One of the things lacking in many churches today is a strong adult education program. For a long time we assumed about half of the people attending the worship service would also attend Sunday school, but I find that number is quickly becoming less in many churches. The children's Sunday school may still be somewhat strong, but there seem to be very few adults, except for the senior saints, who see the education program of their church a priority for themselves. Obviously, something needs to change.
Years ago, before I went into pastoral ministry, my pastor told me he wanted to start a new young adult Sunday school class. The current class was getting rather large, and it was difficult for new people to feel comfortable. I agreed to teach the class. We didn't take anyone out of the other class, but people who wanted to change classes were allowed to do so. New young adults would be brought to the new class. Although we didn't have the best place to meet, the choir loft, the class grew and helped new people assimilate into the church.
Most of our adult Sunday school classes have been around forever. Since they continue to be made up of the same people, it can be very difficult for new people to feel comfortable. In order to grow the adult Sunday school program a church needs to be regularly adding new classes. A good rule of thumb is that 20 percent of your adult education classes should have been started within the past two years. It's very difficult to grow an existing adult class that has been in existence for more than 18 months so starting new classes is a must if your church wants to grow.
We live in a time when people like options so churches need to consider giving people options when it comes to its education program. Offer both short-term and long-term classes. You may want to offer a six or eight week class to people who do not normally attend Sunday school. These classes might focus on a particular topic. At the end of the period the participants can be asked if they want to continue.
Rather than just offering age-graded classes in your adult education program consider offering classes based upon people's interest. One class might feature more in-depth Bible study. Another class might focus on biblical responses to various social issues confronting our culture. Short-term classes could be taught on personal finance, child rearing, aging, or a whole host of issues that might be important to the people in your church and community.
Finally, your adult education program needs to be outward focused, and not merely inward focused. A relevant education program that addresses real issues can be an excellent side door into your church for people who do not attend church. Just be sure you are offering an adult education program that is done with excellence and is seen as relevant to today's needs.