Adults Matter: Transforming Educational Ministry for People in the Pews

By Gail Burnaford.

Published by The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The researcher conducted 6 interviews with church leaders, including pastors and directors of Christian education, in Protestant churches in the southeastern United States in order to discern their views and visions for adult education in their congregations. Using an interview protocol, interviews were tape-recorded and transcribed to ensure accuracy. All interview transcripts were coded, using key words and descriptors from the interview protocol. The researcher was interested in not only the challenges and difficulties in attracting adults to educational contexts in churches, but also the successes that these church leaders have had with specific formats, structures, topics, and pedagogical approaches in working with adults. Three themes emerged regarding compelling adult education programming in these 6 church communities: 1) individual experience as spiritual journey, 2) empowerment and inquiry in community, and 3) transformation through global and local cultures. The researcher offers 4 approaches to support program planning targeted at adults in churches, based on these themes. First, there is a need to focus on adults and their educational and spiritual needs. Too often, “education” in churches refers only to children and young people. This focus includes personnel dedicated and experienced in adult education, as well as budget lines. Second, a “spiritual journey” approach to adult education suggests new pedagogies and skills for pastors and education leaders that includes more spiritual direction, facilitation of discussion and autobiographical writing, and less “telling” in education contexts in the church. Third, adult education must accommodate a wide variety of cultures and languages in a repertoire of options, including multi-language groups, offerings for unchurched attendees, online offerings, and seminary-level scholarly course work. Fourth, seminaries and university religious studies faculties need to be directly engaged with local churches as educators and resources for communities.

Keywords: Adult Education, Church Leadership, Diverse Communities

The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp.149-160. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 247.756KB).

Dr. Gail Burnaford

Professor, Curriculum, Culture and Educational Inquiry, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, USA

Gail Burnaford holds a Master of Arts in religion from Lancaster Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from Georgia State University. She is professor of curriculum, culture and educational inquiry, and coordinator of the Ph.D. program in the College of Education at Florida Atlantic University. Her work has focused on program evaluation, teacher development, and arts integration. She is the author of 4 books and numerous articles. She also teaches adult education courses at Coral Gables Congregational Church and is interested in spirituality/religion research and curriculum design targeted for adults in diverse culture and language communities. She is a founding partner in the Habla Center for Language and Culture in Merida, Mexico and has presented at the UNESCO World Conference for Arts Education in Lisbon, Portugal as well as other international education and arts conferences in Spain, Ireland, England, Scotland, and France. Dr. Burnaford is also a singer and has toured Europe with conductor Robert Shaw.