Missing Generations (part 6)

How people learn has changed.

I talked about learning preferences in part 1.  This video shows just how much teaching and learning has moved on since I was at school.

I wonder how much church has recognised and embraced these changes?  Or, if the church has actually been at the forefront of them?

I see live streaming of services, websites, video in worship and even some mobile phone apps but these changes in learning are not just about embracing the technology.  For the most part churches are using tech to produce a new shiny version of what they have always done.  It’s just about better visuals.  And that’s good.  Production value is important.  But…

The ‘flipped’ learning model in the video gives an illusion of control to the learner.  They can learn whenever they want, in a way they want… but the teacher still sets the agenda.  There are things that have to be learned… and tested.  All that has happened is that the instructional part of the class is delivered on video so replaces the homework bit.

That in itself is interesting.  What if church had stuff to watch, read or listen to before you showed up?  What if the sermon or teaching was delivered via video so you could watch when you want, read up a bit, think it over so that on Sunday you came with your questions?  Instead of 5 hymns, 3 prayers, a children’s talk and a sermon we could actually talk about what the passage means to us, what we think about it and how it might impact how we live.  Would that work?

Perhaps the real revolution needed in church learning isn’t shown in the film above.  The real learning revolution is something deeper.  And the church should be at the very heart of it.  After all, we started it.

Jesus came to set us free.  But how?  From what?

We could say that it is freedom from sin.  OK.  That would be good because I think that freedom is as much about freedom from the political structures and expectations of the world, the exercising of power over another, the need for wealth and status and the exploitation of others it is about anything else.

The Brazilian educationalist and theologian Paulo Freire talks about “the practice of freedom”.  Why?  Because education and freedom are so closely linked that it’s hard to imagine one without the other.  But education is politically loaded.

Knowledge is power.

I often wonder how much the church’s insistence on a professionalised, theologically trained (look up the meaning of that word) ministry has led to the liberation of people through education, or if it has led to a dependency on ‘the educated’?

Institutions maintain culture.  It’s what they are for.

We use all kinds of things to maintain power.  We dream up systems of governance that require large majorities or complex procedures to make change.  We load decision making bodies with experts because they know best.

What a church looks like where the minister, the teaching elder, was tasked with enabling the discovery of knowledge, not by telling people what things mean but by pointing people in the right direction, assisting in their search, asking good questions, building confidence and empowering people… and the people wanted to learn?

That requires a certain level of self-confidence, to lay down your position, your status and your power.  But then I’m fairly sure that’s what Jesus did.

How many questions did Jesus answer with a straight answer?  How many questions did he answer with another question?  Or with a story?

I think our role is to help people discover what they already know.  To share the God they bring with them, not to tell them that their God should be the same as the one we brought.

But, here’s the problem… people don’t like this.  It’s too hard.  It takes lots of time and commitment.  People also buy into the systems that control and dominate them.

This kind of learning community will challenge everything about who we are, what we do and why.

But it works.

And it’s worth it.

3 thoughts on “Missing Generations (part 6)”

  1. I could get excited about this…
    It’s already on my horizon because of school connections (help with homework etc.).
    I could just about imagine such a teaching situation, the only doubt in my mind is the ‘people wanting to learn’ bit. I don’t know if I am giving in to later ministry cynicism, but I’m not sure congregations want to do a whole heap of thinking. We might have a model where the congregation come along to be challenged in their thinking, but not always given the freedom to think for themselves. This, of course, goes counter to the reformers ideals. There are churches out there who follow their shepherd down some really awkward, and dare I say, dark alleys.
    Need to think some more on this.

  2. I’m really enjoying reading what you have to say about ‘Missing Generations’. This part, in particular, made me think.

    As a would-be teacher, I’m a big believer in responsive planning. Listening to people, and responding to their interests. Involving them in the planning process. Using this as a basis for developing a conversation – a dialogue – which is engaging and enjoyable. And leads to lasting learning.

    The problem with this is that responsive planning leaves very little scope for whoever is facilitating to plan ahead, and use preexisting resources. And it takes effort to balance planning responsively with the demands of the school curriculum. This is a big part of why it’s not popular with a lot teachers.

    I suppose the difference is that children have very little choice about whether or not they go to school. Ineffective/irrelevant teaching practice means that they may disengage from the learning process, but it’s easy to blame them for that. Label them as lazy or difficult. And maybe just by being present, some of the information will be absorbed…so the whole thing won’t have been a complete waste of time?

    The difference with church, I think, is choice. People can choose whether or not they are present. And churches, free from a specific curriculum, could choose to adopt a truly responsive model. But…it’s hard work. Conversations have to be begun, and maintained. Communication is important.

    I also find the ‘flipped’ learning model very interesting. It’s about responsibility. And trust. Trusting people to take responsibility for their own learning. The only parallel I can draw from experience is the use of active learning in Scottish classrooms (yet another thing that requires more work, and is being resisted by teachers!). When learners are empowered, when whoever is ‘in charge’ resists the temptation to lecture and truly facilitates, amazing things happen. And everybody learns as a result. That, to me, is freedom.

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