Experimentation is at the heart of creative education. We have good news to share, and there are a multitude of ways to share our story. Good educators know that what works in one context does not necessarily work in another. So we find ourselves testing hypotheses over and over again to find the formula that works where we are. We share ideas and then we create anew.
As part of the process, we experiment with curriculum, with age groupings, with time slots, with locations. We experiment with worship orders, music genres, and space design. We study the most recent research on how we learn and on spiritual practices and create ways to use this information and these practices with those we serve. And today we are also experimenting daily with new means of communication that help us to share the story of our faith. It’s a challenge for some of us, but God is doing a new thing in spite of us!
During the decade that I spent in ministry at Peachtree Presbyterian Church we experimented a lot. We did a great many things well, but we were always trying something new. Someone would hear of a new idea, read a book, or think of a new approach or direction, and we would run with it, often creating a task force across ministry lines to flesh it out. We needed to keep experimenting until we discovered how the new idea would work for us.
Any idea that furthers the gospel message is worth trying. But you’ll need to try it out in your context—experiment—to discover if it works well for you. Sometimes churches forget that context matters. Not everything will work in every setting. Some experiments fail.
We had a phrase to describe those failed experiments at Peachtree. We would declare “victory” and move on. And we did that more often than you would expect! But with each experiment we learned something new about who we were as the body of Christ. We learned and were able to take that experience and build upon it as we told the story of Jesus Christ.
The church of Jesus Christ needs to continue to experiment to find the method, the setting, the context that will create an environment where Christ’s love can flourish, where faithful Christians are formed into servants who are passionate about sharing the story of Jesus Christ, and where God’s love can transform our world. And we as educators are those who are gifted to lead the church into the future.
This is one of our goals within APCE, for APCE is a network of gifted educators who experiment for a living. And we love to share our results with one another. Within this ADVOCATE learn about some of the new experiments that are being tried in different contexts. How could you shape these ideas for your context? The ball is in your court. God is ready to do a new thing!
Zeta Lamberson is pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Marietta, Georgia, and President of APCE.