I have spent two days this week with some of my peers from other state conventions talking about ministry issues related to adults. As a part of that meeting, we heard from Dr. Joe Sherrer, professor of adult education at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Sherrer shared some adult ministry survey results in which respondents identified the number one trend or issue in adult ministry is “the lack of an overarching plan.” The group all nodded our heads when he shared the issue.
In some churches, there are plans for teens. In other churches, there are plans for preschoolers and children. But there are very few churches where there is an overall plan for moving adults toward spiritual maturity or “being fully devoted and practicing followers of Jesus.” Few churches have identified mile markers for progress. Few churches have a picture in mind of where they are heading and how they will get there.
In my experience, it is difficult to arrive at a destination if you don’t know where you are going! It is difficult to hit a target when you don’t know where to aim. It is difficult to run a race when you have not identified the finish line.
And that impacts adult Sunday School/small groups. While Sunday School and small groups have a potentially significant part to play in maturing adults, the lack of a plan leads to confusion over the importance and potential for Sunday School/small groups. Value judgments are made by members, nonmembers, and even church leaders and staff based on only a partial set of criteria. And it can be a vicious cycle in which little is invested in Sunday School/small groups which results in little impact which in turn results in a belief that even less should be invested.
So what is your plan for moving adults toward maturity? What will they look like when they get there? What experiences do they need in order to move them in that direction? What are the delivery methods for those experiences? What pieces of the delivery of those experiences does Sunday School/small groups play? These are questions whose answers should be sought and not rushed. God’s leadership should be sought. As many leaders who work with adults as possible should be involved in the discussion and planning in order to create ownership of the resulting plan.
Let’s work together to wean Christians adults off of milk and move them toward meat. Let’s raise the level of biblical literacy. Let’s lead them to practice (obey) what they are learning. Let’s mobilize them into service. Let’s keep them connected, growing, and multiplying believers. Pray. Evaluate. Describe. Define. Envision. Plan. Be revolutionary!