youth and the functioning of the institutions of the church, the family, and the school with regard to religious formation of youth be described?

2. What challenges are the institutions of the church, the family and the school facing when it comes to the formation of religious identities of Christian youth?

3. What consequences have these observations for catechesis practices in churches in terms of educationalist approaches?

4. Which of the educationalist approaches fits best the church´ ambition of being a community?

5. What is the outline of a research framework for empirical research on learning in catechesis practices in relation to the church ambition being a community?

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