Today David and I had the privilege of providing an orientation to the 365M program for people who will be serving as local mentors to the students while in Brisbane area, as well as people who may well be involved in future efforts from the South District that includes Melbourne.
The list included pastors, district leaders, college representatives and regional leadership:
David began with a basic orientation to the purpose of the 356M program, its unique place in training people in cross cultural settings, as well as the screening process used in both admitting and assessing students. David stressed that learning occurs out of a variety of resources that surface within the context. He encouraged the mentors to help students set a “rhythm” to their week that included time for ministry but also opportunities to engage local culture beyond their ministry responsibilities. Students will be encouraged to develop cultural relationships with local people, engage in ethnographic conversations that help students better understand local culture, and seek additional written resources that they can use to test their assumptions based on encounters with the culture. In this approach students can use their passion for ministry to help them better understand and appreciate their context.
My presentation revolved primarily around the role of the mentor, the learning process, and the final assessment process. I stressed that students entering into the program often come with diverse ministry backgrounds (some with extensive training and others with little background). While all of our students remain interested in ministry I noted that many (like other students at NTS) do not define their role in ministry. This means that 365M does not appear like a traditional supervised ministry process, geared to prepare students in specific ministry roles like preaching and worship. Instead many of the students engage through multiple approaches that they may define as ministry. The diversity of student interests necessitates mentors taking on differing roles during 365M.
As diverse as the students might be, the program is built on a deliberate learning process anchored in the experiential learning theory of David Kolb (moving cyclically from ministry/intercultural experience to reflection, to engagement with concepts and principles, and finally to active engagement in practice. This cycle of reflective practice echoes the work of practical theologian Richard Osmer, who designed a very similar model where he used the categories of priestly listening, sagely wisdom, prophetic discernment, servant leadership.
The final session moved to looking at modes of assessment through the learning portfolio required of each student at the end of the program. This portfolio should “curate” the best examples of their learning (artifacts, narratives, mentor assessments, etc.) in dialog with each student’s stated learning goals for 365M.
Often during the presentations our mentors asked very careful questions or engaged in their own robust dialog. As we conversed with the mentors, David and I both were impressed by the commitment in the room. We were clear that we expected the students to “own” their educational experience. However, this model of education requires each student’s careful monitoring of their learning, something that mentors need to encourage. Though students can (and should) make a difference within their ministry setting, the need to reflect carefully on both their intercultural awareness and learning progress requires mentors keep the educational task before them. I think these participants realized that their roles will prove crucial in this effort. I was also glad that Bruce Allder will be a part of the process since his awareness of practical/pastoral theology will prove helpful in the endeavor. Overall 365M remains a close partnership between NTS, the local mentors, and the students to mutually insure a quality learning experience. Today provided a good beginning.