Issue #37   September, 2015
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Put the Welcome Mat in Your Lesson Plan
Adult education in the church is different from other adult education venues, particularly higher education or professional development seminars.  The principle difference in the case of the church: people don’t have to be there. 
As leaders of adult education classes and Bible studies, we are concerned with important Issues: how to encourage spiritual growth and nurture; how to engage adults in meaningful Bible study; and how to motivate people to attend. When regular attendees sign up and show up for a Sunday morning or weekday Bible study, they have given evidence that they are motivated—so have first-time attendees. Encouraged by a good size group, we forget sometimes to welcome the newcomers. 
A true story. A woman I know recently moved to a new city. She wanted to make friends in her new community.  As a Christian, she sought a church to attend. She also decided to attend a weeknight Bible study at a nearby church. Upon entering the room, she was asked to make a name tag. At the beginning of the session, participants said their names in turn in their small groups.  That was the extent of the introduction. The class was primarily lecture without much opportunity for discussion or conversation. There was little connection or encouragement to motivate this newcomer to return to that group. 
Welcoming and including new participants is an important part of every session plan in the fall when classes begin as well as throughout the year.
For Planning
Create a learning environment that invites the new and the known to participate.

Here are some suggestions:
  • ​Name tags. You can’t always assume that members of your church know each other’s names or that they will remember names after the first week. And if everyone wears a name tag, a visitor won’t feel like “the new person.”  
  • ​As the leader, model the behavior you want to establish in the group. As people come in and before the class starts, introduce yourself to people you do not know.
  • ​It’s OK to ask if someone is new and then find out that they are a longtime member.  So, what if they are a 25-year member; they are new to you. Now you know who to call on for observations about changes in the community.
  • ​Ask a regular (and friendly!) attendee to volunteer as a class greeter.  If a new person is late (could have had a hard time finding the meeting room or was dropping off children into their classrooms), you don’t have to stop the action. The greeter can help the new person get a name tag, coffee, and the materials needed to join in the session. 
Check the Leader's Guide
Each Kerygma Leader’s Guide contains multiple activities for “Setting the Stage” to open a session and invite all participants to become involved. As with many of the activities, suggestions for setting the stage are best done in small groups or 1-on-1. Use the introductory question both to welcome people and to lead into key themes of the session. Ask participants to first introduce themselves to each other and then answer the question.

Here are two examples from Leader’s Guides which set the stage and provide opportunities for introductions.

In Lord,Teach Us to Pray, this statement is one option the leader can use to open the session: “Say a word about the time that you first became acquainted with the Lord’s Prayer.

In Romans, a Letter for Today, a session could begin with the question: “Tell about an experience that significantly changed your life.”
Your Experience?
Remember—we were all newcomers once!  Do you have a story about joining a Bible study or an adult education class?  Please send them to me or call me at the Kerygma Office at 412-344-6062 or 1-800-537-9462.
Questions?  Comments?
Please send them to me, or call me at the Kerygma office at 800-KERYGMA

300 Mt. Lebanon Blvd., Suite 205 Pittsburgh, PA 15234-1507
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