Author Topic: Suggestions on topics for adult Orthodox Education courses  (Read 2867 times)

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Offline LizaSymonenko

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Suggestions on topics for adult Orthodox Education courses
« on: October 12, 2009, 02:58:45 PM »

Hello folks,

I have had another opportunity fall in to my lap.

I already teach the youngsters at our church school religion. 
  • Kindergarten age (15 kids) - Bible stories (Creation, Adam/Eve, Noah, this week was Tower of Babel)  They will hit the Nativity story just before Christmas.
  • Middle kids (ages 7-10) - This year going over the Our Father and dissecting the meaning ( you would be amazed that they say it and don't know what it means).
  • Older kids (10-13) - studying the Symbol of Faith (Creed) and dissecting the meaning.
  • After the Nativity break the older bunch will be learning the symbolism of the Divine Liturgy - but, I haven't finished the book, yet.

Last year the middle and older kids learned all about church structure.  I made a 120 page booklet which instructed them on "What it is" - 50 pages of naming and describing various aspects of the Orthodox church so that they would be familiar with proper terminology and symbolism.  The other half of the year and book was "What do I do" - here we went over how to behave....what to do when you walk into church, how to put up the candle, how to properly cross yourself, when NOT to walk around, how to dress, etc.

Two years of Bible Summer School - one year we learned about the Theotokos, and this last summer we learned about "Being Fishers of Men"..going over Proverbs, etc.

The Jr UOL (Junior Ukrainian Orthodox League) - the kids are getting religious instruction 1st Sunday of each month.  These kids are not all in the Saturday school, therefore, this is their time to learn.  Just started this yesterday.  Went over "what the Church and therefore, we, believe".

Now....we have decided to offer Religious studies for adults on Saturdays after the Ukrainian School for kids is over.  I was asked to do this....and if you know me even a little know I could never say no to such an opportunity! 

I am worried, however, that I am not "qualified" to "instruct" adults.  I have spoken to my priest, and he has given his blessing.  He said he would help me out if I was stuck in a corner or if the students needed some questions answered that I couldn't answer, however, the major responsibility of the adult education will fall to me.

I am, once again.....truly honored and humbled to have this opportunity awarded to me.

My question is....what do I teach the adults?   I am afraid to "ask" them because that could open a can of worms.  Therefore, I feel I should pick the curriculum.

The director of the Saturday school said to start at the beginning...that I would be surprised how little the adults know. ....but, what does that mean?  Bible stories?
What do you think adults would like to learn?

I humbly ask your advice on how to proceed.  I want to have a positive effect on the individuals whom I am entrusted with and to impart valuable knowledge to them.

Please, brothers, sisters, and fathers, me in my newest endeavour. 

My classes are set to start the 24th of this month.

Thank you all so much for your input.

In XC,


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Offline mike

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Re: Suggestions on topics for adult Orthodox Education courses
« Reply #1 on: October 12, 2009, 03:24:01 PM »
Treat them as early teenagers. Most of the adults (including me) has similar knowledge about faith. Basics of doctrine, basic of ecclesiology, moral teachings. I suppose the only one thing they know about are Church traditions, but they still can have no idea about true meaning of them.

Do not be so authoritarian but try to engage them in discussion.

God bless!
« Last Edit: October 12, 2009, 03:25:26 PM by mike »
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Offline scamandrius

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Re: Suggestions on topics for adult Orthodox Education courses
« Reply #2 on: October 12, 2009, 03:39:12 PM »
The fact is that adults in the church, whether convert or cradle, are very poorly catechized and don't know the basics of the faith.  Most of them, I suspect, know this but whenever a chance, say a catechism class is offered, they say they want that, but then bow out after the second week.  It's an attitude and behaviour that I am afraid you will have to be mindful of when doing this.  You may come off as patronizing and that's not your fault, that's theirs.  I would recommend that you have a text in place that you can use to cover a lot of different topics in more than just a "scratch the service" way.  Perhaps a book such as Metropolitan HILARION's "Mystery of Faith", Bishop KALLISTOS' "the Orthodox Way" for examples would be a good way to start.  It seems like it will be a challenge and I wish you well in your endeavour and I know that God will bless you for your efforts for the sake of His Kingdom.
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Offline pensateomnia

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Re: Suggestions on topics for adult Orthodox Education courses
« Reply #3 on: October 12, 2009, 03:44:56 PM »
Consider using Clark Carlton's The Faith as a model. It has an easy-to-understand chapter on everything from the Trinity to the Bible to Baptism, followed by a series of questions for discussion. It's intended to be used by adult groups. Ideally, people would read the chapter beforehand, and then you would lead the discussion afterwards.

If people aren't committed enough to buy and read it beforehand, then you could just use the book as a schema for lectures -- and you'd have ready-made discussion questions.

As a matter of pedagogy, it's best to break your larger topic into sub-topics. Let the people know the major topic and the three sub-topics that will be covered at the start of the session. Then pause at the end of each sub-topic for discussion.

Unless you're like some professors I've had (throwing chalk, stomping on the ground, shouting exclamations), you'll lose people if you just lecture for more than 20 minute stints.
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Offline Basil 320

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Re: Suggestions on topics for adult Orthodox Education courses
« Reply #4 on: October 12, 2009, 03:48:13 PM »
I think the GOAA web site, click on Religious Education, has books or a recommended curriculum for Adult Catechism.  
My priest uses Fr. Anthony Coniaris' book, "Introducing the Orthodox Church, Its Faith and Life," for a two hour, one evening per week, for five weeks, adult catechism.  
I've always believed that the history of the Church on Earth is the best overall class for adults.  It will capture everything as it developed, doctrine from the Ecumenical Synods, monasticism as it developed, saints, as they left their mark on the Church, etc. "Heroes for Faith," or something like that, is one of two books the OCA distributed while I was teaching church history years ago.  
The OCEC Commission of SCOBA has materials worth examining.
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Offline ialmisry

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Re: Suggestions on topics for adult Orthodox Education courses
« Reply #5 on: October 12, 2009, 04:39:34 PM »
The fact is that adults in the church, whether convert or cradle, are very poorly catechized and don't know the basics of the faith.  Most of them, I suspect, know this but whenever a chance, say a catechism class is offered, they say they want that, but then bow out after the second week. 

A couple of people I know have as a rule of thumb that you charge something for the classes, just something nominal (even $10, $25 for several weeks).  It is like the "fixing broken windows" theory: people will go to "get their money's worth," no matter how little the money.

One thing would be to give them some basic principles/practices. One good one would be the Orthodox use of the Bible (serves as good balance to the Protestants who target our people). For instance, using the readings that are selected for Great and Holy Saturday Vesperal Divine Liturgy, which are an overview of Salvation History.  The first reading (Genesis 1:1-13) is also read at the beginning of Lent (Clean Monday) on the Eve of the Nativity and Theophany.  Suppliment with the commentary of the Holy Fathers (e.g. from "The Bible and the Holy Fathers (expensive, but maybe the Church library can get a copy)

and how the readings work together in the liturgical calendar, underlining the Church as the New Creation, as Pascha is its first day, Lent signifies our journey from fallen creation into the New Creation, Nativity signals the coming of the New Adam Who makes its possible (and indeed the arche of creation, Old and New) and Theophany the template of baptism which brings us into it.  In other words, try to bring together what makes us Orthodox (as opposed to Protestant): how the Bible is woven into our celebrations and liturgy, both in the calendar and in our personal life in the Holy Mysteries.  With that I'd couple an inexpensive handbook on the Bible like "Bread for life"
that everyone can get their own copy.  In other words, teach them to fish, rather than give them a fish.

Another idea would be geting a collection of the Apostolic Fathers, tying what they speak of to what we do today (which is the same), with discussion of the Biblical basis of their dogmas.  A collection is The Apostolic Fathers By Jack N. Sparks, but the Penguin Classics is also readable (but it does have  a Protestant tinge to it).

A reference on the issues (but not for the uninitiated, as it is not Ortodox, but surveys the questions rather fairly:
Trajectories through the New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers By Andrew Gregory, Christopher Mark Tuckett

As opposed this Mormon nonsense:
One Lord, One Faith: Writings of the Early Christian Fathers As Evidences of the Restoration [i.e. Joe Smith and his gold tablets] By Michael T. Griffith
« Last Edit: October 12, 2009, 05:09:32 PM by ialmisry »
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