“We’ve tried Adult Education in my church, but our adults just don’t show up!” While that seems true in many churches, it is neither inevitable nor universal. Here are five ideas that may help:
- Start thinking about Faith Formation rather than Christian Education. Education is about head learning. Formation is about deepening spiritual lives. One example: Education is someone teaching a series on prayer. Formation is someone leading people in practicing and reflecting upon their experiences of prayer.
- Formation is often most transforming when it takes place outside of a classroom type setting. For example, 10 minutes of spiritual reflection after an outreach event, or a moment in a Sunday service when we learn about and so experience differently some aspect of our liturgy. Everything the church does is an opportunity for prayer, spiritual reflection, learning, celebration, fun, and fellowship. All of that is Faith Formation.
- Use a variety of approaches at a variety of times. Sometimes it’s after church. Sometimes it’s during the week. Sometimes it’s part of outreach. Sometimes it’s a retreat. Sometimes it’s a short video and conversation. Sometimes it’s something to do at home followed by group reflection. Sometimes it’s online. Sometimes it’s topical. Sometimes it’s Scriptural. People learn differently, are interested in different things, and available at different times.
- Pray for the grace to be grateful for whatever number of people participate. This is a lot easier when doing a variety of things over short periods of time rather than expecting one approach to be the answer for everything. Spending high quality time with two or three people (or 10 or 20) can be life changing for everyone, including you.
- Take advantage of the huge variety of readily available resources and help. You don’t have to be an expert theologian or teacher. There are thousands of high quality resources that only require the leader to facilitate conversation. If you have a regular priest, she has the education to lead many aspects of this work. But you don’t have to have one. The Bishop’s staff is always happy to help all types of congregations explore opportunities, resources, and grants that will work for their church.
People often ask how to grow their church. But because the church is you and me, growing our church is really about growing ourselves. And in the church, growing ourselves means deepening our relationships with God and each other. The church thrives when and where its members thrive. Please contact Brad Purdom if you are interested in exploring any of this more deeply.