This is part 2 of a blog post from earlier this week. The entire article will appear in Life Ventures, an adult curriculum from LifeWay Christian Resources, in Fall 2012.
Important Promotion Principles
Promoting adults will go better if you follow some simple principles. Since there is no universal way for promoting adults, churches have experimented with the practice and have found some things that work for them. Perhaps the following principles will work for you and your class and/or Sunday School:
Principle #1: People are more likely to promote when they know their new teacher.
It is harder to ask adults to promote when they don’t have a relationship with their potential new teacher. Take several Sundays each year (perhaps one per quarter) and exchange teachers for the morning with the class directly beneath yours in terms of age. If younger seniors are reluctant to promote to the “old folks” class, you (the exchange teacher) could start getting to know the “younger” folks and help them realize that there is still a lot of life left in the “next grade up.” The exchange teacher who goes to your class can bring back the same good report to the younger folks.
Principle #2: People are more likely to promote when they are encouraged to promote. Teachers can help their churches instill a culture of adult promotion as they become champions for this practice. Stay focused on the positive benefits of promoting into senior adult classes and be a cheerleader for those people who make the decision to promote.
Principle #3: People are more likely to promote when the new class isn’t too dissimilar from their current one.
One reason that adults sometimes resist promoting is that the next class is just too different from the one they are in. Case in point: If your oldest grouping of classes has a philosophy of being same-gender, then the couples’ classes just below them will not have members who want to promote because the couples would have to separate, and that’s not what they are used to nor what they prefer. Starting a new couple’s class for seniors just entering retirement might be just the right incentive to help revitalize senior adult ministry in your church. Maybe you are the teacher who could help start that new class.
Principle #4: People are more likely to promote when they know people in the next class.
Relationships can make or break the promotion strategy, so look for ways to foster this among the members of older seniors and younger seniors. Regular fellowships and/or ministry projects between classes can place people in proximity to one another, jumpstart relationships, and help younger seniors feel good about leaving their class for yours.
Principle #5: People are more likely to promote as a group.
Encourage teachers of younger classes to suggest that several of their members promote to your class at the same time. Doing something together can make it more attractive.
Principle #6: People are more likely to promote when they are in control and have significant work to do.
Jerry Hyder, Minister of Education at First Baptist Church, Sevierville, Tennessee, has this philosophy. He told me they experience successful promotion by “allowing them (adult learners) to be a part of the process in choosing which class to attend and join.” His church has created a culture in which people are increasingly active in their senior years. Jerry said, “over the hill means they (the members) pick up speed in their passion to serve Christ.” Jerry helps his senior classes continue to find new ways to serve Christ. Who wouldn’t want to promote and be a part of that?!
In our culture, promotion is considered a good thing and a cause for celebration. My two sons have just promoted, one from high school to college, and the other from college to the workplace. Leaders in our military are promoted, assistant coaches are often promoted to head coaching positions, and you or someone you know in the workplace has been promoted to a new position and a new season of leadership. Promotion is a good thing. Promotion is a natural part of our lives. Promotion signals that new responsibilities and new opportunities are just around the corner. However, when it comes to the topic of promotion in the church, the mere mention of the word causes panic and can illicit strong emotions toward the teacher, staff member, or pastor who suggested it! Let’s change the culture in our churches and work hard to encourage adult learners to promote and face new leadership opportunities, setting a good example for the younger adult leaders in the church.