Adult education isn’t just about offering programs or information so that people can learn more about their Catholic faith. There’s a community building element in adult education, too.
Don’t overlook the importance of creating a welcoming atmosphere, making people feel comfortable, helping people to get to know one another, and encouraging people to get involved. Here are some tips on how to use your adult education ministry to help strengthen community life in your parish:
- When planning an adult education program or event, think about how you will invite parishioners to attend. Whether you use bulletin blurbs, flyers, lector announcements, direct mail, or press releases, encourage people to bring family members and friends. Let it be known that all are welcome.
- Try to wean yourself away from the need to take reservations ahead of time. Yes, it’s nice to know how many people will be coming. But it tends to discourage people from popping in at the last minute or bringing an extra friend. Trust the Holy Spirit. Have extra chairs available. Fire up the photocopy machine so you can make extra handouts – just in case. If you run out of coffee, make another pot or two. If you run out of cookies, make a joke about it and ask people if they will bring a batch next time!
- Use name tags whenever possible. It helps everyone connect names and faces.
- Plan some kind of activity for people who arrive early. It might be Catholic trivia or a little true and false quiz based on whatever your topic is for the evening. Encourage people to work together. It gives them something to do in those awkward moments before the program begins.
- In your opening remarks, invite people to introduce themselves to the people seated around them. It only takes a minute, but it gives everyone permission to talk to people they don’t know, and it creates a much more welcoming atmosphere.
- If you’re going to break people up into small groups for discussions after a talk, ask them to introduce themselves to each other before beginning their discussions.
- If you’re having a reception afterward, make sure your team members are on the lookout for people standing alone. Team members can introduce themselves to the solo attendees and then introduce the solos to other parishioners. It’s all about getting people connected!
- Ask participants if they would like to be part of your team. They can start right away by helping with clean up! It’s a great way to get new volunteers and it helps people in the parish feel as if they are really wanted and needed
- Thank people for coming. Encourage them to invite others to the next event!