The Church can be defined in two different ways, either as the physical building for public Christian worship or as the whole body of Christian believers. Whichever way you define it; the Church has played a crucial role in the education of society throughout history. Most worldly Faiths—Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, and Buddhism—all have instruction as one of the religious tenets of their faith.
Looking at Christianity specifically, Jesus Christ himself was a teacher, even if not formally trained. His teachings have withstood the test of time, influencing generation upon generation of those that have followed. While the Church’s influence has ebbed and flowed over the years, the Church has been intimately involved in the education of society.
1. There is a Long-Standing Connection Between Churches and Education
Formal education used to be a privilege that was reserved for only a few. Yet the Church still plays a role in educating society as a whole. It was through the Church’s sermons that the uneducated and illiterates would be educated on how to act, what to think, and how to treat each other. A look at any of the sermons given by Christ shows this method of educating society.
The Church has also played a role in shaping formal education throughout the world. This is largely due to the close relationship between the Church and governing bodies throughout history. Some of the earliest schools were cathedral schools teaching the sons of nobility to read and write Latin.
The spread of formal education via Church efforts can be seen during the 1500s when Martin Luther called for an overhaul of education. His combined efforts, through a government ministry, led to a more universalized education with a goal of creating an educated civil society. Eventually, this resulted in the creation of renowned universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, and Yale, all of which started as religious learning centers.
2. They Often Have a Captive Audience Ready to Learn
Defining the Church as an assembly of believers, means these members gather regularly to hear the Testament and their priests’ sermon. They are committed to one another to be the body of Christ and to live out His teachings.
It is during these moments when members are gathered together that the Church has the opportunity to teach society members how to live. One such great example is Universal Church that encourages to take these teachings into their communities and share them with their neighbors. When an individual is ready and willing to learn, even in an informal setting, the message and teaching go further, expanding the Church’s efforts to educate all of society as a whole.
3. Education is More Than Sitting in A Classroom
When considering the crucial role the Church plays in the education of society, it is easy to default to its impact on formal methods of education (i.e. schools, universities, guilds, and the like). However, it is important to acknowledge that education does not come in a pre-packaged format. Yes, education can come in the form of formal instruction, but it can also come in the form of conversations with others and teaching through example.
The methods that Jesus Christ used to teach is a prime example of education being more than sitting in a classroom or lecture hall. Throughout the Bible are examples of Christ teaching whenever he could, be it while he was walking with others, sitting in a field, at a dinner with friends and disciples, etc. He took every opportunity to teach others how to act, how to forgive, what is right and what is wrong, using both his words and his actions. This continues to be true in today’s Church. Church members are encouraged to live their lives the way Jesus taught in an effort to educate others in society on how to act and what they should believe.
4. The Church Can Reach Underprivileged and Underserved Communities
The Church teaches that education is universal and should be extended to even the weakest members of society. This is a key component to all of the social programs offered via the Church. Locally, the Church offers numerous outreach programs such as programs designed to help single mothers and the elderly in the community.
They may offer afterschool programs, childcare services, food pantries, soup kitchens, etc. All of these community outreach programs give the Church an audience to be educated via discussion and example.
This is also seen through the Church’s work internationally through various missionary efforts. The Church goes into underprivileged and underserved communities to provide them what they need the most, which is often the most basic of essentials such as housing, food, water, medicine, and education. This may be helping install local water pumps, teaching new farming methods, building schools, etc. Similar to their outreach efforts in their local community, the Church has an audience to teach participants (or recipients) how to act, what is right and wrong, etc., furthering their role in educating society members.
The Politics of It All
While current society has a very defined separation of Church and State, the role of the Church in the education of society remains strong. The Church is a place where souls come to have needs fulfilled (whatever those needs may be). In exchange for this, individuals give the Church both their time and their attention, which provides the opportunity to teach society morals, proper behavior, etc.
Given the history of the crucial role Churches play in the education of society, it is unlikely that it will change any time soon, especially when there are still groups and segments of society that are shunted from formal methods of education. The Church will always be ready with open arms to offer these populations with what they need and educating them through examples.