Adult educ. is as old as civilization. Christ dealt chiefly with adults. The letters of the NT are lessons for adult Christians. But the Christian church gen. limited its formal educ. to children and youth. The Scriptures impose no such limitation. The beginnings of modern adult educ. go back to the Birmingham Sunday Soc. of 1789, Gt. Brit.'s labor colleges, N. F. S. Grundtvig's* adult schools in Den.; to lyceums, chautauquas,* correspondence courses, university extension work; to Bible study groups, adult S. S., and miss. socs. More recent roots lie in E. L. Thorndike's* research into adult learning (ca. 1925), which reversed popular opinion that adults do not learn well, and in the organization of the Am. Assoc. of Adult Educ. (1926). The Prot. chs. of Am., esp. through the United Christian Adult Movement (1936) initiated by the International* Council of Religious Educ., spearheaded the development of religious adult educ. Areas for study were set up and learning for life courses developed. Textbooks were written for adult leadership training. Steady progress has been made. Emphasis was placed on the young adult, family life training, the community, and the older adult. The chs. discovered that people learn as long as they live, that the ch. is a school, that Christian discipleship is lifelong growth in understanding, skills, and attitudes, and that it is the adult who sets the pattern of spiritual life from generation to generation. Adults are the ch.'s most influential teachers, its living examples of Christian thought and practice.
Attention to adults does not lessen the needs of children and youth but simply recognizes the central role which adults play. Adult educ. in the ch. is based on the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers and on the conviction that every Christian has a miss. in life to fulfill. Adults learn through all that happens in them, to them, and around them. Their whole environment is a part of their educ. In the chs. adult educ. is carried on through ch. services, cong. assemblies, committees, projects, activities, Bible classes, classes in Christian doctrine, fellowship gatherings, organizations and groups in the parish; and in conventions, institutes, etc. outside the local ch. Christian adult educ. should foster growth in 8 areas: Bible knowledge and skills, Christian doctrine and life, worship and the arts, Christian educ., Christian family life, the Christian in soc. and the ch. in the world (hist.), evangelism and miss., and Christian stewardship. Adult educ. in the ch. is strategic, because it (1) helps adults grow spiritually (Cl 1:910), (2) helps them face life victoriously with Jesus (1 Jn 5:4), (3) strengthens Christian elementary educ. and makes it pay larger dividends because children follow adults (Mt 18:6), (4) builds stronger Christian homes (Lk 10:3842), (5) provides more lay workers for the ch. (Lk 10:1), (6) lifts consecration and stewardship performance for the ch.'s work at home and abroad (Mt 25:1430), (7) helps to prevent spiritual indifference, nominal Christianity, and the loss of souls (Jn 15:2, 6), and (8) helps to stem the new secularism (Ps 10:4). What the home, the ch., and the nation are and what these will be in the future depends, under God, largely on the understanding, attitudes, skills, and spiritual responsiveness of the adult. OEF
P. B. Maves, The Christian Education of Adults, Religious Education: A Comprehensive Survey, ed. M. J. Taylor (New York, 1960); D. J. Ernsberger, A Philosophy of Adult Education (Philadelphia, 1959); E. F. Zeigler, Christian Education of Adults (Philadelphia, 1958); H. Kraemer, A Theology of the Laity (Philadelphia, 1959); J. D. Smart, The Teaching Ministry of the Church (Philadelphia, 1954); J. R. Kidd, How Adults Learn (New York, 1959); I. Smith Caldwell, Responsible Adults in the Church School Program (Anderson, Indiana, 1963); R. L. Howe, The Miracle of Dialogue (Greenwich, 1963); D. L. Deffner, Toward Adult Christian Education, LEA; Yearbook (1962).
Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
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