Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

Category: Learning Attitude Page 1 of 2

lifelong learning
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Cultivating Learning Attitudes

Part of SEND U’s vision is: “Every SEND missionary will be proactive in creating habits of lifelong, intentional learning focused on both character and skill development.” What attitudes does a missionary need to cultivate in order to get personal buy-in to this vision? I suggest that cultivating attitudes of humility, openness, civility, and commitment provide motivation for personal buy-in. Moreover, these attitudes are the soil in which habits of lifelong, intentional learning will grow.

Humility

Humility is an essential attitude for learning, for without it we will not recognize the need to learn. Furthermore, humility helps us remain teachable. On my desk I have a quote from John Calvin as a reminder to stay teachable:

coaching for goals
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What happens in a coaching session?

Do I need a coach?

This month, I will be thinking hard about my ministry and learning goals for 2021. My mission organization asks me to put together an annual ministry plan (AMP) and a personal growth plan (IGP) for the new year.1For further information, see the AMP/IGP guide that our training department has created. As part of that planning process, I am going to consider whether I will need a coach to help me with my ministry and learning goals. Setting up a few coaching calls might very well make the difference between reaching our 2021 goals and not doing so.

But what does a coach actually do? I have written about coaching in this blog. See “What is coaching?” and “The value of coaching” as two examples. But our blog posts have never really explained what a coach actually does. About 10 years ago, I addressed this question in a series of newsletters to our mission membership, entitled “Comments about coaching.” You can find these on the SEND U wiki. But given how long ago that was, I thought it would be helpful to revisit some of those “comments” and update them as well.

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.

Spurring on one another - Learning to be disciples and disciple-makers

Who spurs on the missionary to love and good deeds?

Over the last year or so, I have been thinking about what it means for missionaries to be both disciples and disciple-makers. I recognized that we can easily make the mistake of assuming that at some point in our Christian life, we graduate from being disciples to become disciple-makers. But through an in-depth study of the Gospel of Matthew, it became clear to me that we never stop being a disciple of Jesus. We never graduate from his school of discipleship. Just as we need to keep learning how to be better disciple-makers, we also need to continue learning to be better disciples.

Disciples in Disciple-making

In his book, The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard said

First of all, it is clear that, if we would make disciples, we should be disciples. … To plan on making disciples, we need to know what one is and how people become disciples. We need to know these things by personal experience, as did the first generation of Jesus’ people. They had been made disciples. And we need to be standing in the position of Jesus’ students and co-workers, so that our efforts in making disciples will be appropriately guided and strengthened by him. They are, after all, to be his disciples, not ours. So we are, then, disciples in disciple making. We learn from Jesus how to make disciples as he did.”

Willard, Dallas. The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God (p. 328). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

So what we can do practically to help one another continue to learn from Jesus? How do we help one another be diligent students in Jesus’ discipleship school? Does each disciple just have to figure this out on their own? Or can we learn together in some way?

A lot more preparation required

My wife loves to host people.  She is a great cook, and will often spend most of the day preparing a meal for our dinner guests. My participation in the preparations is decidedly less.  Maybe all the guests are thankful for that.  Admittedly, I don’t know much about how to prepare a great meal for guests.  But I have watched someone who does!

In a parable-like format, Proverbs 9 presents two different women inviting people to a meal.  The same invitation rings out in both Prov. 9:4 and Prov. 9:16:

Let all who are simple come to my house!

Not a victim, but a learner

In two previous blog posts, I have been talking about crucible experiences that God often uses to perfect us. But as I have noted, difficult life experiences in themselves do not refine us. Our response to the crucible experiences of life and ministry is what allows the crucible to become transformative.

Crucibles are used in refining gold out of crushed ore.  In doing some study on the process, I have learned that borax is often used as a flux for smelting gold out of crushed ore.   Borax reduces the melting point of gold, thus making it separate more easily and quickly from the other minerals in the ore.  The question I have asked myself, “How can we add borax to our crucible experiences in life, so that we can extract the ‘gold’ more quickly and easily?”

How do I choose which books to read?

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” Harry S. Truman.

Reading has always been a hobby of mine.   One of my most memorable Christmases as a child was the one where my brother and I each were given 12 books by our parents.   I believe all of them were used books, but that made no difference at all to me.  The anticipation of being able to read as much as I wanted to read throughout the Christmas holidays overshadowed any other gifts that year.   For not only did I have 12 books to read; I had 24 for my brother’s books were fair game as well, once he had read them.

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