One Good Idea in Adult Education

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.

Racial Equity 21 Day Challenge Journal

Dawson Adult Resources

Kathy L. Dawson, Columbia Theological Seminary, Hope4CE Steering Committee Member

A VIRTUAL BIBLE BRIDGE

Let’s seize upon social distancing to build a virtual bridge (via Zoom) between our children/families and church staff, along with congregants known to have a special skill or hobby, or just a love for children. Beyond your church resources, many curriculum partners now offer FREE online “pandemic” materials (see attached). The Zoom platform is user-friendly and we all know techie folks. Our work is to coordinate these virtual partners.

family-made-of-prismatic-circles (1)

FORMAT: An interactive virtual fellowship for elementary age children and parents. (see attached) THE GOAL is to remotely connect children and families to you AND a virtual co-host, such as: pastor(s), Sunday school teachers, youth volunteers, crafters, quilters, plant people, singers/musicians, Elders/Deacons, and others who love children and receive some training about use of the Zoom platform.

Enlist an IT adult/youth to help launch your platform and generally monitor/problem solve. Even if you’re pretty good at this, enlist someone else. You have more important things to focus on. Start simple and build on your plan. If you serve a disadvantaged population, try soliciting extra laptops or mobile devices.

CRITERIA:

  • Engage families in the seasonal and/or liturgical Bible stories and practices.
  • Follow the “Faith 5” model: STEP 1: SHARE your highs and lows; STEP 2: READ a Bible verse or story; STEP 3: TALK about how the Bible reading might relate to your highs and lows, AND/OR engage in a hands-on activity; STEP 4: PRAY for one another’s highs and lows; STEP 5: BLESS one another.
  • Try to vary the mix of virtual co-hosts and hands-on activity.
  • As an alternative, pastors could offer monthly/quarterly/seasonal birthday blessings, or blessing of the animals, favorite book or toy, etc.

 

Want to see more? Just click the file (Word or PDF) below for a bridge sample lesson and list of possible sources of inspiration.

Schlechter Bridge Gatherings Word

Schlechter Bridge Gatherings PDF

Roberta L’Esperance Schlechter CCE, Retired Christian Educator and Member of the Hope4CE Steering Committee, Portland OR

 

 

 

 

 

TheoEd Talks

Several years ago, our church began wondering how to advance church-based theological education. While the church continued its traditional Sunday school and adult bible study programs, we also perceived that the culture around us was changing. Our members (and potential members!) interacted with sophisticated, on-demand technology every day in their offices and homes. Those in our community listened to podcasts as they commuted and streamed YouTube videos in the evening.  How could we better leverage technology in our Christian Education programs? Could we think more creatively about how to deliver our programming to an increasingly busy and technologically-savvy congregation?

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And the Survey Says . . .

Sharon Ely Pearson shared the results of her ecumenical curriculum survey on her own blog. I wonder how your ministry matches or challenges these results.

Rows of Sharon

4006230793_9b2742c25e_oAn on-line survey was held on a voluntary based during June 2016 to learn what curricular programs were being used in congregations with children, youth, and adults. The survey was disseminated through e-mail and social media (predominately Facebook groups) and various organizational list-serves (Forma, APCE, CEF,AUCE, and the Christian Education Network of the ELCA). The construction and results of the survey was conducted by the research group of the Church Pension Group, the parent company of Church Publishing Incorporated. The analysis of the data is strictly mine, and I take all responsibility for its interpretation.

Godly Playcontinues to be the most used program with children, with Montessori-type programs used by 36% of churches. The other three types of curriculum were lectionary-based (25%), Bible story based (30%), and workshop rotation model (9%). Most churches use a variety of resources, combining and tweaking them…

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Faith Sprouts

Over the past couple of years, I’ve had a number of questions from parents and grandparents about where and when to start talking to their young children about faith. Many of them have little or no experience as children themselves or ones that they would not like to repeat. Recently, I began a blog “FaithSprouts”. Designed to provide simple ways to engage small children around stories of faith, the blog includes a short reflection for caregivers, a book suggestion, an activity and a suggested prayer. You can find the most recent blog here . Hopefully these simple stories and practices can support faith in each household.

Linnae Himsl Peterson
Coordinator, Formation Network NH
Episcopal Church of NH

Christian Faith, the Bible, and Public Schools

My mother began her teaching career in the public schools in the early 1970s. Over the years, she has recounted the times when she was expected to read the Bible to students. She remembers lovingly sharing Bible stories and even praying with her elementary-aged students. However, as the years passed, those expectations changed, and by the time she retired a few years ago, she no longer read—and wonders if she would have been allowed to read—Bible stories to students.

There is no question that the role of the Bible and Christian faith in the public schools has changed dramatically over the last half century. Some of these changes have been for the better; others have been less positive. Still, it has left some wondering, “Is there a place for the Bible and Christian faith in American public schools today? And, if so, what is it?”

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