Tips For Teaching Adults
Updated: Jul 3, 2019
By Rodney L. Pry, P.S.S.S.A. Executive Director
Sunday school is just as important in adult life as it is during childhood or during the teen years. Teachers in the adult classes have just as great a responsibility to challenge and motivate their students as do teachers in any other department.
Sometimes we fail to remember that adults should be taught with the same creativity and excitement that we use with children and youth. An adult Sunday school class needs to involve the students in the learning process as a bond of fellowship is developed. If real learning is not taking place, Sunday school will move to the bottom or completely off the busy person’s priority list.
Here are some things you will want to AVOID as you teach in the adult department:
Poor climate for learning. Comfortable seating, good lighting, chairs arranged so that everyone can share and be heard and visual aids are all important to the adult classroom.
Lack of motivation. Adults respond best to activities that have clear assignments. They desire to do things that are relevant to daily living, such as family, job and social life. They are usually too busy to devote time to something if they do not feel that it has real value to themselves, is extremely interesting, or will be of help to others.
Boredom. In most cases, it is not the lesson materials, but the teacher’s presentation and leadership that make the difference in this area. Careful planning for participation and a focus on the lesson that will meet the needs of the student should overcome boredom.
Fear. Lack of confidence, fear of failure and ridicule are blocks to adult learning. For instance, an adult who is a poor reader often fears participation in the class. A tactful teacher will skillfully avoid such embarrassing assignments to those few who have such problems and are uncomfortable. Everyone can and should be involved in some part of the class structure without anyone feeling afraid of what they might be asked to do.
Irritations. Interruptions, delays, poor planning and annoying mannerisms on the part of the teacher can create a real barrier to a meaningful lesson. The earnest teacher will take into account these factors that hinder learning and will make a determined effort to eliminate them.
Lack of friendship. Sometimes adults find it hard to break into a new group of people. Adults are inclined to form cliques that are hard to penetrate. Surveys indicate that an adult who does not get to know others on a first name basis and who does not feel “inclined” will soon quickly lose interest and will drop out, no matter how “good” the teacher may be. Fellowship and a feeling of belonging are important in every adult class.
Asking good questions is a must if a teacher expects to get good answers. Remember, most adults do not study their Sunday school lessons and are not well prepared to answer questions. Make sure that your questions are specific. If you ask an opinion question, be prepared to respect all of the opinions that are voiced.
A genuine love of your students and a sense of the awesome responsibility that is yours to effectively teach them are necessities to successful teaching. Diligent, in depth preparation and a vibrant prayer life that includes daily prayer for each of your students will allow the Holy Spirit to work through you so that you will be at your best.