Successful Adult Sunday School Teachers
by Ronald 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 provided 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 successfull 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. We need to encourage each person to maximum potential.
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.
When one starts talking about the development of capable teachers 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.
The Teacher is a seeker. Jesus, the master teacher, sought out his students. He came to seek. He found them by the seashore, the market place, and the professional world. A good teacher does not leave the seeking to the visitation committee or the bus captain. She seeks new students and visits her absentees. The good teacher is a motivator. Put salt on their tongue and show them the water. A good motivator can make his students reach for the stars.
The teacher must guide the learning experience. The student will learn with or without you, but is of utmost importance that he learns the right things with your guidance. It is a must that the teacher has his lesson aims well established when he enters the classroom.
The teacher must be a good communicator. It is important that the students know what you are saying. Your job is to get the students to “buy” the lesson, to make it become a part of them. The good teacher will also clarify ideas.
Education is indoctrination. Actually the teacher imparts or transfers the knowledge and spirit that he possesses. Such as I have give I thee. This is the only way you can be fruitful.
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:
PANEL or FORUM
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.
What The Church Expects From The Teacher.
1. In class 15 minutes before starting time.
2. Adequate time spent preparing.
3. A prayerful life as an example.
4. Attend training classes.
5. Systematically follow-up absentees.
6. Attend planning sessions.
7. Loyal to church services.
8. In full harmony with doctrines of the church.
What The Teacher Can Expect From The Church.
1. Adequate materials and supplies.
2. Rooms and equipment.
3. Good supervision.
4. Supply of curriculum materials.
5. Cooperation in every endeavor.
6. Prayer for you and your class.
7. Spiritual guidance and inspiration.
8. Training and guidance for the workers.