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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Visual Parables: Connecting Faith and Film

Fr. John Culkin inspired me to develop bridges between faith and film when he wrote that were Jesus to begin his ministry today, he would become a filmmaker. The best storytellers are working in Hollywood, so that is where he would be in order to reach the masses with his message. VisualParables.org is the culmination of my media ministry (Presbyterian) that began in the Seventies with writing reviews for several Catholic magazines, followed later by reviews in Protestant and secular newspapers. VisualParables.org moves beyond merely reviewing films by providing tools for church leaders to use them with their people to explore faith and personal and social issues.

The site offers about 1200 free reviews with one or more Scripture references attached. (Sometimes I spend almost as much time searching for the relevant Bible passage as in writing the review.) Each month the VP journal, available by either annual subscription or individual issue, includes the reviews plus a set of questions, ranging from 4 or 5 to as many as 20. Preachers tell me that they usually read the column “Lectionary Links” first because it suggests one or more films related to the Sunday texts of the Common Lectionary. Methodist chaplain Doug Sweet contributes a column that reviews film books and new DVDs. There are special articles, such as “Celebration of the Dance in Film,” and “Social Issue Films Reviewed in Visual Parables,” arranged according to category/themes—the latter lists almost 550 films. Cindy Corey, director of a Presbyterian resource center, reviews various short films.

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St. Andrew’s FISH – Families Integrating Sunday and Home

Like many churches these days, St. Andrew’s had limited volunteer resources and sporadic attendance at Church School. The “regular” families were frustrated and burned out. And my experience had taught me that parental involvement is the single most important success factor in Christian formation. We were ready to do church differently.

We’re an Episcopal church, with a rich liturgical tradition. I have long believed that worship is the most formative thing we do, and worship was working well. We have strong and consistent attendance for our Family Service, which meets during the readings, sermon and prayers of the primary service. We do all the same things, in a more family-friendly setting. Then we rejoin the primary service for Communion, every Sunday. We don’t have any rules about what ages belong where, or parental accompaniment; we let each family make the decision that suits them best. Many parents choose to worship with their children. Continue reading

The Church Finding a Voice

Von Clemans offers these important insights on how the ways we communicate information in the church are changing. This is a reblogged post from the APCE Adovocate via Kaye Bledsoe.

kayebledsoe

Goldfish Have Eight by Von Clemans (copied from APCE ADVOCATE Journal)

On a recent Sunday I passed through the narthex and noticed the large pile of bulletins left by departing worshipers. At least three-quarters of all the bulletins printed for that day were destined for the recycling bin. In each folded paper were dozens of carefully crafted announcements designed to engage and attract people to essential opportunities for their growth in faith. I’d like to think church people had memorized all the pertinent details for future reference. But the truth is many of them did little more than scan them. I know that because our weekly email newsletter is opened by less than half of the recipients, with a click-through rate of less than five percent.  Messages are going out but not being received.

Why?  Because communication patterns have changed. Information hits us from every direction in every possible media…

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