Sunday School for Young Adults
by Kelley Land
During our engagement, my husband and I shopped around town for a church that felt like home. We visited several different churches before finding one whose size seemed to match our experiences growing up.
The ministry opportunities, sermons, and music at that church were good, but what hooked us was the young married Sunday school class. Technically, we didn’t belong with that group at first; we were merely engaged. But we entered nervously and settled into the folding chairs, looking around at the new faces. We introduced ourselves. Weeks later when we returned, they remembered our names.
Our Sunday school class is dubbed “Rickie’s Roughnecks,” and over the past three years we’ve evolved into a fun-loving, spirit-seeking group of young adults. Most people arrive by 10:00 on Sunday mornings, but those who get there earlier spend time socializing, catching up on prayer requests, and chatting about work, kids, and life. We also enjoy someone’s breakfast offeringfrom doughnuts and monkey bread to ham, egg, and cheese casserole.
Rickie, our middle-aged teacher, begins class by calling for prayer updates. I record these to send later in an e-mail to the class. Then, held accountable all the while by his wife, Sheri, Rickie shares the Bible background and lesson text, sprinkling it with his life experiences and connecting various Scripture passages. Finally, his questions begin: “What do you think about this?” “How have you experienced this in your life?” “This verse has been interpreted several different ways. How do you interpret it?” “What do you think Jesus would want us to do?”
And we talk. Some say more than others; some never say a word but listen intently. Views vary, but they are offered respectfully. We’ve come to realize that the questions Rickie asks may not have a definite answer. In our discussion of the possibilities, though, we learn much about each other and about God.
Rickie closes, sometimes in prayer and sometimes with “See you next week.” We all sigh in contentment (or in frustration, depending on the subject matter!). Once again, we’ve enjoyed a Sunday school lesson that moved us to exercise our brains and our hearts. We look forward to next week’s challenge.
Based on my experiences, I’d offer this advice to those who teach young adults:
• Young adults, especially those who’ve spent the morning rushing children out the door, enjoy a breakfast offering. Consider posting a voluntary signup list. Remind your learners to donate periodically to the class stock of paper plates, cups, napkins, and plastic ware.
• Swamped with the challenges of busy lives, young adults appreciate an e-mail update of prayer requests and praises, reminders of who’s supposed to bring breakfast, and class announcements. Consider having a volunteer write down everyone’s addresses and prepare a weekly list to send to class members. This is also a great way to notify people of urgent prayer needs.
• Many young adults don’t have or make time to study the lesson deeply. They need a solid introduction to the lesson text. Consider giving a brief overview of the Scripture text and the topic for the session.
• Young adults crave topics that stimulate their souls. They want to talk with each other about difficult spiritual and cultural issues, and they yearn to understand what Jesus says about such issues. Consider posing tough questions midway through your class time. Allow your learners the opportunity to answer spontaneously and dialogue with each other. Be alert to help guide the conversation.
• Young adults need solid closure in order to move on to the next part of the day without leaving any issues hanging. Consider offering your final thoughts and ending the session in prayer.
• Young adults love to socialize and fellowship. Aside from regular class time, consider having volunteers plan events such as pool parties, Valentine dances, game nights, dinners, and other fun occasions. Some of these can involve the whole family; others may involve only the couples while those with children chip in for baby-sitters at a central location.
• Encourage ministry by setting up a class treasury. Members can contribute to the pot and then decide how to use the money.
Also based on my experiences, I’d offer this advice to young adults who choose to attend Bible study.
• Volunteer to bring breakfast one Sunday, to write down prayer requests and e-mail them to the group, or to plan/host a fellowship event.
• Realize that just as your teacher sets aside time to plan for your class, it is important for you to set aside time with God each day. If you aren’t able to digest an entire session’s worth of literature, find another way to commune with God regularly. Prepare yourself before you enter the classroom. Pray for your fellow class members and teacher, and ask God to help you share your views with each other in Christlike ways.
• Bring your Bible to class. You may hear something you want to highlight for later study. Using your Bible is the best way to become familiar with its truths.
• During prayer time, share your personal concerns briefly, realizing that others have needs as well.
• When your teacher poses questions, be willing to offer your views with gentleness and patience, understanding that others may differ in what they think. Realize that your class time may often end with a question being addressed in several different ways.
• As your teacher prays to end the session, silently affirm his or her words and communicate with God.
• Be as welcoming to guests as you possibly can. Recall your first Sunday in Bible study. Someone who reaches out to a new person can be the deciding factor in whether that person ever returns.
My husband and I look forward each week to our time in Bible study with other young couples. It refreshes us and then sustains us for another stretch of days. During this pivotal time in our livesfull of the milestones of marriage, house-buying, establishing employment, and having childrenwe need the consistency of strong spiritual leadership and a compassionate group of fellow Christians who are experiencing the same milestones.
Kelley Land is assistant editor at Smyth & Helwys Publishing. She and her husband, John, attend a church in Macon, Georgia, where they are involved in fellowshipping with Rickie’s Roughnecks, ministering in the worship services, and working with the youth group.