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Sarah Gregory is the Nooks and Neighborhoods Coordinator for Christians Engaged in Faith Formation. Sarah has her MACE from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. Sarah has worked as a Director of Discipleship, freelance curriculum writer, and Worship leader. She lives in St. Louis with her husband Kaleb, and son Cecil. 


How do we know we picked the right curriculum? When I first asked this question, I was really focused on Children's Ministry. After all, my teachers dedicated so much time breathing life into the lessons, I wanted to be sure we were using the best possible materials for our church and our children's needs. And Children's Ministry definitely has its own set of needs. Brittany Sky, the senior editor of children's resources at the United Methodist Publishing House, has a great article for picking great kids curriculum here if you want to know more. 

But I realized that adult curriculum needed assessed too. At any given time, people are learning something while they meet together in a congregation. Why not make sure that every single gathering of learners and leaders offers the priceless gift of excellent teaching and content?

In order to really assess the curriculum, I found a few steps were key.


1. Affirm your leaders
Most churches have key leaders that pick studies and often those folks do so without much guidance or prompting. Be sure to affirm the work your leaders are doing and seek to support their leadership rather than overstep and over manage their leadership. 

A leader's commitment to small groups, discipleship, Sunday School, and outreach ministry is a gift to your entire faith community. 

2. Ask your leaders.
Maybe you ask in the form of a survey. Maybe you take your leaders out to coffee. Maybe you just catch them quickly after church one Sunday. Just make sure to ask.

Start with questions like what went well this year in regards to your bible studies and curriculum? What didn't? Let the conversation unwind and see if you can pinpoint how to better guide the leaders towards valuable and exceptional resources.  

If you are new to faith formation leadership, curated lists like those found on the Cokesbury website can be a great starting point for great theological content and quality teaching. 

3. Assist your leaders.
When I worked as a Director of Discipleship, I sent out a list of the key goals for discipleship in our church based on a discipleship survey our church had taken and then sent a list of resources that would meet those goals at the beginning of each semester for our adult leaders. Work with a pastor or leadership team to get clarity about the goals and vision. If you have a good sense of your church's goals and overall mission it will propel your congregation's learning.

Don't feel confident in your ability to find those resources? Organizations like CEF exist to expose you to all kinds of content, including curriculum, so reach out to your networks and enjoy the support you receive!

In our church's case, the resources were available through our own media library in our church, the conference library, through an education fund, or through contributions from the small groups. Every church has different resources so share when you can, contact other faith formation leaders in your area to see if they might be stocked with a particular study, and be generous with your own materials. 

Be available for leaders who want guidance. Meet with them if they need it. Your goal as a faith formation leader is to equip other leaders not to exhaust yourself. Help others find the tools they need.


So much of the learning in our churches happens when people gather to talk about the good news outside of Sunday morning. How do you make sure you and your leaders are using the right curriculum for your ministry?





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Dr. Jack Seymour is a Professor Emeritus at Garrett-Evangelical Theological seminary. He co-chairs the editorial committee of Horizons in Religious Education, the book series of the Religious Education Association (REA). Contact him at jack.seymour@garrett.edu.



For a Christian educator, nothing is more important than faithfully teaching the Bible and assisting congregations to build engaging settings for Bible study.  Understanding scripture and drawing on its wisdom is foundational to the Christian life.  In fact, many of the conflicts in the church today as well as the church’s fear to challenge the wider culture can be traced directly to ineffective Bible study.  Too often preconceptions block the ways scripture invites us into abundant living and builds community.  We need serious and systematic study!

Scripture is at the heart of faith.  From the earliest times, scriptures have been crucial to the Jewish and Christian communities.  For Jesus, the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) was scripture.  In his day and today, Jewish worship centers around a systematic reading through the Torah.  Torah precepts to love God and love neighbor focused Jesus’ teaching.  Furthermore, he quoted the scroll of Isaiah over and over.  This too came from worship as Jewish communities also read passages from the scrolls of the prophets (Haftarah).  There were also other books used to interpret the signs of the times.  Yet the Jewish scriptures were not gathered until late in the first century (CE). 

Paul and the gospel writers also drew on the same Jewish scriptures Jesus did – on proclamations in the Torah and the hopes of the Prophets – as they sought to understand the profound experience and impact of Jesus.  What became the Bible as we Christians know it was first shared in worship and then was expanded as followers sought to understand the “way of Jesus.”  Key books stood out as reliable guides to faithful living.  The church gathered these together into an inspired guide for later generations.

Scripture is always interpreted.  In each time, we need to ask what scripture means for us and our living.  For example, while Kosher laws are still very important to many Jewish believers, most Christians do not interpret them as crucial for faith.  However, many Jews and Christians practice fasting which is similar to “food laws.” Each time we fast and say “no,” we remember God’s call on our lives.  Furthermore, keeping sabbath is similar.  As we keep sabbath, we are reminded that God is the giver and sustainer of life. 

Jesus used the scriptures of his time to interpret everyday life.  For him, the “great banquet,” the Shema (the command to love God and neighbor), and the “realm of God” were important lenses to understand God’s presence and call – and our responsibilities.  Paul too used the scriptures as he drew on “suffering servant” images from the prophets to understand Jesus.  Matthew used the foundational Torah stories about Moses to understand Jesus as messiah. We too use the scriptures to understand how to follow Jesus. 

Scripture is embodied in context.  As the Jewish leaders learned during their captivity in Babylon, the Torah stories that depicted God residing in Jerusalem had to be understood anew.  As slaves in a “strange land,” they struggled with what it meant for them to be separated from their homeland and oppressed.  Particular psalms and laments expressed their fears. 

The gospels were also embodied in a context.  They were written during a time of significant conflict between Jewish leaders and Roman oppressors.  Mark for example is written during or immediately after the Roman/ Jewish War that saw the destruction of the Temple.  The other gospels emerged when the Romans were tightening their oppression of Jewish and emerging Christian groups. As gospel writers sought to witness to the power of Jesus, their own time profoundly affected the ways they constructed their stories.

These three realities affect how we teach the scriptures.  We honor the power of scripture to reveal God, we struggle to understand God’s calling, and we seek to make it real in our world.  In Teaching Biblical Faith: Leading Small Group Bible Studies (Abingdon Press, 2015), I suggest that each teacher engages these realities as we pay attention to the people, to the text, and to the teaching process. 

Content is always impacted by experience. We engage the biblical text as fully, honestly and faithfully as we are able.  Yet, we teach people  – people who come with concerns, joys, hopes and questions; people who come with knowledge, preconceptions, and expectations.  Just like the followers of Jesus on the road to Emmaus were consumed by questions about “the things of Jesus of Nazareth (CEB Luke 24:19),” we too come to the scriptures to grow in faith, to address life concerns, and to seek to be faithful to God’s will. 

Finally, we all know that certain approaches to teaching open up the scriptures to help us grow and others simply provide information that we may or may not retain.  A good teacher prayerfully studies the text and humbly attends to the learners.  A good teacher explores approaches that assist learners to make connections and live the power of the scriptures. 

We pay attention to the text, we pay attention to the people, and we pay attention to how we teach.  I invite you to look at Teaching Biblical Faith.  You will find 10 approaches which have been tested.  Each is a best practice of Bible study.  They range from historical study of biblical texts, to prayerful appropriation of their meanings, and to missional responses.   I also encourage you to look at chapter 14 in Teaching Biblical Faith where I seek to guide us to “shape” a biblically-enlivened congregation, where preaching, study and mission are linked to release the power of scripture to guide mission.  Finally, for those of you who minister to children, I suggest a new Bible story book that pays attention to the text, to readers, and to the processes of story-telling.  See Elizabeth Caldwell and Carol Wehrheim, eds. Growing in God’s Love: A Story Bible (Westminster John Know Press, 2018).

Without a doubt, teaching the Bible is at the “heart” of our work as teachers because the Bible is at the heart of our faith.  Through studying the Bible, we see how the Hebrew people relied on God to help them love God and neighbor, we see the ways Jesus pointed to God’s action emerging in lives, and we learn the ways his followers sought to faithfully follow God and continue to live the “Way of Jesus.”  Indeed, teaching the Bible is at the heart of our work.


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Sarah Gregory is the Nooks and Neighborhoods Coordinator for Christians Engaged in Faith Formation. Sarah has her MACE from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. Sarah has worked as a Director of Discipleship, freelance curriculum writer, and Worship leader. She lives in St. Louis with her husband Kaleb, and son Cecil. 


How do we know we picked the right curriculum? When I first asked this question, I was really focused on Children's Ministry. After all, my teachers dedicated so much time breathing life into the lessons, I wanted to be sure we were using the best possible materials for our church and our children's needs. And Children's Ministry definitely has its own set of needs. Brittany Sky, the senior editor of children's resources at the United Methodist Publishing House, has a great article for picking great kids curriculum here if you want to know more. 

But I realized that adult curriculum needed assessed too. At any given time, people are learning something while they meet together in a congregation. Why not make sure that every single gathering of learners and leaders offers the priceless gift of excellent teaching and content?

In order to really assess the curriculum, I found a few steps were key.


1. Affirm your leaders
Most churches have key leaders that pick studies and often those folks do so without much guidance or prompting. Be sure to affirm the work your leaders are doing and seek to support their leadership rather than overstep and over manage their leadership. 

A leader's commitment to small groups, discipleship, Sunday School, and outreach ministry is a gift to your entire faith community. 

2. Ask your leaders.
Maybe you ask in the form of a survey. Maybe you take your leaders out to coffee. Maybe you just catch them quickly after church one Sunday. Just make sure to ask.

Start with questions like what went well this year in regards to your bible studies and curriculum? What didn't? Let the conversation unwind and see if you can pinpoint how to better guide the leaders towards valuable and exceptional resources.  

If you are new to faith formation leadership, curated lists like those found on the Cokesbury website can be a great starting point for great theological content and quality teaching. 

3. Assist your leaders.
When I worked as a Director of Discipleship, I sent out a list of the key goals for discipleship in our church based on a discipleship survey our church had taken and then sent a list of resources that would meet those goals at the beginning of each semester for our adult leaders. Work with a pastor or leadership team to get clarity about the goals and vision. If you have a good sense of your church's goals and overall mission it will propel your congregation's learning.

Don't feel confident in your ability to find those resources? Organizations like CEF exist to expose you to all kinds of content, including curriculum, so reach out to your networks and enjoy the support you receive!

In our church's case, the resources were available through our own media library in our church, the conference library, through an education fund, or through contributions from the small groups. Every church has different resources so share when you can, contact other faith formation leaders in your area to see if they might be stocked with a particular study, and be generous with your own materials. 

Be available for leaders who want guidance. Meet with them if they need it. Your goal as a faith formation leader is to equip other leaders not to exhaust yourself. Help others find the tools they need.


So much of the learning in our churches happens when people gather to talk about the good news outside of Sunday morning. How do you make sure you and your leaders are using the right curriculum for your ministry?





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Dr. Jack Seymour is a Professor Emeritus at Garrett-Evangelical Theological seminary. He co-chairs the editorial committee of Horizons in Religious Education, the book series of the Religious Education Association (REA). Contact him at jack.seymour@garrett.edu.



For a Christian educator, nothing is more important than faithfully teaching the Bible and assisting congregations to build engaging settings for Bible study.  Understanding scripture and drawing on its wisdom is foundational to the Christian life.  In fact, many of the conflicts in the church today as well as the church’s fear to challenge the wider culture can be traced directly to ineffective Bible study.  Too often preconceptions block the ways scripture invites us into abundant living and builds community.  We need serious and systematic study!

Scripture is at the heart of faith.  From the earliest times, scriptures have been crucial to the Jewish and Christian communities.  For Jesus, the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) was scripture.  In his day and today, Jewish worship centers around a systematic reading through the Torah.  Torah precepts to love God and love neighbor focused Jesus’ teaching.  Furthermore, he quoted the scroll of Isaiah over and over.  This too came from worship as Jewish communities also read passages from the scrolls of the prophets (Haftarah).  There were also other books used to interpret the signs of the times.  Yet the Jewish scriptures were not gathered until late in the first century (CE). 

Paul and the gospel writers also drew on the same Jewish scriptures Jesus did – on proclamations in the Torah and the hopes of the Prophets – as they sought to understand the profound experience and impact of Jesus.  What became the Bible as we Christians know it was first shared in worship and then was expanded as followers sought to understand the “way of Jesus.”  Key books stood out as reliable guides to faithful living.  The church gathered these together into an inspired guide for later generations.

Scripture is always interpreted.  In each time, we need to ask what scripture means for us and our living.  For example, while Kosher laws are still very important to many Jewish believers, most Christians do not interpret them as crucial for faith.  However, many Jews and Christians practice fasting which is similar to “food laws.” Each time we fast and say “no,” we remember God’s call on our lives.  Furthermore, keeping sabbath is similar.  As we keep sabbath, we are reminded that God is the giver and sustainer of life. 

Jesus used the scriptures of his time to interpret everyday life.  For him, the “great banquet,” the Shema (the command to love God and neighbor), and the “realm of God” were important lenses to understand God’s presence and call – and our responsibilities.  Paul too used the scriptures as he drew on “suffering servant” images from the prophets to understand Jesus.  Matthew used the foundational Torah stories about Moses to understand Jesus as messiah. We too use the scriptures to understand how to follow Jesus. 

Scripture is embodied in context.  As the Jewish leaders learned during their captivity in Babylon, the Torah stories that depicted God residing in Jerusalem had to be understood anew.  As slaves in a “strange land,” they struggled with what it meant for them to be separated from their homeland and oppressed.  Particular psalms and laments expressed their fears. 

The gospels were also embodied in a context.  They were written during a time of significant conflict between Jewish leaders and Roman oppressors.  Mark for example is written during or immediately after the Roman/ Jewish War that saw the destruction of the Temple.  The other gospels emerged when the Romans were tightening their oppression of Jewish and emerging Christian groups. As gospel writers sought to witness to the power of Jesus, their own time profoundly affected the ways they constructed their stories.

These three realities affect how we teach the scriptures.  We honor the power of scripture to reveal God, we struggle to understand God’s calling, and we seek to make it real in our world.  In Teaching Biblical Faith: Leading Small Group Bible Studies (Abingdon Press, 2015), I suggest that each teacher engages these realities as we pay attention to the people, to the text, and to the teaching process. 

Content is always impacted by experience. We engage the biblical text as fully, honestly and faithfully as we are able.  Yet, we teach people  – people who come with concerns, joys, hopes and questions; people who come with knowledge, preconceptions, and expectations.  Just like the followers of Jesus on the road to Emmaus were consumed by questions about “the things of Jesus of Nazareth (CEB Luke 24:19),” we too come to the scriptures to grow in faith, to address life concerns, and to seek to be faithful to God’s will. 

Finally, we all know that certain approaches to teaching open up the scriptures to help us grow and others simply provide information that we may or may not retain.  A good teacher prayerfully studies the text and humbly attends to the learners.  A good teacher explores approaches that assist learners to make connections and live the power of the scriptures. 

We pay attention to the text, we pay attention to the people, and we pay attention to how we teach.  I invite you to look at Teaching Biblical Faith.  You will find 10 approaches which have been tested.  Each is a best practice of Bible study.  They range from historical study of biblical texts, to prayerful appropriation of their meanings, and to missional responses.   I also encourage you to look at chapter 14 in Teaching Biblical Faith where I seek to guide us to “shape” a biblically-enlivened congregation, where preaching, study and mission are linked to release the power of scripture to guide mission.  Finally, for those of you who minister to children, I suggest a new Bible story book that pays attention to the text, to readers, and to the processes of story-telling.  See Elizabeth Caldwell and Carol Wehrheim, eds. Growing in God’s Love: A Story Bible (Westminster John Know Press, 2018).

Without a doubt, teaching the Bible is at the “heart” of our work as teachers because the Bible is at the heart of our faith.  Through studying the Bible, we see how the Hebrew people relied on God to help them love God and neighbor, we see the ways Jesus pointed to God’s action emerging in lives, and we learn the ways his followers sought to faithfully follow God and continue to live the “Way of Jesus.”  Indeed, teaching the Bible is at the heart of our work.


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Barbara Bruce is a facilitator with a passion for learning and teaching about learning.  She lives part of the year in Western NY and part in Northern Florida. She can be reached at bbcreative@aol.com or www.ministrymatters.com


How Do I Teach Adult Learners?

This is an excellent question. Below are some great ways to approach adult learning

MULTIPLE INTELLEGINCE THEORY OPENS MINDS!

First things first – all adults learn differently.  If you attempt to teach primarily by lecture, you will lose a good number of your adult learners.  Trust me.  Some adults learn by lecture, but many do not.  87% of adult learners self report to being “visual learners”.  I am one of them.  If I can see it, I can understand it.

Some adults learn best through music, others through movement, still others through wrestling with problem solving activities.  In short we all have specific preferences for learning.  One of the greatest gifts you can give your students is to discover and respond to your students most preferred ways of knowing.  For more information on this fascinating topic, check a copy of “7 Ways of Teaching the Bible to Adults.” (Abingdon Press)  The book needs to be updated to include the 8th Intelligence.”  

WHAT, SO WHAT, NOW WHAT?

As facilitator, you may assume that your students know some basic biblical information.  DO NOT GO THERE.  A tried and true method of insuring that students get the most out of a biblical story is to use the WHAT? – SO WHAT? – NOW WHAT? strategy.

WHAT? addresses the issue of the basics of the story.  For example in the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) do NOT assume that everyone knows what a Samaritan is or how much Jews and Samaritans hated each other.  These basic facts add incredible depth to this story.  Also who is a Levite? or a Priest?  Making sure that the background provided broadens the effects of this story.

The next step in this process is “SO WHAT?”  What does this story have to do with me?  The Bible is a living book with guidance for our lives today.   It can not - must not be simply a neat story that took place roughly 2000 years ago.  Questions like, “When have you “walked on the other side?”  “When have you been the Samaritan?  When have you helped someone in need (not just by the side of the road). This kind of question draws learners into the story.

The last step in this critical sequence is the transformational piece.  NOW WHAT? takes your involvement in scripture to a greater level by considering how knowing this informational teaching/learning will change your behavior.

Using this three step strategy is essential if we are to learn about how the Bible still speaks to us today. 

 JUST DO IT.

Yet another strategy that I use all the time is to ask for several “right answers”.  If I ask a question and someone gives me an answer and we move right along – we are not doing our job facilitating the learning process.  I will often ask for “5 right answers”.  If one person gives an answer and we move along, no one else has to think!  If you ask for 5 (or 3 to begin) right answers you will get learners actually thinking and responding out of their understanding.  It is a powerful learning strategy.

I DON'T KNOW IS OKAY

Another aspect of having the right answer is “it is perfectly O.K. for you, as facilitator, to say, ”I don’t know – let’s find out together.”  I love to use the “% Theory” of facilitating.  I am fairly confident that I know at least 1% more than my students, but I am not necessarily the “keeper of the answers”.  Many times adults are reluctant to answer a question because they fear that they do not know enough about the Bible to answer.  These two strategies help to lessen that fear

BE AWARE

I do not like “absolutes”, but I am going to suggest that you NEVER call upon a person by name to read.  It is wiser and much less threatening to ask for a volunteer.  I have seen this happen where someone will be called upon to read (or to answer) and they are embarrassed by their (real or perceived) lack of knowledge or ability.  

GROUND RULES

Further addressing what I just said about absolutes, please make it a habit to ALWAYS establish “Ground Rules” when beginning a class.  Respect and Confidentiality are premium rules to establish and others can be added to meet specific needs.  Adults have left the church because of something that was shared in a Bible study class was repeated and gossiped about

GO FOR IT

It is perfectly O.K. to deviate from the curriculum.  Feel free to go with a “teachable moment”.  I taught a 12 week Bible study that lasted nearly 5 months.  As we addressed issues in the lesson plan, students wanted to know more – Let interest and need to know more guide you.  

Lastly, remember that adults learn only what they WANT to learn.

MAY IT BE SO!


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Scott Hughes is the Director of Adult Discipleship; Executive Director of Congregational Vitality & Intentional Discipleship at Discipleship Ministries. Scott is an Elder in the North Georgia Conference and received his M.Div. Asbury Theological Seminary and D. Min. Southern Methodist University. Scott is currently the co-Host of the Small Groups in the Wesleyan Way podcast, and creator of the Courageous Conversations project.



When first asked to provide a book list for the the Basics of Faith Formation Series, I was overwhelmed at the possibilities. I do not pretend this is a complete list and it is certainly my subjective choices. In fact, I’d like to hear what books you’d add to this list. 

·      Christian Spiritual Formation in the Church and Classroom by Suzanne Johnson. Though 30 years old now, this concise book is still hard to top. My copy is full of underlines and yellow post-it note flags. Johnson clarifies that we should aim beyond individualized spirituality (that arises from within) but for Christian spirituality (that is passed on) that truly offers freedom. Johnson pushes us beyond popular psychological categories to the formation of Christian character. If I could only recommend one book, this would be it.

·      A Blueprint for Discipleship: Wesley’s General Rules as a Guide for Christian Living by Kevin Watson.While Professor Watson has become much more known for his book The Class Meeting, many overlook his previous book which takes a broader look at discipleship formation or the method of us Methodist. While it is not the most practical book on this list, it is certainly a helpful guide for faith formation leaders wanting to focus on the patterns of Wesleyan spirituality.

·      Spiritual Theology:A Systematic Study of the Christian Life by Simon Chan. The first non-Methodist on the list. I don’t remember how I came across Chan’s work, but I found it a delightful and comprehensive read. This book is for those who want a deeper exploration into the theology of spirituality and spiritual practices.

·      Keeping in Touch: Christian Formation and Teaching by Carol Krau. Carol, now retired from Discipleship Ministries, has been a mentor to me and many others. Though her book is concise, it is theologically rich and practical. Though this book is geared for teachers and facilitators of Sunday School classes and small groups, it is certainly beneficial for any overseeing Christian education as well.    

·      Toward an Adult Church: A Vision of Faith Formation by Jane Regan. Though Catholic, I include this book for its focused and well-developed argument for transformative learning. Additionally, Regan is right to challenge churches who are more apt to focus on children and youth ministry at the expense of adult ministry. Focus on adult faith formation can cultivate a pervasive culture of discipleship for the whole church.  


What books would you add to this list?



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Patty Meyers is a deacon in full connection with the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference. She recently retired from teaching Christian Education at Pfeiffer University. Patty is President Emeritus of CEF and its current Treasurer.  She and her husband Bob live on the Central Oregon Coast with Tacy, her loving chihuahua.

My contribution to the Faith Formation series will reflect where I start with most of the courses I teach: biblical foundations.

My starting hypothesis: We are children of God. Secondly, we are not intended to stay children, we are to grow into the mind of Christ, and it is a lifelong process. There are lots of periscopes (bible passages) in the Bible to support the hypothesis. Here is a brief overview.

Old Testament Examples of Faith Formation

Torah and History

From the beginning, the Judeo-Christian scriptures show the importance of spiritual maturity and the responsibility that each generation has for the next. Deuteronomy 6: 4-9 emphasizes the importance of educating our children and the primary place of faith formation: the home. The first part of this passage, the Schema, the great commandment, to love God with our whole beings, is a starting place for living a life faithful to God. Recite it again and again, at meals, before you leave the house, when you return, when you tuck the kids in bed at night. John Calvin wrote that nearly all the wisdom that we humans have consists of knowing God and knowing ourselves. Joshua continues the theme declaring that “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

Wisdom Literature

Wisdom literature examines faith formation through advice, proverbs, and poetry.

Psalm 78 contains an entire theory of religious education in the first eight verses.

 Listen, my people, to my teaching;

    tilt your ears toward the words of my mouth.

 I will open my mouth with a proverb.

    I’ll declare riddles from days long gone—

         ones that we’ve heard and learned about,

        ones that our ancestors told us.

 We won’t hide them from their descendants;

    we’ll tell the next generation

    all about the praise due the Lord and his strength—

    the wondrous works God has done.

 He established a law for Jacob

    and set up Instruction for Israel,

        ordering our ancestors

        to teach them to their children.

 This is so that the next generation

    and children not yet born will know these things,

        and so they can rise up and tell their children

     to put their hope in God—

        never forgetting God’s deeds,

        but keeping God’s commandments—

     and so that they won’t become like their ancestors:

    a rebellious, stubborn generation,

        a generation whose heart wasn’t set firm

        and whose spirit wasn’t faithful to God.will open my mouth with a proverb.

(Psalm 78:1-8 CEB)

It gives the who, what, where, why and how of teaching about God’s redeeming acts of unconditional love for all generations. I think it’s brilliant.

Proverbs is full of wisdom. I sometimes imagine parents sitting down with a teenage child before she or he goes off to college, reminding the young person everything they’ve tried to teach so far in life. There are the practical admonitions of chapters 3 through 6 plus all the wisdom couplets. Ecclesiastes offers reflections of the Teacher for whom the book is named.

The Prophets

Isaiah 51 has three oracles of promise for Israel. Like many of the Major and Minor Prophets tests, these oracles provide examples of forming faith in the midst of difficulty and strife for the children of God.

New Testament

The Gospels

The Gospels give a glimpse into the life of a disciple and how to lead like Jesus as a teacher. The gospels are not biographies but they are the best source we have in which to learn about and from Jesus. To be a disciple is to be a student, a lifelong learner, to be a follower of Rabbi (Teacher) Jesus. We hear his words and follow his example in our behaviors. Much can be (and has been) said about teaching the way that Jesus did.

The Epistles (Letters)

Much is written in the epistles about promoting growth of the body of Christ, individually and corporately. We are to “be transformed by the renewing of [our] minds so that [we] can discern what is the will of God” (Romans 12:2) and “be renewed by the Spirit of [our] minds” (Eph. 4:23). Thomas Merton wrote, “To keep ourselves spiritually alive, we must constantly renew our faith.” (Thoughts on Solitude, p. 43).

Paul asked, “how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?” (Romans 10:14-15). Throughout the Bible, God uses people to proclaim, teach, and form the faith of God’s children so that those children may mature.

A Life-Changing Story

One of my favorite biblical stories that exemplifies the importance of faith formation is found in Acts 8, Philip and the Ethiopian (see Acts 8: 26-31). Philip had been preaching in Samaria; all the disciples had scattered after Pentecost and the number of believers in Jesus multiplied. An angel told Philip to go south down the road from Jerusalem to Gaza. Of course, he got up and went. There he encountered a court official for Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. He was returning home after worshiping in Jerusalem, reading Isaiah in his chariot. Philip asked if he knew what he was reading. The Ethiopian’s answer provides the foundation for why I am a Christian educator. The Ethiopian responds “How can I unless someone guides me?” (v.31).

How will anyone know the Good News if no one guides them? Everyone needs a guide, a soul friend, a mentor, a teacher, family member, someone who knows Jesus and lives the great commandment as Jesus did: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, strength and your neighbor as yourself. Everyone who calls themselves Christian (which means little Christ) is to do what Jesus Christ did. The name most used for Jesus in the gospels is Rabbi-Teacher.

We are being shaped by the Holy Spirit much like a drift of snow is shaped by the wind. It takes a lifetime to “grow into the mind Christ,” or “be all that you can be,” as the U. S. Army used to say. Paul said that we are “being transformed from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor 3:18). Several years ago the CEF Board adopted Acts 2:42 as its guiding scripture for the board’s work: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship in the breaking of bread and the prayers.” From Genesis to the Revelation, the Holy Bible is filled with models and teachings about how to grow in our relationships with God. It’s a love story from beginning to end. May it be said of all of us that we were devoted to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship and prayers. May each one of us be a guide for others. If you do, you will be on biblically solid ground.

Blessings,

Rev. Patty Meyers, D. Min., Ed. D.


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Barbara Bruce is a facilitator with a passion for learning and teaching about learning.  She lives part of the year in Western NY and part in Northern Florida. She can be reached at bbcreative@aol.com or www.ministrymatters.com


How Do I Teach Adult Learners?

This is an excellent question. Below are some great ways to approach adult learning

MULTIPLE INTELLEGINCE THEORY OPENS MINDS!

First things first – all adults learn differently.  If you attempt to teach primarily by lecture, you will lose a good number of your adult learners.  Trust me.  Some adults learn by lecture, but many do not.  87% of adult learners self report to being “visual learners”.  I am one of them.  If I can see it, I can understand it.

Some adults learn best through music, others through movement, still others through wrestling with problem solving activities.  In short we all have specific preferences for learning.  One of the greatest gifts you can give your students is to discover and respond to your students most preferred ways of knowing.  For more information on this fascinating topic, check a copy of “7 Ways of Teaching the Bible to Adults.” (Abingdon Press)  The book needs to be updated to include the 8th Intelligence.”  

WHAT, SO WHAT, NOW WHAT?

As facilitator, you may assume that your students know some basic biblical information.  DO NOT GO THERE.  A tried and true method of insuring that students get the most out of a biblical story is to use the WHAT? – SO WHAT? – NOW WHAT? strategy.

WHAT? addresses the issue of the basics of the story.  For example in the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) do NOT assume that everyone knows what a Samaritan is or how much Jews and Samaritans hated each other.  These basic facts add incredible depth to this story.  Also who is a Levite? or a Priest?  Making sure that the background provided broadens the effects of this story.

The next step in this process is “SO WHAT?”  What does this story have to do with me?  The Bible is a living book with guidance for our lives today.   It can not - must not be simply a neat story that took place roughly 2000 years ago.  Questions like, “When have you “walked on the other side?”  “When have you been the Samaritan?  When have you helped someone in need (not just by the side of the road). This kind of question draws learners into the story.

The last step in this critical sequence is the transformational piece.  NOW WHAT? takes your involvement in scripture to a greater level by considering how knowing this informational teaching/learning will change your behavior.

Using this three step strategy is essential if we are to learn about how the Bible still speaks to us today. 

 JUST DO IT.

Yet another strategy that I use all the time is to ask for several “right answers”.  If I ask a question and someone gives me an answer and we move right along – we are not doing our job facilitating the learning process.  I will often ask for “5 right answers”.  If one person gives an answer and we move along, no one else has to think!  If you ask for 5 (or 3 to begin) right answers you will get learners actually thinking and responding out of their understanding.  It is a powerful learning strategy.

I DON'T KNOW IS OKAY

Another aspect of having the right answer is “it is perfectly O.K. for you, as facilitator, to say, ”I don’t know – let’s find out together.”  I love to use the “% Theory” of facilitating.  I am fairly confident that I know at least 1% more than my students, but I am not necessarily the “keeper of the answers”.  Many times adults are reluctant to answer a question because they fear that they do not know enough about the Bible to answer.  These two strategies help to lessen that fear

BE AWARE

I do not like “absolutes”, but I am going to suggest that you NEVER call upon a person by name to read.  It is wiser and much less threatening to ask for a volunteer.  I have seen this happen where someone will be called upon to read (or to answer) and they are embarrassed by their (real or perceived) lack of knowledge or ability.  

GROUND RULES

Further addressing what I just said about absolutes, please make it a habit to ALWAYS establish “Ground Rules” when beginning a class.  Respect and Confidentiality are premium rules to establish and others can be added to meet specific needs.  Adults have left the church because of something that was shared in a Bible study class was repeated and gossiped about

GO FOR IT

It is perfectly O.K. to deviate from the curriculum.  Feel free to go with a “teachable moment”.  I taught a 12 week Bible study that lasted nearly 5 months.  As we addressed issues in the lesson plan, students wanted to know more – Let interest and need to know more guide you.  

Lastly, remember that adults learn only what they WANT to learn.

MAY IT BE SO!


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Scott Hughes is the Director of Adult Discipleship; Executive Director of Congregational Vitality & Intentional Discipleship at Discipleship Ministries. Scott is an Elder in the North Georgia Conference and received his M.Div. Asbury Theological Seminary and D. Min. Southern Methodist University. Scott is currently the co-Host of the Small Groups in the Wesleyan Way podcast, and creator of the Courageous Conversations project.



When first asked to provide a book list for the the Basics of Faith Formation Series, I was overwhelmed at the possibilities. I do not pretend this is a complete list and it is certainly my subjective choices. In fact, I’d like to hear what books you’d add to this list. 

·      Christian Spiritual Formation in the Church and Classroom by Suzanne Johnson. Though 30 years old now, this concise book is still hard to top. My copy is full of underlines and yellow post-it note flags. Johnson clarifies that we should aim beyond individualized spirituality (that arises from within) but for Christian spirituality (that is passed on) that truly offers freedom. Johnson pushes us beyond popular psychological categories to the formation of Christian character. If I could only recommend one book, this would be it.

·      A Blueprint for Discipleship: Wesley’s General Rules as a Guide for Christian Living by Kevin Watson.While Professor Watson has become much more known for his book The Class Meeting, many overlook his previous book which takes a broader look at discipleship formation or the method of us Methodist. While it is not the most practical book on this list, it is certainly a helpful guide for faith formation leaders wanting to focus on the patterns of Wesleyan spirituality.

·      Spiritual Theology:A Systematic Study of the Christian Life by Simon Chan. The first non-Methodist on the list. I don’t remember how I came across Chan’s work, but I found it a delightful and comprehensive read. This book is for those who want a deeper exploration into the theology of spirituality and spiritual practices.

·      Keeping in Touch: Christian Formation and Teaching by Carol Krau. Carol, now retired from Discipleship Ministries, has been a mentor to me and many others. Though her book is concise, it is theologically rich and practical. Though this book is geared for teachers and facilitators of Sunday School classes and small groups, it is certainly beneficial for any overseeing Christian education as well.    

·      Toward an Adult Church: A Vision of Faith Formation by Jane Regan. Though Catholic, I include this book for its focused and well-developed argument for transformative learning. Additionally, Regan is right to challenge churches who are more apt to focus on children and youth ministry at the expense of adult ministry. Focus on adult faith formation can cultivate a pervasive culture of discipleship for the whole church.  


What books would you add to this list?



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Patty Meyers is a deacon in full connection with the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference. She recently retired from teaching Christian Education at Pfeiffer University. Patty is President Emeritus of CEF and its current Treasurer.  She and her husband Bob live on the Central Oregon Coast with Tacy, her loving chihuahua.

My contribution to the Faith Formation series will reflect where I start with most of the courses I teach: biblical foundations.

My starting hypothesis: We are children of God. Secondly, we are not intended to stay children, we are to grow into the mind of Christ, and it is a lifelong process. There are lots of periscopes (bible passages) in the Bible to support the hypothesis. Here is a brief overview.

Old Testament Examples of Faith Formation

Torah and History

From the beginning, the Judeo-Christian scriptures show the importance of spiritual maturity and the responsibility that each generation has for the next. Deuteronomy 6: 4-9 emphasizes the importance of educating our children and the primary place of faith formation: the home. The first part of this passage, the Schema, the great commandment, to love God with our whole beings, is a starting place for living a life faithful to God. Recite it again and again, at meals, before you leave the house, when you return, when you tuck the kids in bed at night. John Calvin wrote that nearly all the wisdom that we humans have consists of knowing God and knowing ourselves. Joshua continues the theme declaring that “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

Wisdom Literature

Wisdom literature examines faith formation through advice, proverbs, and poetry.

Psalm 78 contains an entire theory of religious education in the first eight verses.

 Listen, my people, to my teaching;

    tilt your ears toward the words of my mouth.

 I will open my mouth with a proverb.

    I’ll declare riddles from days long gone—

         ones that we’ve heard and learned about,

        ones that our ancestors told us.

 We won’t hide them from their descendants;

    we’ll tell the next generation

    all about the praise due the Lord and his strength—

    the wondrous works God has done.

 He established a law for Jacob

    and set up Instruction for Israel,

        ordering our ancestors

        to teach them to their children.

 This is so that the next generation

    and children not yet born will know these things,

        and so they can rise up and tell their children

     to put their hope in God—

        never forgetting God’s deeds,

        but keeping God’s commandments—

     and so that they won’t become like their ancestors:

    a rebellious, stubborn generation,

        a generation whose heart wasn’t set firm

        and whose spirit wasn’t faithful to God.will open my mouth with a proverb.

(Psalm 78:1-8 CEB)

It gives the who, what, where, why and how of teaching about God’s redeeming acts of unconditional love for all generations. I think it’s brilliant.

Proverbs is full of wisdom. I sometimes imagine parents sitting down with a teenage child before she or he goes off to college, reminding the young person everything they’ve tried to teach so far in life. There are the practical admonitions of chapters 3 through 6 plus all the wisdom couplets. Ecclesiastes offers reflections of the Teacher for whom the book is named.

The Prophets

Isaiah 51 has three oracles of promise for Israel. Like many of the Major and Minor Prophets tests, these oracles provide examples of forming faith in the midst of difficulty and strife for the children of God.

New Testament

The Gospels

The Gospels give a glimpse into the life of a disciple and how to lead like Jesus as a teacher. The gospels are not biographies but they are the best source we have in which to learn about and from Jesus. To be a disciple is to be a student, a lifelong learner, to be a follower of Rabbi (Teacher) Jesus. We hear his words and follow his example in our behaviors. Much can be (and has been) said about teaching the way that Jesus did.

The Epistles (Letters)

Much is written in the epistles about promoting growth of the body of Christ, individually and corporately. We are to “be transformed by the renewing of [our] minds so that [we] can discern what is the will of God” (Romans 12:2) and “be renewed by the Spirit of [our] minds” (Eph. 4:23). Thomas Merton wrote, “To keep ourselves spiritually alive, we must constantly renew our faith.” (Thoughts on Solitude, p. 43).

Paul asked, “how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?” (Romans 10:14-15). Throughout the Bible, God uses people to proclaim, teach, and form the faith of God’s children so that those children may mature.

A Life-Changing Story

One of my favorite biblical stories that exemplifies the importance of faith formation is found in Acts 8, Philip and the Ethiopian (see Acts 8: 26-31). Philip had been preaching in Samaria; all the disciples had scattered after Pentecost and the number of believers in Jesus multiplied. An angel told Philip to go south down the road from Jerusalem to Gaza. Of course, he got up and went. There he encountered a court official for Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. He was returning home after worshiping in Jerusalem, reading Isaiah in his chariot. Philip asked if he knew what he was reading. The Ethiopian’s answer provides the foundation for why I am a Christian educator. The Ethiopian responds “How can I unless someone guides me?” (v.31).

How will anyone know the Good News if no one guides them? Everyone needs a guide, a soul friend, a mentor, a teacher, family member, someone who knows Jesus and lives the great commandment as Jesus did: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, strength and your neighbor as yourself. Everyone who calls themselves Christian (which means little Christ) is to do what Jesus Christ did. The name most used for Jesus in the gospels is Rabbi-Teacher.

We are being shaped by the Holy Spirit much like a drift of snow is shaped by the wind. It takes a lifetime to “grow into the mind Christ,” or “be all that you can be,” as the U. S. Army used to say. Paul said that we are “being transformed from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor 3:18). Several years ago the CEF Board adopted Acts 2:42 as its guiding scripture for the board’s work: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship in the breaking of bread and the prayers.” From Genesis to the Revelation, the Holy Bible is filled with models and teachings about how to grow in our relationships with God. It’s a love story from beginning to end. May it be said of all of us that we were devoted to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship and prayers. May each one of us be a guide for others. If you do, you will be on biblically solid ground.

Blessings,

Rev. Patty Meyers, D. Min., Ed. D.


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