New Pathways to Church Education in West Michigan

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Pathway Church University (PCU) sounds like a school of higher learning, but it’s actually a new approach to church education for Pathway Community Christian Reformed Church in Byron Center, Mich. The program held its first graduation in June, recognizing those who took part in the pilot project.

An $8,500 denominational grant for Sustaining Congregational Excellence helped the church develop a program with courses not ordinarily available in smaller churches. With the motto “Each one, Teach one” the classes carry no size or age limit, said Nasreen Fynewever, the program’s director.

From left, Ministry Associate Jim Heethuis, Rev. Steve Elzinga, Nasreen Fynewever, and Diane Sterk at PCU’s first graduation.

Whatever interest or hobby a person has, he or she may teach it, even if few people show interest. Church leaders estimate that up to 70 percent of Pathway’s 194 members have participated.

The absence of age limits makes it feasible for adult believers to take catechism with youngsters without feeling awkward, said Ministry Associate Jim Heethuis.

Baseball fan Dave Diekevers taught “Hitting 1, 2, 3s” to improve baseball skills, while stressing the need for Christians to keep their eyes on Christ.  “I had fun sharing my favorite sport and my walk with Christ; it was a cool connection,” Diekevers said.

PCU is not intended to substitute regular spiritual growth activities such as worship, small groups, and discipline in Bible memory and prayer. “The university is simply a supplemental opportunity for people to join in Kingdom efforts,” Fynewever said.

The church prints a course catalog, listing topics such as equestrian skills, digital scrapbooking, snowboarding, art, father-daughter banquet, trees, Passover Seder, and book discussions. Of her class on eating healthier and cheaper, teacher Lauren VanderLaan said, “We made connections with other women that we might not have made if not for the class.”

As more PCU courses develop, the church expects the program to function as an outreach tool as well as congregational enrichment.

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