We are pursuing on this blog a set of posts on the church’s educational ministry and how a Third Way approach to preaching can reshape and revitalize preaching’s impact.
* I believe most preachers think sermons have an impact.
* I believe most preachers pray and prepare in order to have an impact.
* I believe most preachers believe God’s Spirit is at work during reading and preaching the Word.
* But I also believe this: most preachers do not shape their preaching and teaching with an educational theory at work that can measure how and how not the preaching ministry is accomplishing its hoped-for goals. As a result, preaching and teaching remains at the level of hope and belief and … at times exasperation.
So I’d like to make a few suggestions for pastors and churches. That we have “and churches” matters deeply if we want to talk about the educational process. If you’d like to read a book on how education is being reshaped in the direction of focusing on learning, I recommend heartily Maryellen Weimer Learner-Centered Teaching: Five Key Changes to Practice. The book provides the big picture ideas at work.
Big idea: if you aim nowhere, you get nowhere. If you know your goal and map your way, you can chart progress and get to your goal. Much of contemporary preaching has no guiding goal and finds itself precisely in the same spot ten years later.
Develop a comprehensive set of outcomes. What are outcomes?
Measurable behaviors you’d like everyone in your church to be able to “do” as a result of the educational ministry of your church. Outcomes are “measurable” and they are about “behaviors” and most educators think and believe that behaviors reflect being. So, the big question is this:
What would we like our folks to be able to do as a result of this sermon or this educational theme or this class… etc?
Outcomes begin at the broadest level: Love God, love others, live in the Spirit.
Then second level outcomes include concrete manifestations of those bigger outcomes:
1. People who love God pray (etc).
2. People who love others serve others (etc).
3. People who live in the Spirit are gifted to serve (etc).
The third level of outcomes include more concrete behaviors:
1. People who love God pray — confessions, adoration, etc..
2. People who love others serve others — responding to neighbors, etc.
3. People who live in the Spirit are gifted to serve — gifts of the Spirit manifest etc.
The fourth level of outcomes is assessments: How do you know if folks are developing in these areas apart from assessment and evaluation? So, folks need to develop assessment tools that measure if folks are praying or serving or using their gifts … and the answers lead individuals and groups to look at themselves, reshape their assessments, and the move forward..
Develop a a comprehensive set of outcomes from the bottom up instead of from the top down.
The biggest mistake is made when the pastor, or the pastor and a few others, decide what the outcomes “ought to be” and therefore they teach them and expect folks to fall in line. It is fundamentally important for this to be a dialectical process of the lay folks and the leaders working together on what everyone believes they’d like folks to be able to do.
Only when the lay folks are involved can this vision, or set of outcomes, be owned and embraced and become a living reality that shapes everything at the church.
Every sermon, every class, every Bible study serves the outcomes developed by the church.