Learning Environments for Apostolic Apprentices

In the next few posts we will outline what we have found are critically important environments in which to train apostolic apprentices.

As we continue to initiate, coach, and reproduce apostolic training networks, some people have been asking us for a clear curriculum for training apostles. By that they usually mean what books, studies, or format do we use in training apprentices, and does it last 3 months, a year, or two years?

We have found that while it is good to have some framework for training that may resemble a curriculum, it is even more important to determine what environment(s) is most beneficial for learning. Perhaps the difference is focusing on environments for learning rather than a curriculum for teaching. It can be compared to the difference between a trainer and an instructor.

An instructor is more concerned with conforming the learner by using simple, safe, structured environments that help learners achieve easy learning goals in a linear fashion. A trainer is more concerned with developing learners by using semi-complex, semi-structured coaching environments that stimulate personal development and provide creative interaction. The ultimate goal of a trainer is to see transforming learners who prefer loosely structured, mentoring environments that promote challenging goals, discovery, and self-managed learning and evaluation.

Much of what an apostle does comes down to skills that need to be used rather than knowledge that needs to be memorized. It has been our experience that these skills are better “caught” than “taught”. Learning environments, rather than a classroom environment, provide the opportunity for this to happen organically and experientially.

All of us have learned how to drive a car. While it is helpful to read manuals about cars, driving, and rules of the road, ultimately the only way to learn is to get behind the wheel. Knowledge may be helpful, but without “wheel time” one is only a theoretical driver. Apostolic apprenticeships should be about developing apostles.

A large denomination wanted to send people to us to learn about house churches. They wanted us to put on weekend conferences where our church planters would talk about house churches. What we realized was that if that is all we did, at the end of the time they would have a theoretical understanding of house churches. What they needed was an experiential exposure to the house churches themselves. So we would have several hours of overview on Saturday and then on Sunday they would attend house church meetings in ones and twos so as not to disrupt the meetings. They were simply introduced as out of town visitors. The house churches just met as they normally did with no special aspect on that particular day. We told the visitors that they would experience the house church as it is—the good, the bad, and the ugly. We explained that house churches are like families—each one is different and all have good seasons and difficult seasons. The only way to learn about house churches is to experience them first hand. We explained that this experience was far short of an apprenticeship, but at least they would get an idea of what a church in a home looked like. Some came back for longer term apprenticeships so they could learn the skills that are necessary in this kind of church planting….

When we first started planting house churches, it was to learn how to do underground churches, since we were training people who were going to countries where preaching the Gospel was illegal. We were not persuaded it was superior to large, traditional, Western churches. But in the places where we were sending these people this model was not even a possibility.

…Stay tuned! We will develop this more in our next post, where we will discuss Three Important Environments for Apostolic Apprentices. Until then, Cheers!

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