Friday, November 22, 2019

Train to succeed

The church, in my experience, is deficient in training.

I mean structured, organised,  goal oriented effort to base spiritial and intellectual formation. In most churches in my observation and experience it is haphazard, relies on the sermon or somewhat trivial studies in children's and youth ministries.

My own experience is of this nature.

I was asked to teach Sunday School. Just thrown in, no training, mentoring, supervision. Then I was asked to help organise the youth group. Same training and development approach as the last time. I went on to conduct the youth Bible study. Again, the tried and true method was used: none.

And so it went for almost every aspect of church life!

Except, when I became a Christian, I worked through a booklet of studies with my counsellor. Not much but OK. Nothing like it should have been. Although, both Bob S. and Ron K. were wonderful pastors a few years after this time.

Except youth work at the denominational level. Although that too started poorly. I was asked to be a 'counsellor' at a youth camp. I enjoyed this very much and found it deeply satisfying. But it was all hit or miss.

Happily I had a few great mentors by this time, and Paul C instituted some structured training. Rick L, Judy G and others were brilliant examples, and I participated in Theological Education by Extension for a short time while finishing my degree. I was also blessed by a seminar in youth work conducted by Ron K. has asked us to read Penetrating the Magic Bubble by Pat Hurley (back in 1981!), so I did.

We need to do better. We need all ministry organisers to have a base line of capability and knowledge, as Paul encourages in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 and 2 Timothy 2:4-6. See this article as well.

Here's an outline of a plan I drew up about 20 years ago.

Small group facilitators’ training program outline.

Intended for use over a two year program of two or three weekend training retreats.
Would include talks, workshops, videos, discussions, good food and drink, relaxing walks in the countryside.

Items are identified as being treated in year 1 (y1) or year 2 (y2) of the program.

Main Strands

Biblical Understanding

Development of an appreciation for the Bible in its historical settings, the debates which have been had about this, the different views of the Bible and their origins. Put biblical books into their contexts and understand the flow of biblical history.

Old Testament (y1)

Overview of OT, themes and history of Israel, biblical (OT) archaeology

New Testament (y1)
Overview of NT, themes and early church history, how the text came to us, biblical  (NT) archaeology, Dead Sea Scrolls, Papyrus discoveries, the Jesus Seminar, and where heterodoxy comes from (e.g. Thiering, Spong)

Faith through Time (i.e. History of Theology) (y2)
Early church’s christology, ecclesiology, development of views of God, influence of pagan philosophy (still continues to this day!).

The Bible Today (i.e. Current Trends in Theology) (y2)
Major modern theologians, their concerns and intellectual contexts.

Group Life

Development of communication and group facilitation skills, being able to empathise and lead people, understanding group life in voluntary associations, establishing common ground, leading adults as distinct from teaching children or lecturing students. Introduction to adult education concepts and presentation skills.

Working with People (y1 and 2)
Interpersonal skills – communication styles, listening to people (overt and covert messages), ‘body language’ as communicator.

Running a Group (y1 and 2)
Group dynamics – the establishment of group roles by implicit negotiation, development of group communication (parts of the Alpha training course tape may provide useful techniques).
Leader as facilitator, leader as ‘representing Jesus’ to the group (as we all do to each other).
The place of prayer and bible reading, getting a group going as a small community of faith, dealing with and accepting dissent as resource for the Spirit to use.

Christianity in Society - Interaction of Christians and Christian thinking with society.

How they Used to do It (Church History) (y1)

Cults, Heresies and Other Religions (y2)

Explaining the Hope Within Us (apologetics) (y1)

Christianity and the Arts (y1 and 2)

Reactions and Results (y2)
Christian impacts in society and history, ‘social and historical apologetics’ e.g. the Christian seedbed of modern science and how this has dislocated to materialism but using the ontological capital of Christian thought. Views of society and social revolutions or not (Methodism in Britain). The rise of democracy and its links with Protestant thought. The notion of the rule of law for civil justice.

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