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Based on the biblical record, teaching/learning activities have always been an influential part of the fabric of God’s people and the church. Acts 2:42-47 describes the early church and includes “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching” as an obvious part of their life together. Earlier in the New Testament, the Gospels tell us that Jesus taught wherever he was, by the lake, in the temple, and as he traveled through the countryside.

Teaching/learning opportunities abound in the church today, and it is essential to plan carefully. We need to define their intended outcomes and create appropriate environments to help actualize those outcomes and implement the vision/mission/purpose of the church.

Teaching/Learning Planning Guide

We encourage you to download and print this discussion guide to better facilitate discussions about the structure of small groups with decision makers at your church. Download guide now


Three options for curriculum planning based on a multi-year approach

Many churches look for a structure or plan on which to build their adult curriculum. An effective plan will include a balance of topics that address multiple needs related to spiritual growth. For smaller churches, selecting topics may be easier because most of the participants are known. In mid-sized and larger churches, a straightforward plan that makes clear the purpose of the adult teaching/learning opportunities will be helpful. In every church, it is essential to identify the purpose for the class and its desired outcomes based on the church’s definition of a disciple.
The following options illustrate how some congregations organize their curriculum plans.

Option 1: Topical Planning

The previous version of the Adult Ministry Planning Tool encouraged churches to use the following areas or topics as a guide for curriculum planning. This plan created both balance and variety in a church’s teaching/learning ministry as each topic was included during a three-year span.

  1. Biblical Studies
    • Old Testament and New Testament survey
    • Biblical book studies
  2. Formational Christian Living
    • Evangelism and discipleship
    • Marriage and the family
    • Christians in the workplace
    • Personal devotional life
  3. Church Related Subjects
    • Ethical issues
    • Christian doctrine
    • Church history
    • Covenant theology and history

Option 2: Church Vision/Mission/Purpose Planning

The second option invites the planning team to begin the curriculum planning process with an exploration of the church’s vision/mission/purpose statements. In this approach, the planning team discusses the vision/mission/purpose statements and identifies the areas and topics where adults in the church need to mature in order to “live” this mission. This option takes the vision/mission/purpose of the church seriously and intentionally structures the teaching/learning settings to support and implement it.

Option 3: GROW Planning

The Covenant’s Department of Christian Formation has identified four areas where Christian formation is essential for developing disciples. Based on the acronym GROW, the four areas include God’s word, Relationships, Obedient living, and Worship. Each area provides opportunity for responding to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

Topics for the teaching/learning ministries could be selected so that the ongoing curriculum plan includes or addresses each of the acronyms directly. Of course, there is overlap in these four areas. For example, we learn to live obediently based on God’s word, and by studying God’s word we learn obedient living. All of our teaching in the church is based on God’s word, but the different acronym areas provide a different direction or emphasis. Each class session will also be enhanced by intentionally including all four acronym areas.

Your team may like the GROW idea but feel that the acronym areas should be weighted differently. It is possible to put more emphasis on certain elements and less emphasis on others. Addressing all four GROW acronym areas over the course of a year or two remains the goal.
The following chart identifies a small sample of classes that could be incorporated into your curriculum plan based on GROW.

For more information on this topic, download the ID article, “Three Options for Curriculum Planning.”

Questions for your church to consider:

  • What do you like about each of the three planning options? What do you dislike?
  • How would creating a structure like the ones presented here enhance your teaching/learning ministries?

Conclusion
In this article we introduced several topics for a planning team to consider when designing a church’s teaching/learning ministry. As you reflect on the article and the Planning Guide, select the sections that you want to discuss based on the needs of your church. Take your time and don’t try to complete everything in a single meeting. The desired outcome of this discussion is to clearly define what a disciple looks like in your church context and then determine the resources necessary to help your people become, and deepen as, disciples of Christ.
Footnotes
  1. Congregational Vitality is an emphasis within the Evangelical Covenant Church and the Department of Church Growth and Evangelism, to help churches evaluate their current state and decide the actions needed to become a Healthy Missional Church. Included in the process is the 10 Healthy Missional Markers that provide a gauge for evaluating the health of a congregation. The Christian Formation Planning Tool is intended to support the 10 Healthy Missional Markers.
  2. Thom S. Rainer and Eric Geiger, Simple Church (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2006).
  3. Another version of the Opportunities for Ministry can be found in the research conducted by Willow Creek. Greg L. Hawkins and Cally Parkinson, Follow Me: What’s Next for You? (Barrington: The Willow Creek Association, 2008), p. 20.
    • Exploring Christ – The people in this group have a basic belief in God, but they’re unsure about Christ and his role in their live.
    • Growing in Christ – The people in this group have a personal relationship with Christ. They’ve made a commitment to trust him with their salvation and for their eternity, but they are just beginning to learn what it means to be in a relationship with him.
    • Close to Christ – The people in this group depend on Christ daily for their lives. They see Christ as someone who assists them in life. On a daily basis, they turn to him for help and guidance for issues they face.
    • Christ-Centered – The people in this group would identify their relationship with Christ as the most important relationship in their entire lives. They see their lives as fully surrendered to Jesus and his agenda.
  4. Gary A. Parrett and S. Steve Kang, Teaching the Faith, Forming the Faithful (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2009), p. 140.
  5. Principles of Adult Learning, adapted from John Goodlad’s writing, 2008, by Barry Sweeny, Best Practice Resources, web site at www.teachermentors.com.
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