We had a meeting this week to think about evaluating the new training course and how we can continue to improve what we do. It was a good moment to take stock of some of the things that have changed over the last 18 months.
Our focus has changed towards developing the skills and character of the participants. In the past we have focused primarily on what it would be good for our students to know and understand; primarily about the Bible and church leadership. In the new course knowledge and understanding remain critical but our attention is less on what trainers want to share and more on what students learn and apply.
The whole course covers a wide range of subjects as we look at a number of books of the Bible, mission, pastoral care (the picture at the top is from an exercise in pastoral skills), youth & children, preaching, building healthy churches, family life, community development and so on. Probably the most important skill is helping people to read and understand the Bible becaue it is foundational to all other parts of the course.
Mentoring students has become more important. Truth is that this has become easier because we have had fewer students but the dialogue has helped both student and trainer. It also makes the integral element of the course easier as we can be more relational. (I would argue that integral mission is primarily relational as it is about helping people live in good relationship with God, self, community and creation).
A greater proportion of the teaching is done by local trainers. In the past the majority of teaching was done by teachers we had brought in from other parts of Peru, but now at least a third is done by people who live, work and minister in the jungle. This is a particular help for practical application and for giving students role models.
A number of challenges remain, how can we help local trainers to continue to develop, how do we make sure the course is continually improving, is it a realistic goal to make the centre sustainable without significant foreign input or should we look to other ways to create sustainability?
For me, it has been a huge learning curve to grapple with course and material design in a different cultural context; trying to tease out of people the key learning needs and preferences as well as integrating a wide range of skills and subjects. Over the next few months my focus will be mostly on ensuring that we have clear outlines and sufficient notes to enable different people to come and teach in the future. I also hope that I might find an opportunity to share some of what I’ve learned elsewhere and perhaps learn from other similar projects elsewhere in the world.