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What would Jesus teach?

Adult Bible classes ‘are not reaching the average person,’ and need more practical application, ministers say

SEARCY, Ark. — “If Jesus came into your adult Bible class, would he be happy? If we asked Jesus what he thought of our adult Bible class, would we want to listen to his assessment?

Steve Griggs asked those questions during the recent Harding University Bible Lectureship. 

Griggs, adult education minister for the Central Church of Christ in Dalton, Ga., led a two-day session for about 50 church members — including many ministers — titled “Re-visioning the Adult Bible Class.”

The takeaway: Knowledge is power, but power is wasted if there is little or no application.

“Are we training our people to become like Jesus?” Griggs asked, “or are our traditions determining how our adult Bible classes are being taught?”

A mix of ministers and church members listen to Steve Griggs’ presentation. (PHOTO BY JOHN R. IRBY)

 While providing information always has been an objective of Bible classes, Griggs said, teachers often do not include enough practical application to make their classes effective. 

The objective, he said, should be a mix of engagement with the Word along with the application of how to live like Jesus in the world. 

That balance can’t be achieved, he added, without overcoming some obvious challenges in teaching — training, pedagogy (the method and practice of teaching), design, structure, practice, traditions and logistics. The time frame of classes also may limit effectiveness, as most churches have limited class time spread across 13-week quarters.

Often, the church building itself is designed without consideration for the adult class setting, Griggs said. Instead, building committees focus on classrooms for young children, teens and other target audiences.

The discussion was “very needed and important,” said Colton Shannon, college and young adult minister for the Great Oaks Church of Christ in Memphis, Tenn., who attended the sessions. “Too many classes are not reaching the average person in how their life can look like how Jesus lived.”

Griggs indicated that adult classes should be Jesus-centered, based on a biblical foundation mixed with modeling the teaching style of Jesus in the world.

HarrisDick Harris, a pulpit minister in New Concord, Ohio, said that the presentations offered fresh, practical ideas.

“In our case,” he said, “resources and time commitment are a problem.”

Griggs’ congregation recently hosted a four-session, dual-focus class that received positive reactions, the minister said. It was built on five R’s: Remembering (how Jesus lived and taught); Revision (looking at the class through a new set of Granteyes); Reflect (asking questions about things like structure); Remodel (looking at new approaches); and Rely (on the power of Jesus).

Dave Grant, a minister in Escanaba, Mich., said that his congregation “has long talked about an approach to application, but we often fall short in putting it into action. Our problems are structure and traditions — logistically we aren’t geared for it. 

“As I get older,” he added, “I’m more comfortable with an application approach, but we all have room for improvement.”

Suggested by Steve Griggs, Central Church of Christ, Dalton, Ga. 

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die
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Teaching the Faith, Forming the Faithful: A Biblical Vision for Education in the Church
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and The Dirt on Learning Groundbreaking Tools to Grow Faith in Your Church
by Thom and Joani Schultz.

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by Roy B. Zuck.

Nothing Never Happens: Experiential Learning and the Church
by John D. Hendrix.

Filed under: Headlines - Secondary National

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