From Methods to Ideals – Jos’s Invitation to Explore the 2023 Theme

As a program team we are thrilled to prepare the next REA annual meeting, to be held online from 10-14 July 2023. In three short blogs the three of us want to share our personal passion with the main theme: Whose Children are They? Responsibilities for Religious Formation of a New Generation. What makes such a theme important for us?

Many students I meet in courses on religious education are interested in methods and tips and tricks: how to arrange an effective learning situation? How to meet the personal interests of each participant? Before discussing these kinds of (good!) questions, I always try to lead students to another question; a fundamental question: why at all to “bother” your participants with religious education? What is the very goal of your efforts? What are you aiming at? My experience is that addressing this fundamental question leads to a rich reflection on what moves us as religious educators. I hope the REA annual meeting will also be a place where this rich reflection can take place. What ideals of upbringing in general and religious upbringing in particular guide the behavior of teachers in schools, of parents, and of youth workers in faith communities?

The question of ideals is also a personal one for me when I think of my own family. For many years now, we are a foster family. As a parent, I am not only engaged in raising our ‘own’ children (By the way: in the light of the main theme of “whose children are they?” this easily labelling of your biological children as ‘own’ children can certainly be critically addressed…). I am also engaged with raising children who were brought to our family because the home situation for them is unfortunately not safe enough. Whose children are they? On a daily basis I remind myself that these foster children are not ‘ours’ and everything we do is directed towards developing and maintaining a good relationship between the children and their ‘own’ parents. How do they experience their (religious) formation in our family? Who are the determining factors in their development and what kind of belonging do they experience or not?

These experiences in my work and in my family make me passionate for some of the central themes in the annual meeting we prepare. And I can add one observation to that. This observation of a general development in my West European context where it is often said that religious education has to focus more and more on religious self-understanding of children. A challenging question that follows from that is: what does it exactly mean when the child is ultimately “of himself”? I am looking forward to rich discussions in this and other challenging questions in Saint Paul next year!

In a next blog, Karen-Marie will share her personal passion with the main theme of REA’s next annual meeting.

Jos de Kock.

The REA2023 annual meeting is prepared by a team of Jos de Kock, Karen-Marie Yust, and Ronelle Sonnenberg.

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