Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

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online training skills
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Online training: sharpening your skills

Online education and training have been around for a long time. But over this past year, many of us have had the opportunity and necessity to experience online training like never before. This is also true for the training of missionaries getting ready to head to the field. Facilitating an online training session is inherently different from facilitating a training module face-to-face. Since online instruction is likely here to stay, those of us involved in training missionaries should continue to sharpen our skills for facilitating online. Here are some things we have learned in the past year that help promote an effective online learning environment.

Use a variety of methods

A good principle of education is to use a variety of different teaching methods. Doing so connects with the various learning styles of your learners. This principle also holds true online. Asynchronous courses with forum discussions have existed in online learning for over 10 years. Some learners will thrive in this kind of setting, particularly if they like to carefully think through their answers before responding. In an asynchronous environment, they can read books, blog posts, and watch videos, reflect on them, and then respond when they are ready in writing through forum posts.

More recently, video conference platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet, and Teams have become popular ways to facilitate. In this setting, other types of learners will thrive. They have a set time to connect and a more immediate response in the discussion.

So, when you design an online curriculum, seek to cater to as many personalities and learning styles as possible. Maybe your training course can include both asynchronous forum discussions and some live video conference sessions as well.

Break the ice

It may feel natural to introduce yourself to a fellow learner or a facilitator in a physical classroom setting when you first walk into the room or during a class break. But this can feel much more awkward in a virtual setting when you enter a virtual “room” that is already “full” of people, and no one is in closer physical proximity to you than anyone else.

Learning by doing
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Is learning by doing better than learning through courses?

Recently I reacquainted myself with a common formula used among trainers. It is the 70-20-10 model for learning and development. The model is based on research back in the 1980s on what were the most significant learning experiences for effective leaders.1https://trainingindustry.com/wiki/content-development/the-702010-model-for-learning-and-development/.

The research showed that leaders learned most (70%) through hands-on-experience at work when they accepted challenging assignments and worked on problem-solving. This included learning from taking risks, experimenting and making mistakes.

The next greatest source of learning (20%) came from working with others. This would include collaborating with others, giving and receiving feedback and receiving coaching and mentoring. The last 10% was learning through educational courses, seminars and books.

training indigenous workers

Wouldn’t it be cheaper to train indigenous workers?

Why do we raise thousands of dollars of monthly support and move ourselves and our families to foreign cities? Why do we learn their languages and cultures, and seek to establish churches or disciple-making movements within those cultures? Because Christ tells us to go and make disciples of all nations. See Matthew 28:19-20.

But here is the response we often get from those who have thought about the cost of human and financial resources in this effort: Wouldn’t it be cheaper and more effective to train and support indigenous believers to reach their own people?

Why are expatriates needed?

How should you and I respond to this pushback?

Is facilitating better than teaching for disciple-making?

Is facilitating better than teaching for disciple-making? In my opinion, both are essential for disciple-making. An online search on the difference between facilitators and teachers found the following:

Traditionally, teachers are the ones with knowledge and expertise in a particular field. They impart knowledge through a variety of means to their students. Facilitators build on the knowledge base of the group of students to find the answers to questions. Both methods of instruction serve a purpose and allow students the chance to grow.

Difference between Facilitators and Teachers

A Time for Teaching?

There is a lot of emphasis on coaching and facilitating in mission circles today. And rightly so – these are great tools! Teaching often does not get much space at the table though. It seems to escape everyone’s notice that those who advocate coaching and facilitating are in fact teaching.

Teaching is frequently caricatured as only interested in passing on information without much concern for life change. In all my education, I have never met that straw man! I never had a teacher or professor who was only interested in my mastering information. Yes, information was the primary focus of exams, but not exclusively. Even my high school Latin teacher sought to build character as we translated Caesar’s “Gallic Wars.” Throughout college and seminary, my faculty advisors ( and other profs) aimed to build character and a faithful lifestyle. Some were better than others, but all saw their role as developing the whole person. Maybe my education was unique, but I don’t think so. For 35 years, I taught at a Bible College, and none of my colleagues were satisfied with simply passing on information. Teaching gets a bad rap when it is portrayed as simply  passing along information.

How can Christian coaching enhance my church planting ministry?

Everybody seems to be talking about coaching lately, but what is it and more importantly how useful could it be in my ministry? Keith Webb of Creative Results Management defines coaching as, “An ongoing intentional conversation that empowers a person or group to fully live out God’s calling.” The focus of Christian coaching is on the coachee and helping them hear God’s voice in their lives and follow through in obedience.

My own coaching journey began when I was coached by a friend and found the process quite helpful in my own life. The ongoing and intentional nature of our coaching relationship was just what I needed to gain clarity and make progress in a key area of my life. As a result, the next time the SEND U edition of the three-day Coaching Workshop was offered, I was one of the first in line to sign up. I too wanted to use coaching skills in my ministry with others.

The training time, led by Ken Guenther and Dave Wood, was very practical and allowed me to immediately practice using the skills learned. I have had a lot of schooling in my day, but this course was one of the most interactive and fun that I can recall. It was a good thing that I took the coaching training because shortly thereafter, one of our home service missionaries asked me to coach him during his home service. That first coaching series was a positive learning time for both myself and the coachee. That was about three years ago and since then I have had multiple coaching series both as coach and as coachee, and I am still learning a lot.

What does Romans say about preaching and online learning?

From my journal this morning:

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you. I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong—that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles. – Romans 1:8–13

Observation: Paul has heard about the faith of the Romans, and it encourages him (Rom 1:8). He prays for the church regularly (Rom 1:9-10). But he really wants to visit them, so that he can make them strong through his ministry of the Spirit in their midst, so that he and the church can be mutually encouraged by one another’s faith (Rom 1:12), and so that he can have a harvest among these Gentiles (Rom 1:13). Why does he need to come to Rome in order to minister to them? His epistle to them is obviously already an encouragement and a help to the Romans to make them strong. It is Paul’s most complete explanation of the Gospel. Why could possibly be still lacking in his ministry to them?  Why does he need to go to Rome when he can send this excellent, inspiring and doctrinally sound “sermon” or article to them?   Paul apparently does not know much about the specific problems and needs in the church and wants to interact with the Roman Christians to get to know them, and then address their situation more specifically. He wants to enjoy their company (Rom 15:24); he wants to be refreshed in their company (Rom 15:32).  In order to do so, he needs to see them.

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