Learning Communities

model release: MR1, MR2,MR3, MR4, MR5, MR6, MR7, MR8, MR9, property release: PR 1 | date created: 2007:02:13

There are many resources available today for churches to get direction on structure and systems. They can help you to determine your core values, mission, vision, and a strategy of implementation. Leaders need to be committed to lifelong learning. Leaders need to be readers. While reading does not guarantee you are a leader, you probably will not be the leader you should be if you are not a reader. Be selective about what you read by getting recommendations from others you trust but also, do not be afraid to branch out.

One key to implementation and follow through is being part of a learning community. Join a “small group,” if you will, of other pastors and church leaders. Even if there are not any in your area, you might want to consider beginning one. These groups provide an opportunity to learn, stretch, challenge, and grow together. Prov. 15:22 says, “Plans fall when there is no counsel, but with many advisors they succeed.” We know there are benefits from hearing other people’s perspectives and experiences.

We have implemented these learning communities into the Activate program (Pastor Huddles) and we are using them to promote church multiplication (Church Planting Clusters). In the education world these are described as, “a group of people who share common academic goals and attitudes, who meet semi-regularly to collaborate on classwork. Such communities have become the template for a cohort-based, interdisciplinary approach to higher education.” They also can benefit pastors and churches!

First, they provide a place of prayer support. These groups give us a place to not only share our blessings but also our burdens. They need to be a safe place where participants can share their struggles with complete transparency. There are challenges a church leader may be going through and perhaps he does not have anyone in his church with whom he can share. What if he is thinking about getting out of the ministry? What if he is struggling with depression? What if he has a conflict that he does not know how to handle? These groups are meant for people to come alongside one another!

Second, they provide excellent examples of good and bad ideas. We not only learn from what has worked but also from what did not work. How do you get through those times where your credibility has been challenged because of a failed project? What steps need to be taken to reestablish trust in your leadership if it has taken a hit? Remember, just because something worked (or did not work) in one church does not mean it will be successful in your ministry. Know your people, know your culture, and do not feel the need to copycat, although you can learn from one another’s experiences.

Third, learning communities can provide a reality check. We all need a good reality check at times to see if we are looking at the situation correctly. The old adage is true that sometimes you cannot see the forest because of the trees. It is also helpful to get other viewpoints. All of us will, at times, require a reboot on our perspective. These huddles and clusters can enable us to step back and see if emotions, burnout, or even bitterness could be clouding our ability to see things properly.

Fourth, these groups also provide accountability. When meeting on a regular basis we can help one another with implementation and follow through. This can happen by revisiting commitments made from the last meeting and asking each other what kind of progress is being made. Everyone in the group will come prepared to give updates when they realize it is an expectation for all group participants. Accountability and deadlines can be our best friends in putting the knowledge to use that has been gained from the time together.

Fifth, learning communities promote creativity. This “think tank” approach can stimulate ideas that come out of good healthy brainstorming. The use of a good white board can cause new fresh ideas to emerge as we throw out every thought that we can think of and see what sticks. Imitation is highly overrated while innovation is highly underutilized. Creativity is often stifled because we do not have these types of meetings in our regular schedules. We are driven by the daily demanding tasks of ministry and we can easily lose sight of the big picture.

Sixth, new friendships can be discovered and developed. Close friendships cannot be forced but happen naturally when we meet someone and it just clicks. These groups give an excellent forum for this to happen as they discuss vision, burdens, philosophy of ministry, and share each other’s hearts. Before long you are drawn to someone who has a kindred spirit and interests. Or maybe they challenge you to get out of your comfort zone. All of us could use more friends!

Lastly, they remind us that we are not in this alone. It is an encouragement to know that there are others on the same journey as you. They truly understand your struggles, challenges, and opportunities. It is an encouragement to hear from leaders who went through trials and came out the other side still committed and faithful (check out 2 Cor. 11). Remember that two are better than one and that a three-fold cord is not easily broken. There really is strength in numbers.

Find a group or form a group! If you need help with what it might look like or what kind of structure might work feel free to contact me.   Some of our learning communities have decided on a book to read together and then meet monthly to discuss it. Other groups have content given at the meeting that hopefully adds value to their leadership. These groups can even meet via the web through different available programs. It really is not rocket science and is more about taking the time and initiative to follow through.

Healthy leaders are committed to being a part of a learning community!

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