Monday, October 06, 2008

Formal, Non-Formal, Informal: Equipping Others for Ministry

There are three venues for training (education, equipping, whatever term you like) – Formal, Non-Formal and Informal.

Over the past two weeks I have been working in non-formal learning environment. The students are mostly seasoned and mature men and women who are preparing themselves for cross-cultural ministry work as bi-vocational missionaries. Most of them have their basic degrees, none higher than a B.A. The classes are structured to give practical information that will help them enter into new areas of the country, establish relationships and begin working to help the community in various ways. In this class structure there are no hand-out notes, no lengthy reading assignments, no degrees granted at the end of the semester, just practical information with a couple of quizzes to make sure they are grasping the material. Most of my training over the past 30 years has been in the non-formal arena, first in Kenya and then later establishing a training school in the U.S.

For the next three weeks I will be teaching in a formal learning environment. All of these students are doing their M.A. studies. Their English is better, there will be research requirements, outside reading of at least 750 pages, an exam and of course a final paper. Though it is more lecture in style than in non-formal settings, I basically give the same material, though expanded and more exhaustive, and I approach the formal setting with the same practical applications as non-formal teaching.

Informal teaching is that which happens outside the classroom. Talking with students about everything from family issues to matters of ministry over lunch or when they come to my office. These days I am unable to do this type of training as much as in the past. In Kenya I was able to walk the path with pastors, visiting their homes, villages and in the evenings over a meal continue to informally disciple. This certainly was the model that Jesus used, and probably the best model for equipping others. But, even in the limited time I have with modular classes, I am able to do some important informal training.

There is a place for all types of training, education, equipping. I believe informal gives the best hands-on experience, but you must be with people a long period of time to equip them properly; after all, Jesus was with His disciples everyday for three years. Formal education is not for all, maybe not even for many. But, as they say, if a river is only going to rise as high as its source, then the church needs to prepare well informed and educated men and women for its future leadership. Non-formal training has an important role to play in equipping the saints, for most of these people are out in the field doing the hard work. Discipling, equipping, training, education, whatever tag you want to call it, there needs to be more of it and, it needs to be specific and it needs to be done well.