Planning your Parish Adult Education Program

Because so much of parish life functions like the school year (September through May, or whatever it is in your area!) now’s the time of year to start planning and organizing the program ideas and events. Adult education is no exception. Parishes should work to develop a calendar of events and programs, and a parish-wide calendar of events, that is then shared with the parishioners. Our faithful have busy lives, which means parish events need to get on their calendars as soon as possible. Use all the technology available: something printed to hang on the refrigerator at home, something on-line for people’s phones (many parishes have online calendars that aren’t used much!). Then of course, there will be mailings and email blasts, bulletin inserts, and announcements.

With that in mind, you will probably develop a variety of adult education programs and events, from a weekly study or studies of some kind (like a Bible Study or book group), to monthly events (like a movie night), to some quarterly (like a visiting speaker or local trip) or annual events (like a larger overnight trip). 

What will the mix of events look like? That’s up to you, the interests of your parishioners, the ages and groups you want to invite, the resources you have available to you.

So, the events can range. Weekly events, usually involve reading or watching something together in a parish or home setting. Bible Studies, religious books, the many good programs on the GOA YouTube channel, and others.

Monthly events, might involve going somewhere because they require advance planning. Orthodoxy on Tap has become popular in many places around the US. People gather at a local restaurant, they buy what they want, there’s a speaker and discussion.

Social service projects can provide an opportunity for people to work together, but don’t miss the opportunity to learn, what the Church says about the underlying issues of your project.

There can be events that work to build fellowship among the participants through, movie nights, excursions to local restaurants, museum trips, etc.  Just remember the point of adult religious education is education, not just entertainment.

Depending on your parish, you could target these ideas to specific audiences (see earlier posts), or leave them open to everyone. With that in mind, be sensitive to costs: young adults and seniors might be very price conscious. Be sensitive to time: families with children need to consider childcare. Be sensitive to schedule: most people usually can’t schedule their lives for more than eight to ten weeks at a time.

What should you teach?

That’s the easiest part of developing an adult religious education program. Start asking the adults what they want to know, what they want think about, what are their concerns about their lives and their faith.  Once they tell you, run with it.

Don’t be discouraged as you get started. The first events may not be well attended. Keep the momentum. Talk them up and encourage the participants to talk about the events and invite others to participate in future events. Personal contact and invitation is central to program growth.

Even though you are planning a series of events and opportunities for the adult in your parish to come together to discuss matters of faith, share their faith, and apply their faith, adult education is a ministry, requiring the same attention as any other ministry of the Church.