Jesus was a teacher. And to be a disciple in Jesus’ time meant being a pupil, a learner—someone seeking more than knowledge, or even truth, but someone who hungered for meaning and purpose in life. The Christian Education program at First is designed to help children and adults explore their faith through engagement with loving and gifted teachers, all who model Christ in their caring instruction of others.
- Educational Opportunities for Children (Pre-K through 6th)—the focal point of our children’s education program is the Sunday School which meets weekly September through May at 10 a.m. prior to the worship service. Classes are age-level appropriate and feature a modular approach to learning whereby each group of students spends the day at one of given “centers” where they revisit favorite Bible Stories, or do experiental modules centered on the Arts, Science, Music, Games, and Cooking (normally, preparing foods from the Bible). Information regarding a summer camping program for all ages, 2nd Grade through Adults can be found below.
- Educational Opportunities for Youth (Grades 7-12)—the cornerstone of our ministry to youth is on Sunday and Wednesday. Youth meet our leaders and explore those topics most relevant to today’s young people. Other weekday programs such as retreats, lock-ins, fundraisers, mission trips, bowling, golfing, movies, swimming parties, and community service projects supplement the Sunday schedule. A Confirmation class for baptized youth 8th Grade and up, and employing a mentor-centered approach, is held each spring.
- Educational Opportunities for Adults of All Ages—the heart of our adult ed program is First’s “Still Speaking School.” This is a comprehensive educational model that features an elective approach to learning. Whereas our popular Church & Society Forum may deal with issues of concern like poverty, homelessness, HIV/AIDS, health care and immigration reform, other offerings are geared more to increasing Bible literacy and exploring the nature of spiritual formation and growth. The many book groups and other offerings throughout the year greatly supplement the Sunday education program. Other adult ed opportunities being considered are a Foundation for Contemporary Theology group, a First Forum on Public Policy interest group, and a Billings Poet and Liars Writers Group.
All churches of the Montana-Northern Wyoming Conference are blessed to have a facility like Camp Mimanagish on the Boulder River outside of McLeod. Graded camps for 3rd Graders up run throughout the summer. There is a Men’s Retreat, a Women’s Retreat, a Grandparents-and-Me camp, a Young Adults camp, and camps for both Middle School and Senior High students. In 2009, over 50 people from First went to Camp Mimanagish—including our entire church staff for a four-day Refresh, Revitalize, and Renew planning retreat. For more about Camp Mimanagish, go to: www.campmimanagish.org.
First is an “open membership” church, fully accepting Christ’s teaching that the kingdom of God is made up of those most willing to be as little children in their approach to faith and discipleship. For that reason, children of all ages are welcome at the Table of Christ to receive Holy Communion even prior to confirmation. Bibles and crosses are given to all 1st and 2nd Graders, while 3rd Graders typically take “First Communion” with their parents in a special service in the fall. Confirmation classes, however, are reserved for those youth entering the 8th Grade. At First, a mentor-centered approach is used whereby each student chooses a mentor he or she would like to work with (always someone known to the young person for a good part of his or her life) and together they will meet weekly to explore the important questions of the faith with the help of a workbook. A monthly combined dinner discussion meeting with one of the pastors rounds out the experience.