Monday, June 11, 2018

A Community of Learners

Last week I was on campus at Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Shawnee, Kansas.  Two Doctor of Ministry cohorts were there to attend the residency seminars that are part of their semester studies.  Dr. John Park, director of the program, was teaching “Embracing Design Thinking” to the 2017 cohort which started January 2017.  Dr. Terrell Carter and I taught “Understanding Yourself and Others” to the cohort that began in January of this year.

Although the groups had some interaction during breaks, over meals and in chapel worship, their primary interaction took place within their own cohorts.  Each cohort has developed a high level of trust, even the group that just began in January.  

Studies have shown that ministers thrive in intentional communities of practice or peer learning groups.  Many denominations such the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship encourage and facilitate the development of these ongoing groups. 

Our Doctor of Ministry cohorts at Central model what it means to be an effective community of practice. Although students are engaged in different types of ministries and are ethnically as well as geographically diverse, they engage each other in these ways:

They engage in dialogue around the content presented, providing reflection and real-time application to the information being provided.  In so doing, students actually share in the course instruction, making each seminar experience unique.

They provide honest, loving, and supportive feedback to each other. While respecting each person’s point and view and experience, they are not afraid to ask questions for clarity and applicability.

They encourage one another not only in their academic studies but when life happens. One student has lost a spouse since starting the program.  Another has delivered her first child, and another has lost a parent.  Several have experienced sickness.  In all of this, they support each other as both friends and colleagues.

They also hold each other accountable by questioning assumptions, reminding one another of deadlines, and providing critiques of assignments.

Our hope is that these student practitioners will take this model of mutual learning and support back to their ministries and seek out others who will walk with them in their journeys.  This will make them not only more effective ministers but healthier believers.

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