During this time of experimentation and innovation in church ministry, as churches move out of their buildings and into homes and virtual spaces, there is one consistent thing I hear from many educators. “There are so many great ideas out there that I’m feeling overwhelmed right now and can’t do it all!” As we continue to face this pandemic together, I would encourage and challenge your church to pick one new idea and do it well. In this post I will focus on adult education and will detail the one good idea that Oakhurst Presbyterian Church has been doing during Lent. At the end there will be an attachment with more good ideas for adult education that may spark your own one good idea.
Oakhurst Presbyterian Church is around a 300-member church in Decatur, Georgia. As a multicultural congregation, it has an ongoing mission to be at the forefront of intercultural and racial justice work. Charles Copp, of the RED (Racial, Ethnic, Diversity) team at the church had experienced, in the school where he teaches, a Racial Equity 21-day challenge to address unconscious bias and other forms of racial discrimination. This online curriculum consists of a series of short videos curated from various sources like TED Talks, CNN, and the New York Times. The intent was that during Lent adults would sign up to take this challenge to “give up cultural bias for Lent.” We would keep journals (see below for template) as we watched the films daily and then gather on Sunday mornings to reflect on our responses in light of our faith as Christians. With the pandemic making these face-to-face gatherings impossible, the Sunday class was moved onto Zoom and participants either joined by computer or phone to reflect in small breakout groups on their journals. Adults participating spanned the age range from those with young children to senior adults in their seventies and eighties. The conversations we have had were rich and honest, perhaps even more vulnerable than we would have had in a face-to-face gathering. Some participants paired up and talked by phone during the week as they were working through the videos, while others worked on their own and shared during the Sunday morning sessions where everyone gathered. This curriculum migrated well to an online format and would be something that other churches could certainly pursue during the season after Easter and leading to Pentecost, as we celebrate God’s ability to break barriers of all sorts to bring about new life.
Like Mary (Luke 10:38-42) who chose the one good thing of sitting at the feet of Jesus to listen and learn, I would invite your church to consider the one good thing that you will do for the adults in your congregation during this season of physical isolation and new ways of connecting. As I mentioned at the start there are ideas below to get you started. Share with us on the Facebook group or here in the comments the one good thing that you will do in this season.
Kathy L. Dawson, Columbia Theological Seminary, Hope4CE Steering Committee Member