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

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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Spiritual Disciplines

Amidst the busy lifestyles we Christians often lead in society, I can’t help but wonder what it looks likes to have our faith formed and grow. Yes, we have Sunday School and worship, and maybe even a Bible Study coupled with a mission opportunity or two. Some of us may be chaperones on youth trips or church officers, but in the middle of that, where is the Holy Spirit forming us and molding us? Are we even attuned to it? Continue reading

TED Talks for Parents

For several years my church has offered a parenting class as part of its mid-week programming. This class has looked at church-y books, secular books, and dvd-based how-to studies. Through it all, the main expectations from the parents have been: 1) keep it real, and 2) don’t expect us to read anything ahead of time.

This fall we’re using TED Talks as our curriculum, and we’re looking at these videos through the bifocal lenses of parenting and faith. Continue reading

WWJT

This last Saturday I was with a group from Salem Presbytery exploring what it means to be The Hopeful Church. We looked at the current state of Christian education in mainline churches, particularly the PC(USA). We talked  about how difficult it is to change the model of Sunday School with which many of us have grown up.

Then we tried an activity to break us out of our preconceived notions of what Christian Education is about. I called it WWJT, which could be translated “What Would Jesus Teach?” or “Where Would Jesus Teach?” Continue reading

The Essence of Being Human

Ubuntu is an African worldview that is hard to translate into Western culture. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has offered several definitions. One of them is “my humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in what is yours.” But he offers another definition, simple and profound, that resonates with me: Ubuntu is “the essence of being human.”

Two weeks ago a group of Columbia Theological Seminary students representing various ethnic and cultural traditions began their journey as Practical Theology students. None knew what to expect – of the school, the program or each other – but we were all united as one by the radical love of Jesus and the unifying power of the Spirit.

During an intense week-long session, half of the class journeyed to be with members of the Friendship Center of Holy Comforter Church. For over 15 years, the Friendship Center has provided services to individuals marginalized by poverty, serious mental illness, and disability. Funded by small grants, the Episcopal Diocese and friends, The Friendship Center offers three programs: Wellness and Recovery, Art and Gardening and Community and Relationship Building. Continue reading