I am so thankful that ChaliceChick is taking the time out of her day to write comments on my posts; they are making me articulate what I feel about Adult Religious Education in a way that other people can understand.
If one looks at the churches that are really growing, most of them are seven-day-a-week churches (or something close to). What do I mean by seven-day-a-week? I mean that there is something going on at the church every day. And most of what is going on is not children’s activities.
The question that ChaliceChick posed to me though was, “But isn’t it a sign of religious maturity not to necessarily NEED a structured class, but to learn this stuff because you’re interested?” Maybe. However I do think that structured classes for ADULTS are necessary for churches to grow. Even more importantly, I think that the best way to be exposed to different SPIRITUAL PRACTICES (lectio divinia, body prayer, different types of journaling, examen, etc.) is through a structured class. What one does after that is up to the person.
I read the book The Preaching Life by Barbara Brown Taylor a couple of weeks ago for class. In the section where she talks about scripture Taylor says that people continued to say that they wanted to know more about the Bible so she would offer classes about scripture but they were lightly attended. But when she started having classes about applied theology or on spiritual practices, there would be plenty of people in those classes. This is why I so big on structured classes. Plenty of people are yearning for a time set aside for learning and exploring these things yet many UU churches are not offering them anything other than the 10:30 am worship service on Sunday morning.
Something about this must change. It cannot be all about the children (what about those people who don’t want to work with the children’s program? shouldn’t there be something for them too?). Churches that are growing have strong children’s programs AND strong educational and other small group programs for adults. And as long as UU churches keep treating children as the be-all-and-end-all in the church, there will continue to be a revolving door when it comes to the adults.
I know that I’m still not answering the question well. I’ll try again later.