Do you know “Kirchenpädagogik”?

While visiting the central Evangelical church in Osnabrück, Germany, I picked up a flyer about “Kirchenpädadogik” which fascinated me. Literally Kirchenpädagogik means “Church education” or more freely translated “The church building as a resource for learning”.

The Evangelical Church District of Osnabrück has a number of trained Church Educators who run a programme in their churches. This programme is aimed at various target groups from young children to adolescents and adults and covers a wide range of topics  (more than twenty all told) under these headings: guided tours of the church, architecture, history, faith and religion. Here are just a few examples of individual themes: the work of the architect and the builders; a historical figure in costume tells the history of the church; Jesus as portayed in the church;  Our Lady portrayed in the church (windows, statues, stations of the cross, etc.); the font and the importance of names; animals as Christian symbols; the meaning of Christmas (the crib, trees, portayals of the birth of Christ, etc.); …

Each session lasts between one and three hours and can be booked by school classes, youth or adult groups, and a variety of methods of learning with heart, head and hand are offered:

  • quizzes
  • games
  • music
  • hymn singing
  • silence
  • meditation
  • candlelight processions
  • measuring
  • looking for symbols
  • understanding statues, etc.
  • story telling
  • drawing and painting
  • drafting a new church window
  • bible study
  • discussion
  • etc.

I am really enthusiastic about this wonderful initiative. What a fantastic way of evangelising and especially of bringing people into the church. What do you think?

David Murphy

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3 Responses to Do you know “Kirchenpädagogik”?

  1. I think this is a great initiative. Not only will it bring people into the church, it will also lay the seeds of interest in those who aren’t sure about commitment yet. They will be able to pursue those areas of teaching which interest them and, as things become clearer and, it is hoped, less ‘scary’, they may seek to learn more of the faith. Overall, it may result in people who have a more rounded understanding of their faith and of the history which has led that faith to the present day.

  2. EPMS says:

    It is true that many people today would find as much that was interesting and completely unfamiliar in a church as they would in a Hindu mandir. Embracing this as an educational opportunity is an inspired response. What Is the church stock like in Osnabruck, architecturally speaking? Presumably a building with some history or artistic merit has a leg up. Too many UK Catholic churches lack both. However, if you know little or nothing about Christian worship any church could be a learning experience.

    • Rev22:17 says:


      You said: Presumably a building with some history or artistic merit has a leg up. Too many UK Catholic churches lack both. However, if you know little or nothing about Christian worship any church could be a learning experience.

      Churches with unusual layouts or features also can be a source of interest. The first thing that most visitors to the Abbey Church of Our Lady of Glastonbury (photos facing eastward under the “Enrollments” heading on the <a href=";)home page and facing westward on the worship schedule page of the abbey’s web site) in Hingham, Massachusetts, usually notice is its unusual layout, chosen to facilitate participation of visitors in the monastic office as well as in the mass. But after explaining this to visitors, I mention that there are two things in that church that they won’t find in any parish church of the archdiocese and ask if they can spot them.

      >> The first is the abbot’s crosier, normally displayed in a stand next to the abbot’s choir stall when the abbot is not actually using it (faintly visible at the back corner of the choir stalls to the left of the altar in the westward facing photo). This opens the door to explain that the abbot holds the same power of ecclesial governance over the abbey that a bishop holds over his diocese, and thus is entitled to use the same pontifical insignia.

      >> The second is a set of four crosses with small candles attached to the bottom, marking the places where the walls were consecrated during the solemn dedication of the church on 01 April 2006 (two of which are visible on the pillars just in front of the choir stalls in the westward facing photo). This opens the door to explain that a diocesan bishop may decide either to bless a new church simply or to dedicate it solemnly, and that the archbishops of this particular archdiocese historically have decided to bless churches rather than dedicating them.

      The art in this church is particularly noteworthy, though not widely known. The stations of the cross (not visible in the linked photos) and the painting of St. Benedict at the east end of the church (visible between the crucifix and the altar in the eastward facing photo) are works of artist Tomie dePaola, best known as an illustrator of children’s books. Those who come for conventual Sunday mass during cold or inclement weather also get to see frescoes by the same artist in the refectory (monks’ dining room) during the “bun fight” after mass. (The “bun fight” usually takes place in the arbor across the parking lot from the church, so the refectory remains closed to visitors, when the weather permits.) This church is also the home of an original icon of the blessed mother under the title of Our Lady of Glastonbury, visible to the left of the tabernacle on the west wall in the westward facing photo.


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