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Elevating the Vision for Christian Education

Learn more about the mission and work of the Christian Education Department


Dr. James Eichelberger, the first General Secretary-Treasurer of the Christian Education Department, held an expansive vision. It was a vision for Christian education to “minister to every need of every pupil and of every group of pupils in each area of human experience” (Eichelberger, 1954). He believed, as we still do today, that Christian education is essential for promoting holistic, Christ-centered community development and spiritual growth. It guides individuals from the youngest to the eldest to discover their spiritual gifts, understand scripture and doctrine, practice spiritual disciplines to nurture Christian identity, pursue academic excellence, and use their gifts and graces for the greater good of the entire society.

For more than 100 years, under the leadership of Dr. Eichelberger, Dr. George Blackwell, Dr. Raymon Hunt, Dr. Kathryn Brown, Dr. Brenda Smith, and, now, the Rev. Patrick Barrett, the A.M.E. Zion Church has been blessed to be a committed partner in this transformative and liberating ministry through the work of its Christian education enterprise. Across many of the conferences, districts, and local churches of our Zion, we are blessed to see the work of education going forth with creativity, passion, competence, and persistence. Zion’s Christian education ministry has produced stellar academic institutions, sought after scholars and teachers, a slate of impactful and transformative leaders in the church and society at large, and a cadre of emerging youth and young adult leaders poised to make their mark to the glory of God.

“The Christian Education Department of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church will become a premier resource for the development of credible, committed Christian disciples with a specific emphasis on discipleship with African-Americans and those throughout the African diaspora.”

 The above is the current vision statement of the Christian Education Department crafted by the late Rev. Dr. Kathryn Brown. Rooted in Ephesians 4:11-14, the department’s primary task is to oversee the faith formation, education, and leadership development programming in the denomination and to aid our local churches with resources as noted above.

We accomplish this aim through our 11 connectional departments, auxiliaries, and commissions in addition to a connectional staff, episcopal directors, and a host of conference, district, and local church directors. These entities include the Church School Literature Department which produces the quarterly church school lessons and the quarterly Church School Herald Journal, the Varick International Christian Youth Council (VICYC), the Assembly of Christian Educators (ACE), Young Adults in Christian Ministries (YACM), Varick’s Children (VC), Zion Women Rock, the SG Spottswood Acolyte Ministry, SAGE (Seniors Advancing God’s Excellence), the Commission on Family Life, the Commission on Scholastic Engagement, and the newly formed Commission on Youth Ministry. The Department also participates in the annual Lenten and Advent devotionals in partnership with the Christian Education Departments of the AME and CME churches and has launched two new VBSA (Vacation Bible School Anytime) programs. The newest program, “4 Miles Per Hour: Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus”, is now live and available for purchase.

In 2023, CED successfully applied for a $1.25 million grant from the Nurturing Prayer and Worship in Children Initiative funded by the Lilly Endowment, Inc. These funds will undergird the new C.A.R.E. for Children program through the Department. The program will not only provide critical faith formation resources for our children and local children's ministry leaders, it will also enable us to expand our VBSA efforts and to launch home-centered print and digital faith formation materials for families.

CED is also utilizing technology to expand our leadership development work. In September 2023, we launched the “Thrive on Thursdays” teaching series as part of the CED Month programming. This inaugural series provided important insights to build up youth ministry and educational advocacy in our local churches and will return in September 2024. We have also launched the quarterly “Family Meeting” which gathers Christian educators and church leaders, virtually, to be empowered and equipped with new tools and information for vibrant discipleship ministry. We invite all of Zion to get connected!

The Department serves as an advocate for education through the schools and colleges division. Did you know that the AME Zion Church operates several schools and colleges across the globe? Yes! Livingstone College, Clinton College, Hood Theological Seminary, AME Zion University in Liberia, and Hood-Speaks Theological Seminary in Nigeria are all a product of the educational vision of the AME Zion Church. The General Secretary sits on the boards of all three of the stateside schools, and the board of schools and colleges receives reports on the status of all our institutions. The AME Zion church also operates one of the largest school systems in Ghana, West Africa, with nearly 600 elementary and middle schools and five high schools. The General Secretary also partnered with Hood Theological Seminary to launch two exciting new programs in Christian Education: the Certificate in Christian Education and the Masters of Arts in Christian Education.

Additionally, the department grants upwards of $20,000 annually in scholarships for secondary and post-secondary students through the efforts of VICYC, ACE, YACM, and the Acolyte Ministry. The history of the AME Zion Church includes an ardent presence at the front lines of the academic advancement of our people. We must continue this legacy!

Of course, the apex of our year is the annual Winter Meeting of the Christian Education Department where the Department’s faith formation, leadership development, and education emphases are on full display. Formerly known as “Truthville” and now “Elevate,” the Winter Meeting is our Zion's premier evangelistic and educational experience. We invite all to experience this life-changing time of powerful preaching, transformative teaching, and faith-filled fellowship. Despite the challenges of the global pandemic, our team worked persistently to present the first ever fully cyber Winter Meeting in 2021. Since then, the meeting has bounced back in full force. In December 2023, the Department registered record numbers for Truthville 2023. Nearly 2,500 persons were registered for this truly powerful experience which concluded with a concert by award winning gospel artist, Pastor John P. Kee. Plan now to join us for the first Elevate conference in Kansas City, MO, Dec. 27-30, 2024.

The success of this department is largely attributed to our team of staff, departmental directors, episcopal directors, and officers. I owe a debt of gratitude to these men and women who labor with me as leaders in your Christian Education Department. Likewise, I celebrate the community of conference, district, and local church Christian education leaders who give of their time, talent, and treasure to this vital ministry.

As we approach the 52nd session of the General Conference, we give thanks for our board chairs for Home and Church – Bishop Dennis Proctor, Bishop W. Darin Moore, Bishop Nathaniel Jarrett, and Mrs. Ava Swinton – who continue to be a source of wisdom, counsel, and support for this Department. They have governed with distinction for nearly 12 years. Also, special thanks to the Board of Schools and Colleges -Bishop Kenneth Monroe, Bishop Darryl Starnes, Bishop Hilliard Dogbe, and Mrs. Delores Cowherd - for their leadership and commitment to academia.

The global pandemic, coupled with other social and cultural shifts, has left many new questions for which the church now wrestles. Yet even in the face of uncertainty there remains great opportunity for faith leaders to birth new solutions that are innovative, engaging, and faithful. Christian education is vital to the future of the church and we invite you to join us in this movement to engage, educate, and elevate credible, committed, Christian disciples in the A.M.E. Zion Church. Learn more about your Christian Education Department, its leaders and resources, by visiting the new CED website at cedamezion.com

Elevating the Vision, Christian Education Department, A.M.E. Zion, Rev. Patrick Barrett


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