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A Conversation with Joyce Hardin


Joyce Hardin doesn’t mince words. She believes Bible school education should change students’ lives by improving character and molding behavior. To that end she developed a missions curriculum, her third series, “Journeys Around the World” in 2002.

Such a project is fitting for Hardin, who, along with her husband Dan, has devoted a lifetime to two passions — missions and education.

The Hardins spent 17 years as missionaries in Korea. While there Joyce taught at Korea Christian University and Department of Defense schools and was heavily involved in Korean women’s organizations.
The Hardins returned to the United States in 1974 and joined the faculty at Lubbock Christian University in 1976.

Joyce Hardin received a doctorate in education form Oklahoma State University. At LCU, she received numerous teaching awards and was active in local, state and national teaching groups.

Besides the “Journeys” curriculum, she has written two other series, “Passport to Adventure” and “Dare to be Different” for young people.

Hardin’s latest involvement is as a member of the executive board of the Missions Resource Network, a ministry founded in 1998 to provide resources to churches and missionaries and to help plant congregations. She also serves as its coordinator for missions education.

The Hardins, now retired from Lubbock Christian, live in Dripping Springs, Texas, where Dan preaches and Joyce teaches Bible classes at the Lake Travis church, a new congregation. They have three daughters and 11 grandchildren.

What is your philosophy about the goal of children’s Bible curriculum?

For me, a Bible class curriculum should be designed to bring about changed behavior, which is one definition of learning. Certainly I believe that children need to know scripture, but knowledge alone does not affect lives. Memorization and regurgitation of facts can be done with little emotional or spiritual commitment. Bible stories and activities that involve children experientially and ask them to think critically do change character and mold behavior.

As I trained teachers for public school classrooms, I leaned heavily on educational research and what it tells us about learning. I believe those same principles apply in Bible classes.
My first missions curriculum, “Passport to Adventure,” was designed around experiential learning. There were almost no paper and pen activities, teachers did little lecturing, and students were actively involved in every activity. I used role plays, dramatics, simulations and stories of missionaries to help children learn of God’s mission and enable them to experience being ambassadors of reconciliation.

In recent years, educational research has defined critical thinking as a focal point in public education. This fits very well into the Bible school curriculum. Our children need to know how to analyze and synthesize information. They need to be able to use God’s teachings as they make decisions, look at consequences of behavior and solve problems. They need to learn to work with others. My series, “Dare to be Different,” is designed to help juniors (ages 8-12) use higher thinking skills to deal with everyday situations.

Why did you undertake “Journeys”?

I was challenged by Mission Resource Network to locate materials that could be used by churches of Christ to incorporate missions into the Bible school curriculum. What I found was that there is very little material that deals with missions. There is almost no teaching that knowing what God has done brings a responsibility to share the good news with others.

I had gone to Sweet Publishing with a proposal to add a few missions lessons into their curriculum. God opened the door for a complete curriculum!

What is the theory undergirding “Journeys”? How is it structured?
In writing “Journeys,” I wanted children to experience the excitement and joy that comes from sharing the Gospel in a cross-cultural setting. I wanted to challenge them to think about missions as a career.

“Journeys” is divided into two age groups: preschool and elementary. My daughter, Danna Willis, a preschool teacher, wrote the preschool lessons which I edited. There are 13 lessons for each age group. All are activity oriented.

Each lesson begins with a Bible story and has four activity centers that introduce the students to one country. One center introduces the country itself, one deals with a custom from the country, a third is a game related to the country and the last is a food center. The centers are designed with a mission emphasis. For example, as children eat the food, they may role play a mission situation and share a scripture or a Bible story.

What are your greatest hopes for mission work in churches of Christ?

I would like to see missions and evangelism become the focus of the church. It seems to me that much of efforts in the church today are centered on programs that serve ourselves.

What are your greatest fears?

A recent trend in missions is toward short-term mission efforts such as campaigns or internships. Some congregations use most of their mission budget to fund such activities. While short-time efforts can produce quick results, churches need the direction of a full-time missionary. Finding churches and support for full-time missionary families has become increasingly difficult as churches put more of their funds into short-time efforts. Some potential missionaries have given up their plans to enter the field.

What do you see as our greatest recent successes?

Certainly mission work in Africa has seen tremendous success, and there may be more Christians on that continent than in the United States. The focus on sending teams into the great cities of South America has also brought good results. Churches in Korea are now sending out their own missionaries.

Our greatest recent failures?

I can’t single out one failure. I don’t think we were prepared for the fall of the Iron Curtain and, as a result, much of the mission work in that area has not been as effective as it might have been. I hope we are planning ways to reach the Muslim world when it opens to us.

How do you see the role of women on the mission field as having changed?

When I first went to the mission field, the missionary woman’s role was generally defined as that of a homemaker. Her husband was the missionary; she was his wife. Today, women often go with a specific ministry in mind. They might be ready to serve as teachers, nurses or doctors. Making a home is primary, but there is more emphasis on their role in taking the Gospel to the targeted people.

What can churches do to help the missionaries they support?

It is important that churches know their missionaries and the people with whom they will be working. This includes working together to define mission goals and objectives. Sponsoring churches often request that the family spend some time with the congregation before going to the field and this is very beneficial. Designat-ing specific individuals as support team to the family makes it easier for the family to share difficulties and receive support. This team can inform the church about the missionary family and their culture.

The church needs to be ready to assist in strategic planning or counseling in the case of marriage or family difficulties.

Knowing what you know now, where would you go if you could start all over again as a missionary?

This is a difficult question. I loved our time in Korea and feel that our mission there was a success.

Today, Korea no longer needs foreign missionaries so that could not be my choice. I have a daughter and son-in-law who are vocational missionaries in Pago Pago, American Samoa. They have started a congregation that now has elders. However, they desperately need full-time workers. Selfishly, that would be my choice.

On the other hand, I think the answer is simple. Today I would look at the entire world, be frequently in prayer, and try to open myself to God’s leadings. In that way he would make the choice for me.

Filed under: Dialogue Staff Reports

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