Every now and then, I get the chance to explain what I do as the "Director of the Brookside Institute" at Brookside Church. When most people hear this title, their mind goes to "Adult Sunday School," and I get that. Classes are part of what we do. (However, in my experience "Adult Sunday School" classes are often heavy with stereotypes that I often want to work against — think unprepared teachers, mediocre content and presentation, and lots of people hanging out drinking stale coffee.)
But classes only capture part of what the Institute does to build and reinforce foundations of the Christian faith. (Along with everything else other Brookside ministries do to equip the church and lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ!)
Therefore, when I explain the Brookside Institute to people, I try to zoom out a bit and give people a picture of ALL of the innovative ways the Institute is laying foundations and equipping the church in the areas of biblical literacy and theological formation, for the purpose of living on mission. For people at Brookside, this helps them connect the dots a bit, and see the intentionality we're trying to bring to this important "equipping arm" of the church. For people outside of Brookside — perhaps ministry leaders in other churches, for example — I hope this gives them a vision for creatively multiplying important "equipping/adult Christian Education touchpoints" in their own local churches.
So how do we multiply touchpoints for this sort of biblical and theological equipping in the Institute? Here's a "zoomed out" view of a lot of what we currently offer:
Classes that build and reinforce foundations of the Christian faith
Though classes are only part of what we do in the Brookside Institute, they're still a REALLY IMPORTANT part of what we do. Our cycle of Institute classes will lay a relatively comprehensive and systematic foundation for students in key areas: knowing what the Bible is and how to read it well ("Bible Basics"), getting a survey of Christian theology ("Fuel for Faith") and learning what habits and disciplines can help form us into increasingly-mature followers of Christ ("Grow"). And these are just three of our classes! We also offer classes on Church History, Christian Ethics, and more.
Find out more about our classes and see what others are saying about them here.
Writing that builds and reinforces foundations of the Christian faith
The Institute also values producing ongoing content that will help build and reinforce key foundations of the Christian faith, in alignment with the larger church.
One big way this happens is through our blog, where I try and keep adding content 2-3 times a week. Most posts are organized into categories like "Bible," "Theology," "Spiritual Disciplines," and "Catechesis" — in line with the values we want to keep driving home.
The Institute also periodically produces print resources that may line up with particular Sunday morning sermons or a larger series the church is going through. Here are some resources the Institute has produced that give you a sample of what I'm talking about:
Books that help build and reinforce foundations of the Christian faith
In my experience, most people say they aren't readers. But at the same time, when people have questions a lot of them go looking for answers in books or online. Or they stumble across articles online or via social media that they end up reading — and these articles may present them with ideas they don't always know what to do with. Therefore, I want to keep some of the best books and resources in front of people. This way, people have a reliable place they can turn when they want some extra help answering a question or navigating a biblical or theological issue. Books and resources aren't a "silver bullet," but they can be tremendously helpful.
All these means book recommendations can serve what the Institute is trying to do, and so I want to keep good biblical and theological resources in front of people. Click here to see some of how I try and extend ministry through book recommendations, and a compilation of some of the posts I've written with book recommendations in different categories. Or click here to see six online sites I point people towards often.
I also try to keep adding to my own "resource library." Which means I have lots of shelves with books. :) While I don't often lend books out (it's not a library), I do make books available to pastoral staff members and Brookside residents/interns. This way if they want to dig more deeply into a subject I've got a few books that can sometimes aid them in that. Or I can photocopy a couple pages or some section from worthwhile books, and pass them along to people who may be wrestling with certain issues or asking certain questions.
Being accessible as a sounding board and resource
I never want the Institute to be an isolated "ministry silo" that is sealed off from the life of the larger church family. Therefore, even when something doesn't specifically fall into the Institute "department," I want everything the Institute champions (foundations in biblical literacy and theological formation) to stay accessible. Admittedly, there are lots of blurred lines here, in a certain sense. But if I can help be a resource by answering questions, helping "vet" ideas for small group curriculum, helping church leaders and members think biblically about certain issues in an informal environment, or simply being one more voice around the table as things are brainstormed and given shape, this too is one more way Institute values overlap with other church values, and become part of the "blood stream" of the church in a healthy sense.
Celebrating everything else the larger church is doing to build and reinforce foundations of the Christian faith
Finally, the Institute celebrates everything else the larger church is doing that overlaps with values shared by the Institute. I love being at a church where every ministry cares about staying faithful to God's authoritative Word, and living in light of its storyline in our own time and place. I love being at a church where I know other leaders (staff leaders and volunteer leaders) want Brookside to engage the Bible (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17) and experience the vibrancy that can come with minds that are renewed by biblical and theological truth (cf. Romans 12:2).
And so that means its natural to celebrate things the larger church is doing in line with all these things! That's why I love what the larger church with the 365 Series — as we encourage Brooksiders to read through the Bible in line with the 365 Reading Plan in 2016. That's why I love celebrating what our Middle School Ministry does to equip students. That's why I love knowing that our worship leader thinks through the songs we sing on Sunday mornings. That's why I love knowing Brookside interns are encouraged to be part of a cohort that offers training in important areas. Etc, etc.
All of this is really just an intentional "content strategy plan" — taking content and being strategic with creating good material, multiplying that content, and then stirring awareness about it. And when our content is the living truth from God's Word, this sort of intentional "content strategy" becomes all the more important and valuable! And so if the Brookside Institute can help be a part of this larger plan, I'll sign up for that every chance I get!
Christian. Husband. Father. Pastor. Learner. Contributor. Reader.