Greetings from the Moderator AUGUST 2023
These days, I find myself wondering where summer has gone so fast when I am not concentrating on trying to stay cool in this summer’s stifling heat. As the days draw near when children and teachers head back to school and churches begin fall programs, it seems a good time to think about how we provide life long learning opportunities for the folks in our churches.
Currently I teach elementary aged scholars at Park Lake. We all enjoy the curriculum, Follow Me, which is published by our denomination. There are lots of fun activities and links to videos and songs. The courses are 4 or 6 weeks in length so we don’t get bored with any one topic and the children love the variety of ways the Bible stories are offered including skits for them to act out. We practice “Active Learning” at Park Lake which means I supply the resources and they are in charge of the learning. We made pinwheels and pipe cleaner bubble blowers and carried them and a bowl of bubble solution outside on Pentecost to ‘see’ the wind as we talked about the wind of the Spirit blowing the church into life long ago. We had a new family at church that week so the children told me it was lucky we had bubbles to share after church so the new kids could know how fun Sunday school is.
In four churches where I have served, adults let us know that they were hungry for in depth Bible study and we used Disciple Bible Study from the Methodist Church to feed that need. Small groups of 12 mean that people can really get into talking with each other about the texts and watch the Biblical themes develop across 32 weeks together. Where I was, I would lead two sessions, one daytime and one night. Colleagues would ask why I devoted so much time to that teaching. It seemed obvious to me that if I had contact with 24 members every week, I had access to information I needed about what was on people’s minds and who might need a visit because twenty-four people have way broader contacts in the church than one preacher does and at the same time, I was developing a group of people who would be closer bonded to each other in the church and better prepared to be leaders as teachers and in other parts of church life.
I have been part of groups committed to a year long study of spiritual disciplines using resources that come from The Upper Room and rich studies from Presbyterian Women. Last year, I was part of a zoom group with a small group at Fellowship Church in Huntsville working with Brian McLaren’s book, We Make the Road by Walking, a resource for spiritual formation and reorientation.
I have never had anybody ask for a year long study of Presbyterian polity or the confessions of the church, but deacons and elders seem much clearer about their roles as spiritual leaders in the church after spending some time with those resources and when we teaching elders spend that time with them, we don’t make them lie in their promises to be guided by our confessions, governed by our church’s policy and to abide by its discipline when they are ordained and installed.
Not everyone will want to make the commitment to study with a group for a whole year or even a quarter, but everyone who does makes the church stronger as they strengthen their ties to its life and work. There are lots of great resources for life long learning. I’d love to know which ones enrich your life and the life of your congregation and if you want some suggestions for studies, Cheryl Carson will be glad to help find them. You can also search our on-line Resource Center catalog. Any member, pastor or staff of one of our churches can be a patron and check items out for free.