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The CEA Story

1992 - Revised 1996, by Dr. Holbert Rideout

The first session of "Service-By-Sharing for Educational Directors" convened on August 16, 1960 at the Womack Lodge in Lake Dallas, Texas.  Bill Patterson and W. Joe Hacker, Jr. were chiefly responsible for arranging the clinic.  According to the report published in the September, 1960 CBT, "Panels and discussion periods for seven and one-half hours each day, with evening programs and after mid-night buzz groups of men sleeping in the large bunk quarters of the Womack Lodge, kept enthusiasm high." (Christian Bible Teacher, September, 1960, p.24)  Twenty full-time education directors were pictured in that issue of Christian Bible Teacher magazine (CBT), though the definition of "full-time" must have been used very loosely.

Such was the formal beginning of our story--the first meeting of what has come to be known as the Christian Education Conference.  But the complete story does not begin with the first meeting. 


As I look back I perceive the 40s and 50s as glory days for the growth of the Church of Christ in this century. Those years saw much enthusiasm and vigorous activities and the beginnings of a number of new works among our people. A surge of church plantings took place in the states during the 40s. Some World War II soldiers returning from overseas saw the need and the possibility for foreign mission work and many became involved in that work. By 1960, many “swarming” of small congregations were taking place in order to make larger ones, especially in growing southern cities. 


A casual look through the early pages of Christian Bible Teacher magazine (beginning in 1956), reveals a picture of a well-developed, although a still-developing church.  Churches were establishing Christian Day Schools and holding area-wide teacher training schools with enrollment of 1,000 or more being reported.  Colleges were beginning to offer summer Bible Teacher's Workshops (the ACU workshop began in 1955), Christian Book Stores were being established, and several publishing companies were publishing Bible school materials for our brethren.  Some congregations, particularly in larger cities, were offering Bible courses in their churches for high school credit.  (That began in Dallas in 1936).

In the perusal of early day Christian Bible Teacher magazines I was impressed with the large number of people who had a remarkable preparation and ability to write articles for the magazine.  There were both men and women, some college teachers, preachers and preacher's wives, etc. -- dozens of people who were writing with a vision for the education program of the church.  By the 1960's there were a number of people with doctorates in our colleges.  Those were exciting days in which to live, and I still thrill at the almost unbelievable amount of interest and activity that was generated in behalf of the teaching program of the church.


1.  Camp meetings.  In the early years, the conferences were men's meetings in camp settings.  They were very definitely home-grown programs using our own talents and operating on a strict budget. A 1964 advertisement promised a three-day clinic, including lodging and meals, for $20.  These ‘camp meetings’ were usually conducted in Texas, Arkansas, or Tennessee, in order to be conveniently located for the largest number of men who might be interested in attending.

2.  Sponsorship.  Bill Patterson was a prime mover in beginning both the Christian Bible Teacher magazine and the Christian Education Conference.  He was owner of the Patterson Bible School Supplies in Dallas when he and Joe Hacker, Jr. made the arrangements for that first meeting of the C.E.C. in 1960.  After the 1961 meeting, Bill moved to California.  There was no conference in 1962.  Neil S. Bryan began sponsoring the conference in 1963 through his Christian Teacher Bookstore, and continued that sponsorship through the eighteenth conference which was held in Dallas in October of 1978.  Sweet Publishing Company sponsored the conference beginning with the Dallas meeting in 1979, and continued through the Atlanta meeting in 1990.  Beginning with the 1991 conference in New Orleans, the conference is both sponsored and supported by the Christian Education Association which means that we are now doing it on our own.

3.  The Christian Education Association.  Now that the C.E.C. is totally dependent on the Christian Education Association, it is time for the History of the Association to be written.  However, that is a story of its own.  It will have to wait until another time.


The conferences were altogether brotherhood productions until 1972 when Larry Richards was invited as a main speaker.  Since that time we have had outside speakers each year, usually speakers who had current material or topics that we believed would be beneficial.  Other than that we have used our own people to carry the major part of each program.


Some changes came about so imperceptibly that it is difficult to put a date on a particular change.  We must have become tired of the rustic camp settings, and of being separated from our wives, for we soon were meeting in hotels in small towns.  Then we moved to large cities exclusively, in order to be more convenient to airports.  In the meantime, programs included items of interest for women and more ladies began attending.  Eventually the consensus among the leaders was that we would make a special point of inviting spouses and schedule classes especially for them.  In addition, we would attempt to schedule the conferences in special places (cities) of interest so that participants could enjoy a half day for sight-seeing, shopping, etc…  This effort was directed toward building and keeping a good attendance at the conferences.  These changes occurred gradually during the 1980s.


To those of us who are Christian educators, this is really “our story” at whatever point we stepped on board.  1992 sees us with two special accomplishments -- the Christian Education Conference for our personal, continuing education, and the Christian Education Association which is intended to be a very special support system for each of us.  There is nothing else in our brotherhood comparable to it.  We are blessed with a very special history.  Treat it well.  Pass it on to the next generation in even better shape.