team learning

There never seems to be a shortage of learning opportunities in the church world. However, there is a shortage of implementation and transformation as a result of one’s participation in those learning opportunities. Often this is not from a lack of trying or the best of intentions. How often do you attend a workshop and leave excited about what you’ve learned only to move your notes from the stack on the corner of your desk to eventually your bookshelf or drawer never to see the light of day again?  

Attending workshops and other learning opportunities isn’t the problem; it’s our approach to learning and what we do with our learnings after the workshop that’s the real issue. Let me explain. The church places a high value on learning. That’s great! Yet, we don’t necessarily place a high value, expectation, or even accountability on any return on that learning investment. In other words, how is that investment in learning specifically furthering the mission of the church? What was learned?  How is it being applied in your local congregation and mission field? What is the specific kingdom impact in your local community from that investment in learning? 

As church leaders and stewards of congregational assets, it is critical to understand how to recognize the best practices of learning opportunities and the tremendous advantages of how to obtain the best return on this critical and pivotal investment.  Here are some key best practices to consider:

  1. Team Learning: One of the keys to a better return on investment for learning opportunities is team learning. Too often a pastor attends a workshop alone. This may be because no one was willing to take the time to attend, the pastor didn’t ask anyone, or the pastor is just needing a CEU. There are also times when a lay person attends alone for some of the same reasons.  Nevertheless, attending alone is not at all a best practice. It is extremely difficult to stir up the same excitement and buy-in to the application of the learning when you didn’t experience it first hand. It’s like trying to describe a beautiful sunset to someone who wasn’t there to experience it first hand.  You just had to be there or it just wasn’t the same. It is also more difficult for one person to rally the troops to gain momentum and traction back at the local church. That’s why there is a cheerleading squad instead of just one cheerleader! One person can lose steam pretty quickly when s/he feels they are working alone and no one else is joining the team to help or at least be an advocate. Before long, all interest is lost and the person gives up trying because the task is too difficult to bear alone.
  2. Commitment: When the church sends a team to a learning opportunity, there is a widened and demonstrated commitment to the learning. This is shown by both a greater number of people being sent and by a greater financial commitment. This commitment shows this learning opportunity is an important investment for the congregation, leadership development, and equipping leaders in its mission of making disciples. A key best practice is to have an on-going line item in the budget each year to ensure the commitment to learning and leadership development. Just be sure all the other best practices are in place as well to accompany the budget commitment.
  3. Accountability: The practice of accountability often gets a bad rap. Often this practice is misunderstood and is associated only with punishment. Accountable leadership is really about empowering people with the authority and responsibility of their role and holding them accountable for its implementation. It’s a collaborative approach of problem solving towards a mutually understood outcome, vision, and mission using a common set of core values. When it comes to learning opportunities, the accountable approach would include learning opportunities:
      • that align with the mission
      • better equip leaders to lead the church in making the church’s vision a reality
      • that align with the church’s annual goals
      • that align with the leader’s ministry area’s key strategies and the leader’s team also commits to attend  
      • which the pastor (or at least the ministry area leader) and a team (minimum of three) commits to attend
      • where there will be a church commitment (i.e. resources, people, time) to implement the learnings
      • when there will be team accountability for the implementation of the learnings
      • when the team who attended will be willing to experiment with their learnings to find the best application for their setting and church leaders will be understanding and supportive of the experimentation
      • when the church invests in key leaders (pastor, paid staff, unpaid ministry leaders, future ministry leaders) of all ages as key accountability to their mission of making disciples

 

Putting these three best practices into place can be pivotal in the life of a congregation.  Recognizing the importance of these practices will be key for church leaders. However, practicing them is the real game changer. Once learning opportunities align with mission, vision, and goals, then teams are sent for strategic learning opportunities, and finally accountable practices are in place, pivotal changes and kingdom impact will be inevitable. These practices are not difficult, they only take commitment! Is your church ready to recognize the pivotal and tremendous advantages of team learning and application? Take your first step today!