ADULT DEPARTMENT CROWNING YEARS OF MINISTRY
BY J.O. AND MARY WALLACE RONALD AND EDNA NATION
The adult education program of the church should have as much thought and planning as does any level of learning in the whole church. Too often, this level of education is neglected while all emphasis is put on reaching children and youth. Therefore, the adult classes are not exciting nor well attended.
It has often been said that adults are just “over-grown children.” If this is true, these “over-grown children” need attention. No longer should all the best talent be distributed through the other levels, leaving the adults with what happens to be left over.
There is a desperate need to focus in on teaching adults and upgrading the adult levels. Building a strong adult class involves three major areas. They are Organization, Fellowship, and Teaching.
If at all possible adult classes should be provided for the following age levels; young adults (ages 18-34); middle adulthood (ages 35-64); later adulthood (age 65 and up). There are distinct needs found in these age classifications. To more closely grade the need, these levels could also be broken down into other distinct classes. As an example, classes could be pro
vided for the young marrieds, young singles, older singles. senior citizens, and new converts. These classes can be determined by surveying the need: age group, interest group, and overlooked groups.
After you have surveyed the need and determined the classes needed, it is important to get the new class off to a good start. Begin the class with a fellowship activity, inviting all the prospective members. These prospective members will include present Sunday school members falling into that class category. This already gives you a membership nucleus. Categorize the visitor cards and contact the potential members, explaining the formation of the new class. Invite them to the fellowship activity and use this time as a “get acquainted” fellowship. Explore the potential of this class membership and church involvement and excite them to action. With input from those attending, set your goals; immediate and future. Organize immediately a “calling program” for the class. Plan several future activities. The excitement of this fellowship activity will set the stage for a successful class.
Have only as much organization as you need. Choose your class officers prayerfully. President, Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer are usually sufficient under ordinary circumstances. Be sure to carefully appoint your committees. Committees such as your Hospitality Committee, Project Committee, and Evangelism Committee can serve a very functional need for the newly formed class. Careful planning between the teacher and the class officers is necessary to build a good adult class and to keep it progressive.
Strive to involve everyone. Everybody enjoys being a part of the program. Each person is important and should be made to feel an integral part of the class activities. Strong active adult classes are the backbone of a growing church. Adult classes can be as exciting as any other class in the Sunday school. There is no need for “yawning,” “hum-drum” adult classes. This type of class can be eliminated if we strive to create a “ministry team.” We are workers together with God. Something is drastically wrong with the team if only the coach is playing.
It is time to equip, encourage, and inspire the ministry team to full involvement in the gigantic mission of Christ’s church. Job descriptions and training sessions are a must in the present day church. We need to encourage each person to maximum potential. No Superintendent in the factory runs all the machines. No Band Director plays all the instruments. It takes everyone doing his part for the church to operate successfully. An old axiom is, “use them or lose them.” The church today needs to operate in full potential, using every gift and talent latent in individual church members.
To organize you must first visualize. Visualize the present, the future, and the vehicles for change and growth. The four “izes” will get things moving in your class: visualize, organize, deputize, and supervise.
Choose the best teacher possible. It is always an advantage to have a reserve staff of trained teachers from which to draw. This reserve staff of teachers have been trained and are on call for substitute teaching or a permanent role as a new teacher. A wise pastor will not overlook the need of trained teachers in this reserve staff. This staff should be as closely supervised and trained as the permanent teachers. No class should ever have an unskilled, untrained teacher, even as a substitute.
Spiritual matters are too important for any class session to be wasted time. For our Sunday schools, incapable teachers are hard to find. There are many potential teachers all about us and these individuals, with proper training and instruction, can be a valuable asset to the teaching ministry.
The teacher’s job is to bring forth the particular Bible truths that the class is studying on any given Sunday. Every teacher of the Word of God should be spiritual. When the teacher’s heart and mouth is filled with holy words, Bible words, and he speaks them with the anointing of the Holy Spirit, he will be freed from the pressure of having to “pound the truth” into his pupil’s heads. When teachers rely upon the power of the Holy Spirit to take the word into the hearts of their students, the teacher will find teaching easier and most
rewarding. It is the Holy Spirit that makes truth real. Spiritual teachers are the teachers who can square their shoulders, put on a smile, walk in the classroom radiant and be assured of positive results.
No teacher should be identified with a particular method of teaching. It is important not to commit yourself to a given procedure because different methods do different things. A teacher who lectures
to his class for an entire session runs the risk of losing the attention of his students. The worst teaching method to use during a class session is the one you used last. Many teachers tend to do the same kind of things, to use the same methods week after week. Good teaching often contains a surprise factor. Variety is the spice of life. Adults need to feel challenged and confronted into thinking problems through and offering practical solutions to them. Classroom methods and procedures should encourage total involvement. As the Holy Spirit moves and reveals truths the teacher should guide the students in discovery and sharing. God does not intend for the precious truths of His Word to remain locked up within the hearts and minds of His people. These kind of sessions produce faith and works. Students become “doers of the Word and not hearers only.” When you see spiritual blades of maturity spring up in the students life and they become involved in personal evangelism, visiting the sick and bereaved, or assisting the elderly, then you can feel that you have taught effectively.
Every teacher should list an outline of learning objectives for each lesson. This outline of learning objectives will set the stage for the methods best suited for that particular class session. The method
chosen should arouse interest and motivate the student to learn. The key to flexibility is understanding the various methods and techniques of teaching. You may add to, adapt or change these methods to add
interest and creativity. Some of the more basic methods of teaching are:
The lecture method is perhaps the most used method in adult teaching. The lecture method requires thorough preparation with specific objectives in mind so the teacher avoids rambling. The lecture must be stimulating and exciting. The teacher must vary his manner, speak clearly and with careful expression. If the situation allows it, a teacher can intersperse his lecture with pupil interaction, questions, comments and discussions. Occasionally a student-teacher evaluation session, in which they evaluate the contents and the learning that has taken place, can be very profitable to the teacher.
Buzz sessions are best suited when the class attendance is small enough and the class space is large enough to accommodate this teaching method. The buzz groups, consisting of three to five students, are given a topic for discussion. Approximately five to ten minutes are given for these sessions. The leader or spokesman, chosen by the group, shares each group p’s discussion with the entire class. The advantage
of the buzz sessions is that every member is given an opportunity to share his thoughts. Many good thoughts are derived from this method of teaching.
Panel or Forum
Select four to six members with varying viewpoints to openly discuss a subject. This panel will openly discuss the subject before all class members. After the panel has discussed the subject for approximately twenty minutes, open the discussion to the total class. Many more viewpoints will surface with this interesting technique.
It is an excellent idea to have a guest speaker to address the class. The guest speaker will provide open information on a given subject and will allow the class to respond with questions and comments.
First of all, let’s define the term: Team teaching is simply taking a team of teachers, utilizing their particular unique capabilities and working together as a team, with a common goal, the salvation of souls.
Some teachers are more dynamic than others; some are more persuasive than others; some are more creative than others. Take careful consideration of these talents in the placement of this staff of teachers. The creative teacher may be used to introduce the lesson or be responsible for some activity for the session. The dynamic teacher may present the main Bible lesson. The persuasive teacher may wrap up the lesson and give an altar appeal.
Even small churches can use team teaching. A staff of two teachers can be very effective. One teacher may act as Superintendent and teach the heart of the lesson, the other may introduce the lesson and give the spiritual application at the conclusion. If it is desirable, a student in the class can be selected as the class
secretary. Even with a team of two, the job can be well done. This teaching method can add depth to any class session.
Various and sundry methods of teaching can be adapted to the teaching of adults. However, the above methods seem to be the most used. Regardless of the method you choose for a particular lesson, visual aids are important to keep the interest of the class. Overhead projectors, chalkboards, filmstrips, charts, and object displays can be very valuable tools in the learning process. Learn to use these well.
Relating to Needs
Adulthood covers a wide range of years. It is the longest stretch in the various age levels of the Sunday school. It spans more than half a century.
The adult often has a feeling of “having been through it all before.” He knows all the Bible stories and characters and doesn’t seem to be interested in that type of Sunday school. If the class session is of such, we can hardly blame him for his lack of interest.
Therefore, the adult program of the church must be realistic, meeting people where they are and helping them meet and solve their problems with divine resources. The Bible has answers to all of life’s situations.
Let us look at some of the needs that exist in the adult classes.
The Young Adult’s developmental tasks are selecting a mate, learning to adjust to a marriage partner, starting a family, purchasing a home, and finding himself in occupation, civic and social responsibilities.
The wise teacher can effectively teach and guide young adults to success in all these areas. Young adults weigh heavy with potential for God. They represent approximately twenty years of development. The
church must now be as relevant to his needs as any time in his life. A wise and spiritual Sunday school teacher can instill faith and security in the life of the young adult with relative Biblical teaching; a
security that will keep him in the years to come.
The Middle Adult becomes a period of continuing, developing, maturing, and deepening. During this period he will ask such questions as, “What have I done with my life?” “What are my central values?”
“What are my greatest talents?” “How am I relating to my mate, children, and job?”
The Middle Adult may find these years as the most satisfying of adulthood. He tends to be realistic and practical. This age level tends to feel a real responsibility to the church and home. Although he may
be actively involved in the church, the church can add new dimensions to his spirituality. A well balanced program should help meet the spiritual needs of the middle age successfully.
A major transition comes in the lives of the Later Adults (Senior citizens). How the senior citizen handles this last era of life depends largely on how he was ministered to in the middle adulthood.
Some of the problems he must face are the biological factors of getting older, time of retirement, decrease in physical strength and vitality. Many times this age level is faced with the death of a spouse and many close friends. Grief and loneliness are two problems that the church must deal with during this time.
Many times the senior adult feels “left out” of church and social functions. Careful attention should be given to meet these important needs. The senior citizen will thrive on social functions organized especially for him. He enjoys talking and visiting with members his own age.
The church must be careful that the senior adult is not left feeling like he is “shelved” or a “has-been.” There is a need for members of the later-adult group to minister as well as being ministered to. They may function as elders in the church and can be profitable as counselors. This time is a real testing time for both the senior adult and the church. The church must meet the needs of all age levels to be called a successful church.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY WORD AFLAME PRESS, 1967, PAGES 175-183. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.