Growing Adults on Sunday Morning

gaosm.gifBook Summary:
     One of the most common dilemmas facing pastors is finding the means to have, at the same time, good organization across all the ministries of the church and cohesiveness between those various ministries, ensuring that all work together for the common purpose of the church.  Many times, pastors end up with multi mini-churches that become isolated from and territorially defensive against other ministries within the body.  Adult Bible Fellowships (ABF) were created to be a resolution to some of these challenges.  These units are for adults: that is, they are focused upon age groupings.  The Bible is the content of all learning that takes place.  Also, these groups are dedicated to provide an arena in which adults can fulfill the “one anothers” of Scripture.  They promote fellowship.

     Many have wrestled with discovering what kind of experience people should have when they come to church.  Many church leaders today emphasize five such experiences.  The first, celebration, occurs when the church as a whole gathers to worship God for Who He is and what He has done.  This is essential.  Many churches miss a second very important experience, that of congregation, or community.  This experience takes place in smaller groups consisting of twenty to ninety people.  In this experience, the church encourages, cares for, and reaches out to others both within and without the body.  Adult Bible Fellowships occur generally in this category.  The third experience is the cell, or small groups.  These may exist within a congregation or as a separate group and are able to more intimately focus on members’ needs.  A fourth experience is found in core groups.  This represents the family unit, which must emphasize and be in cooperation with the mission of the church if it is to succeed.  Finally counseling experiences are vital.  This is the one-to-one accountability and discipleship so often mentioned in Scripture.

     In “How ABFs Are Organized,” Pastor Larson gives four emphases in structuring ABFs.  They include (1) the recognition that ABFs are not separate from the church, (2) the fact of a/the pastor as the leader of the ABF, (3) the importance of a clear job description for each leadership position, and (4) the emphasis of team leadership with an individual ABF.  With these in place, the author delineates his structure for ABFs.  He utilizes three, possibly four, leadership positions: the group leader, the teacher, the care leader, and the outreach leader.  All work together to promote community within an ABF.  Following this chapter, he spends a few pages identifying the key differences between ABF and traditional Sunday School classes, namely that ABFs focus more on interaction and fellowship, assist the pastoral staff in ministry, and foster more community spirit than do most adult Sunday School classes.  Next, Pastor Larson explains how ABFs function theologically in strengthening the health of a church through God’s sovereignty, Christ’s lordship, loving leadership, congregational ministry, loving fellowship, discipleship and accountability.  Chapter six contains a helpful and very practical process for starting an ABF.  The author notes that change should occur slowly with much preparation and announcement ahead of time, way ahead of time.  He suggests that only one ABF be added initially to an established Sunday School program and then grow from its success.  The author then spends the final chapter in this section dealing with how to evaluate an ABF and ensure its success within the church.  He uses four key steps in this evaluation: (1) Getting people there, (2) Receiving them, (3) Assimilating them, and (4) discipling them.

     On the basis of these tests, the author then spends the last two chapters evaluating ABFs from his experience.  Every one of the questions or critiques I had was dealt with in these chapters.  Following this section, Pastor Larson gives two very helpful and practical appendices containing suggested job descriptions for several leadership positions within ABFs as well as a look ahead at the challenges to ABFs in the future.

Evaluation/Critique:
Pastor Knute Larson of The Chapel in Akron, Ohio, has succeeded in putting into print an excellent model for organized adult ministry in Growing Adults on Sunday Morning.  The book is well organized and is just as practically beneficial for a lay minister as a senior pastor.  If the principles and procedures outlined in this book were followed closely, many churches, in my opinion, would be experiencing a heightened sense of community and realizing both corporate and spiritual growth in a larger portion of their membership than ever before.  This book just makes sense.  While acknowledging that Adult Bible Fellowships (ABF) may not work for everyone and every ministry, they are, as presented, easily adaptable to any ministry.  One of the great benefits of the ABF model, in my opinion, is the ministry relief brought to the pastoral leadership as many more members are equipped and encouraged to ministry.  To the reader, it becomes obvious that much trial and error has gone into the development of this process, evidenced by the book’s writing taking place almost twenty years after the origination of the ABF concept.  This work is a “must read” for all who would take Ephesians 4:11-16 seriously, and a “must implement” for pastors seeking to be the best overseer they can be for the glory of God.

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One response to this post.

  1. Sounds like an interesting book, I’ll recommend it to our pastor.

    Reply

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