A Model for Adult Education in the Tradition of the Believers’ Church -- By: Richard E. Allison

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 09:0 (NA 1976)
Article: A Model for Adult Education in the Tradition of the Believers’ Church
Author: Richard E. Allison


A Model for Adult Education in the
Tradition of the Believers’ Church

Richard E. Allison

This is a time of transition for adult education in the church. Following World War II, education1 enjoyed a flourishing life in the church. During the latter part of the 1960’s things began to change. Public interest in religion began to wane, social problems became more acute and financial support of all church enterprises began to decline. In addition, church education found itself in desperate need.

The reasons for this are several. First, there is the confusion of education with a particular agent of education. In many circles, education is synonymous with Sunday School. However, the Sunday School is not so much an agency of education as it is an agency of a particular form of Protestantism and it cannot be easily or quickly turned into an educational agency. In addition, there is need for an appreciation of the educational role of the various agencies of the congregation.

Secondly, there is a confusion of the work of the Spirit and the process of education. At the practical level, a lot of sloppy, ill-defined educational work, poor teacher preparation and inadequate curriculum materials are excused because we say or think that the Holy Spirit is the real force. One should not be forced to choose between the work of the Spirit and the work of the educator.

Thirdly, adults, potentially the largest and most varied group in any congregation both in age and experience, are allotted proportionately the smallest amount of money, materials, variety and expertise. Yet everyone knows that adults form the power structures in church and in society. In spite of the above fact, in actual practice, adult education has tended to retain most of its almost century-old patterns.2 The International Uniform Lesson series is still very much with us. It was adopted in 1872 when less than 10% of adults attended high school, and it focused on attaining religious literacy through systematic

Bible study. With the passing of the decades, vast changes have emerged. The horizons of ability have been raised. Educational procedures have been revolutionized. Too often, little or nothing has changed with the adult class. Add to this the fact that in many congregations the adults are treated to the same fare as though they all possess identical needs. At least, this is what is implied by supplying only the uniform lessons. This practice assumes that age, socio-economic status, geography, family circumstances and all other similar factors are of little consequence. Reliance upon uniformity implies that all adul...

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