This is the fourth post in this series that is based on the article "How Your Congregation Learns" by Tim Shapiro in The Alban Institute's magazine Congregations. The focus for this post is Congregations learn learn well when clergy and laity learn together.
One of the things I suggest to pastors is that they should never attend a training event by themselves. I've done this myself and I've seen it happen to other pastors. I would attend some training event and learn new information that I wanted to take back to our church. The material would be presented with great excitement and anticipation, but it often was met with much less excitement than I anticipated. For a long time I didn't understand that and would blame the congregation's apathy, but that wasn't the problem. The problem was that they had not been exposed to this material the same as I was. They had not had the time to process what they were hearing as I had. Few people are excited about anything when they first hear it. I may have had the opportunity to hear directly from the person who designed or used this information while they are getting it second-hand through my filters.
Contrast that with another learning opportunity our church had. I planned to attend a leadership conference led by John Maxwell one year and decided to invite our church leaders to attend with me. We spent the entire day together hearing Maxwell present some material that we thought would help our church. We talked about it over the lunch break and decided to purchase it. After lunch Maxwell spent more time describing how best to use the material. When we returned home with the material and a plan for how to use it we had about a dozen people telling others how much this material would benefit our church. When it was presented to the congregation they immediately approved making some changes that would enable us to use this material in the way it was intended. I have no doubt that having other people there hearing the same things I was hearing at the same time I heard them was a primary reason why our church so quickly agreed to using the material. I also have no doubt that the process we used to present the material made a huge difference in the life of our church.
Not only did our church leaders and I learn together about this material and how to use it, the congregation and I learned the material together as well. It was a great growth opportunity for each of us that led to more respect and trust on both sides. That learning continued to shape the life of our church for the duration of my time there.
What are you learning together?