by Rev. Dr. Bob LaRochelle
What is Adult Education like in your congregation? How is the level of participation? Are the topics you study engaging, and does their complexity challenge you to think deeply? Do you find yourself surprised or even shocked by what you are learning?
I have worked in various capacities in local congregations for a long time now, and in different church traditions as well—both Protestant and Roman Catholic. To beperfectly honest, I have found that one of the greatest and most often overlooked needs is worthwhile adult based religious education. Oftentimes, what is called Adult Education in local churches focuses in on Adult Bible Study. I am not suggesting that this is unimportant. As a matter of fact, most of the teaching that I do is teaching from and about the Bible.
My conviction, however, is that local congregations have a great responsibility to offer adults the opportunity to explore, discuss and grapple with a wide variety of real life ethical concerns and profound theological questions. Sadly, in establishing strong programs for children in local churches, we have often conveyed the wrong impression that religious learning stops at a young age.
The reality is that adults need a religious education that takes them deeper than the often surface, literal understandings about Bible texts they have received, or the remote catechism style answers that have shaped their doctrinal education. The good news is that there are great materials out there that explore real life issues and expose people to different perspectives.
To be honest, I have been looking at developing some classes in my congregation based on some of the materials this publisher, Energion, offers. In reviewing the variety of titles in Energion’s collection, I am struck by how various, operative, and conflicting opinions on current church issues are available through this one company. It’s pretty incredible—progressive theological and conservative evangelical voices, as well as everything in between, all under one roof!
So, my simple suggestion is that if you are at all involved in participating in or shaping programs in your local church, that you look to explore the development of relevant topics in which a healthy pluralism of voices can be read, studied and discussed. While these materials certainly need not come from one publisher, I would suggest that this page you are on is a great starting point.