The practice of adult education as reflected in the literature of the Church of God: An historical analysis from 1896 to 1999

Loretta Janice Thayer-Smith


The Church of God has been identified as a movement with roots in the Pentecostal revival that occurred in the late 19th century. An analysis of the literature examined the role of adult education in the church, the presence of andragogical principles in the literature, the systems of adult education in place, and the evolution of the perceptions and attitudes toward education. To establish an understanding of the mechanics and educational environment of the church, an overview of the history, government, and doctrine of the church was included. This research explored the role of adult education within the church and found that an effective adult education program is vital both to individuals and the church. An analysis of the literature published by the Church of God (i.e., Church of God Evangel, Youth and Christian Education Leadership, The Pentecostal Minister, Evangelical Sunday School Lesson Commentary , numerous training courses, and ministerial and leadership development materials) revealed the church responded to the need for skilled leaders and lay members. Data were divided into five timeframes and were categorized according to Darkenwald & Merriam's (1982) five philosophical orientations of adult education--cultivation of the intellect, individual self-actualization, personal and social improvement, social transformation, and organizational effectiveness. The review focused on Knowles' (1980) basic principles of adult education in the literature: learning should continue throughout life, learning should be relevant to life needs, adults are self-directed learners, adults come with life experiences, adults should be treated with dignity and respect, and intrinsic motivators are more potent than extrinsic motivators. Although all the principles were addressed in the literature, they were not prominent themes. In addition, although the review indicated there are still those who fear the effect of education on the spiritual experience, the attitude toward education reflected in the literature has evolved into one of acceptance. Because these materials are not archived on a computer database, this analysis was conducted by a manual review of all the aforementioned publications maintained at the H. B. Dixon, Jr. Pentecostal Research Center located on the campus of Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee.