A few years ago I was asked to write an article for the Presbyterian Outlook on innovations in adult education. I agreed to write it, but only if they would let me reframe the question and talk about challenges in adult education. You can read that 2016 article here.
I basically said that while topics and curriculum are important when planning and implementing adult education classes, workshops or lectures, the relational aspects of our adult education programs are just as important.
In the past few weeks I wish someone else had written that article on innovations in adult education for me, because they might have offered some wisdom on how we continue the important work of nurturing and challenging the intellectual and spiritual lives of adults in this virtual church that we are continuing to create.
Maybe they would have explained to me how to moderate class discussions in a Zoom conference call. They would have taught me when the best time is, as a teacher, to “share my screen” and when it is good to be face to face. Maybe they would explain to me how to create a list of great presenters that people will want to listen to for 45 minutes while sitting in front of their computers on a Sunday morning.
In the six weeks we have spent being a virtual church and participating in virtual adult education, I believe my original instincts were correct: Adult education has a lot to do with relationships.
We currently have 11 adult education classes happening almost weekly via Zoom conference calls that are led by pastors and lay people and engage at least 200 participants. Yes, people are “attending” because they are interested in the topics, they have read the book, or they are compelled by a particular teacher, but mostly folks are there because it is an opportunity to be connected with one another in this moment.
My Filling the Well class - a class for women that meets every Sunday morning of the program year - spends at least half of our class time together checking in with one another, telling stories about how our families are navigating staying at home and social distancing, and making sure that everyone is safe and healthy. I have heard similar things from my fellow teachers about the connections that people are seeking as they participate in this virtual season of adult education.
As we look toward summer, we know that although adult education typically slows down after May, many of our classes will continue to meet weekly because they give us an opportunity to maintain relationships and to feel connected with one another.
- Be sure to check the online “Virtual Church Calendar” for days and times for classes and how to connect via Zoom.
- Sign up for regular Adult Education emails that will provide more details about class opportunities and links to online resources.
- Join the BMPC Adult Education Facebook group online, where information will be shared as well about classes and resources.
- Study and read on your own in this season using suggestions compiled by the pastors who shared some of their favorite books in this list of 25 books for Virtual Adult Education.
Over the next few weeks we will be developing additional opportunities for you to feel connected to one another through adult education classes. I hope this virtual experience will allow us to not only reconnect and maintain our relationships with old friends at church but also push the typical physical boundaries of our church life as we meet and engage with new members of our congregation in innovative and virtual ways.