Because adults come to any learning situation with life experiences that have been fundamental in
the formation of their identities, teaching adults is much more complex than teaching children. Christian
education for adults is the process whereby, through the Scriptures, the power of the Holy Spirit’s light
shines upon the experiences of the adult. The purpose of Christian education is to transform the whole
life of the adult Christian learner into conformity with the image of God as revealed in Christ.
To accomplish their transformation, adult Christian students need to receive tools and
skills with which they can act out their Christian vocations in their everyday lives. Therefore,
simply providing ready-made responses will be insufficient. The process of educating Christian adults
must engage them at a level where the learning becomes theirs, not merely “what the Sunday School
The goal of educating Christian adults is to provide a process in which their faith becomes real and
experiential. Therefore, the adult educator must ask, “What does it mean to treat the learner as an
adult?” A corollary question is, “What results can be expected from adult learning processes?” Further
questions include: “Are the students growing in their understanding of their Christian vocation?
Are they conforming their everyday walk more and more to their understanding of the life of Christ?
Is the education process helping to actualize the spiritual freedom promised in the Scripture?”
In order to develop the possibility of achieving these goals, adult Christian educators are called
to several practices. First, you should model maturity within your classroom, promoting the
spirit of Christ by treating your students as adults. There is no substitute for the respect and dignity
you offer adult learners. Second, model love and respect within the classroom. Both educators
and students need love and respect in teaching and learning. Third, model enthusiasm for
what you teach. If you do not seems interested in what you are teaching, your students will not
be interested either and chances are it will not be effective. Fourth, model freedom and grace.
Adult learners need the sense that they have contributed to the process of their own learning.
While time may constrain class participation and sharing, you as the educator are still responsible
for creating a comfortable learning context. The worst enemy of effective learning is fear of being
dismissed or even ridiculed for saying the “wrong thing.”
Given the dynamic and experiential nature of adult learning, one effective way to educate is to
ask for the students’ experiences as they relate to the lesson. In this way, you will discover some of
the class members’ needs and are better able to minister to them effectively.
There is a false notion in teaching circles that
adults enjoy listening to lectures. While lecturing
may be appropriate sometimes, it is not usually the most effective way to educate adult learners.
Like children, adults appreciate variety in their learning environments. In response to this, you
should develop a repertoire of a variety of methods for interacting with your class. No one method is
sufficient for all times and circumstances. Only those that enhance a greater understanding
of freedom in Christ will lead your students to discover deeper truths from the Word of God and
orient them toward Christian action.
Jesus Himself taught by using parables, proverbs, riddles, silence and direct action, particularly as it
related to the miraculous. Sometimes He exhorted; at other times He was confrontational. However,
His methods always related to the context and the people with whom He was communicating.
Dr. A. Okechukwu Ogbonnaya is a former VP of Editorial at UMI, a noted pastor, and