Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 16, 1964
NUMBER 10, PAGE 3,12-13a

Training Teachers For Adult Classes

Lloyd Moyer

By adult classes, I mean that group of people who are full-grown. Past the "college-age" class. This class usually contains students whose ages range from about twenty-five to eighty-five. Their mental range is about the same in scope. We shall first notice some reasons why I believe this to be the most difficult class in the church to teach and then we shall discuss some things which will aid those who attempt to teach this class.

The Age Range:

As suggested above, the age range is very wide in the adult class. There are some exceptions. Some congregations divide the adults into various classes according to ages. But most of the time this is not the case.

Before one can effectively teach the adult class he must understand the class. More will be said about this later. The teacher must take into consideration the difference in age of the student in his class. Some have, by reason of age, had a lifetime of experience, and therefore a store-house of wisdom. Others whose experiences are limited by reason of few years may be well educated; yet, without a great deal of wisdom.

These two groups are "poles" apart. The effective teacher of this group will create in them the proper respect for each other. (1 Peter 5:5; 1 Tim, 5:1; 4:12)

The successful teacher will utilize the knowledge and wisdom of each of these groups. Pointed questions to certain ones in the class will bring out lessons that the teacher would not dare suggest. You are ready to say, "If it is the truth, then why would not the teacher dare?" Here is what I mean. There are many lessons which an older man may teach with telling effect; yet a young man teaching the same lesson would not be nearly so effective. Example — A lesson on child training. How husbands and wives ought to treat one another. How grandfathers should treat grandchildren. Etc., Now, a wise young teacher would ask some Godly grandfather, a happily married man or woman these questions and let them suggest the answers. Then the teacher may, with perfect ease, enlarge upon what has been brought forth.

Suppose a lesson is needed on the proper conduct of a young married couple in public assembly. (I have known of situations which had to be dealt with because of improper manifestations of affections.) The prudent teacher would draw out a number of the younger group in such a discussion. (The older ones have probably forgotten how the younger couples act.) Even though the wide range of age exists, and is in a way a problem, the expert teacher will turn this problem into an effective instrument in the class.

II. — The Mental Scope

In the children's classes we divide according to their mental possibilities and capabilities, But this is not always true with the adult class. Educators have declared this an intolerable situation in the class-room. It is because of this condition that in many cases our adult class is very ineffective. I think it would be next to impossible to arrange the adult classes according to their mental capabilities. Therefore the teacher must recognize, meet, and deal with the situation. Here are some suggestions.

1. In a private, personal interview determine the amount of Bible knowledge, secular education each has and his or her major in college. Also, the profession or business of each.

2. Make a personal file of this information. Then when you need material in any of these particular fields go privately and consult the person best qualified to give it. Tell him in advance that you will call on him during class for a brief (you may put a time limit on him) discussion of this matter, as it relates to our living the Christian's life or as it may shed light on scriptures.

3. Be sure to arrange your material so as to use all members of the class in some way. Never allow the class to revolve around only a few members.

4. Assign themes to be written and read in class. The wise teacher will use judgment in assigning these to the proper persons. Be sure to call for the themes.

5. Ask certain ones to do research on Bible lands, customs, people, etc. Caution must be used in this. Many people never did much research and would be at a complete loss as to how to begin such an effort.

III. — The Psychological Atmosphere

1. In the classes for the children the teacher does not have this problem as does the teacher of the adult class. The students in the adult class are people who have the cares and responsibilities of life on their shoulders. Because of these things, and the pressures they bring to bear on one's mind, these people come to class with minds weighted down with problems of all sorts. Children are anxious for the class to begin, they are ready to be taught. But the adult may be worried about a sick child, wife or husband. Or about a dying mother or father. Maladjustments in the home. Un-paid bills. Insecure future. Lack of necessities. And a hundred and one other things which can and do distract. The teacher of the adult class must understand that his students will have to be brought to attention. Their minds must be drawn away from the problems of life. (I sometimes suggest that we quote some verses of scripture in order to get our mental motors going.)

2. The teacher who fails to recognize the psychological atmosphere of his class may waste much time and valuable material. Steps must be taken to overcome this problem. I suggest:

A — Home Work. This is work which must be done at home during the week such as fill in the blanks on scriptures. True and False questions. Or matched questions. These are to be brought to class. The teacher can begin the class by calling on various ones to give their answers to certain portions of the home work. This gets the attention of all the class when they are asked to compare their answers with those given.

B — Make it a rule that some one in the class must give a review of the previous lesson in order that the entire class be brought up to date. None of the class will know who will be called upon to do this, therefore all will get their minds prepared to do so if called on.

IV. — The Temperament Of The Class

1. Closely connected with the psychological atmosphere is the temperament of the class. This is the combined qualities found in each student. There may be in the adult class people with "quick" tempers. Others who are very calm and composed. Some who are impetuous, while others will be timid. Some will love an argument, while such will offend others and seem that the class is always in a wrangle over something.

2. From the above we can see that what would affect one favorably would affect others adversely. The prudent teacher will consider these things and use wisdom in directing the course of the class. I suggest:

A — Have rules about the length of time a discussion should be allowed to go.

B — Do not allow one student to ramble on and on in explaining something. Stop him if necessary. It is well to go to such persons privately and show them the need of brevity and even help them to express their thoughts in fewer words.

C — Be ready to step in and take control anytime two students start talking to one another or arguing.

V — The Bible Knowledge Of The Class

1. This is most important. Especially, in the preparation of the lesson. The wise teacher must always prepare his lesson with the class in view. If he does not do this, much of his material and time will be wasted. The lesson material must be adapted to the class. That is — presented in such a way that the students can understand what is taught. I fear much teaching goes "over the head" of many students. As a result they become disinterested in the class. In order that the teacher may know something of the Biblical knowledge of the class, I suggest:

A — Examination or test papers be prepared and given each student. Let them answer these questions in writing, during the class period and hand in papers. This way each student has to depend on what he knows about the Bible. They cannot take time to look up the answers. This will enable the teacher to determine the amount of Bible knowledge each student has.

B — The wise teacher will never seek to embarrass a student by asking him a question that is beyond his knowledge or couch the question in words which are ambiguous.

C — Home work concerning the lesson is the answer to most of the teacher's problems in teaching. Especially is this true in a large adult class. Many never participate in the class in any way except come and "warm a pew." They never study the lesson at home; (Oh! Maybe they read it over) many do not even do that much. They know little or nothing about the lesson and therefore get very little out of what the teacher says. About all they can do is say, "We have a wonderful teacher." But they do not learn anything. I sometimes think the reason some people think they have a wonderful teacher is because the teacher does all the work and leaves them free to go about their merry way. But this is not a "wonderful" teacher. This is a poor teacher. This type of teacher will increase his own knowledge but not that of the class.

VI. — The Auditorium Class

1. This usually presents a number of problems to the teacher. Number one is that there is very little, if any, equipment for teaching in the auditorium. Number two is that the class is scattered "all over a half-an-acre." It is most difficult to get a class "together" in the auditorium. Number three is that half of the class usually comes in late. Visitors and those who do not attend the class usually come in just at the close of the class instead of waiting until class is over.

2, I do not have the answer to these problems. Of course, the ideal situation would be to have enough class rooms so that the auditorium need not be used for a class room. But this is not always possible. Here are some suggestions:

A — Have the class assemble in the front, as close together as is comfortable.

B — Take the roll call before class begins. (This will encourage those who always get there just in time to be counted.)

C — Have the ones who come in after the class is well under way to sit quietly in the rear of the auditorium.

D — Provide all the equipment possible. Maps, blackboard, writing material. This equipment will have to be removed from view after each class.

VII. — Subject Matter

1. Many times this is determined by which books the teacher likes to teach. Since most of us were taught the book of Acts early in our Christian life, you will find many adult classes studying that book.

2. Most adult classes study the Bible by taking up book after book until they are finished and then starting all over again. This is good, but I feel that interest may be revived by a study of special subjects.

3. These special subjects may vary with the needs of the class. They could last for three months. Then go back and study a New Testament book and follow up with the study of another special subject. By alternating in this fashion the interest is keener.

4. Subject matter should be such that that particular class will benefit.

A — Ask that each pupil keep a note book. Have them to make outlines. Write themes, etc. on the subjects studied.

5. The wise teacher will immediately notice any decline of interest in a class. This is a danger signal. There are many things that might be wrong. However, it is always in order to check the subject matter being used to see if it is that which is needed to fit the class. (Heb. 5:10-14).

VIII. — Purpose Or Goal

1. In the classes for small children the purpose or goal is always definite. It should be so with the adult class but usually that is not the case. Many times the class goes on and on without definite purpose or goal in mind.

2. The teacher should plan the course of the class for at least a year in advance. Plan to develop a knowledge of: (1) Prophesies of the church. (2) The church in the first century. (3) The worship of the church. (4) The work of the church. (5) The government of the church, etc. These are mere suggestions, others could be used.

3. Set aside a certain amount of time, say, three months for each special study. Maybe one month might be sufficient in some cases.

4. Special problems arise in the church which demand attention. Such as moral issues, respect and reverence in assemblies, discipline of children, etc. These may well be corrected by a special study in the adult class.

5. The goal might well be to go through the New Testament in a survey study. Or, perhaps, the Old Testament. Regardless of the goal that is set, be sure that you have one and are working toward it. Keep this goal constantly before the class.

(In an article to follow we will deal specifically with the qualifications of the teacher and his relationship to the class, to the elders, to the congregations, etc.)

— 41325 Kathlean, Fremont, California