The NONFORMAL Mode of Education

Between the world of the highly structured formal education and the natural social structures of informal education, we see The Nonformal Mode of Education mixing both forms with intentionality, but also flexibility, practicality & immediacy in a relational setting.

The Church tends to FEAR this process with its learners. They FEAR having their community members test what they have been taught in a way that allows them to begin to create their OWN theological discourse (i.e. faith ownership!).

Even when we sometimes attempt to facilitate environments in our churches for nonformal instruction like ethical simulations or controversial & current case studies, we lose site of this necessary component of theological training.

The church can sometimes see theological education only within the realm of formal lecture & schooling (which we call “sermons” or “Sunday School lessons”)…And there are some churches that even provide a secondary paradigm of informal discipling (which we see within the family structure, small groups, or mentoring), …but many have failed in proactively allowing for venues in which one’s theological presuppositions can be tested.

For example, we like to tell high school students right theology. We like to get college students into a mentoring program where relationships can be modeled. But the moment we enter learners into the nonformal mode of allowing them to practice their biblical and theological assumptions in a semi-controlled setting of wrestling with a real, current, and sometimes grey ethical issues (like legalizing marjauna, plastic surgery, etc.) we cry, “Foul!” We say, “They aren’t learning The Bible!”

We say they are picking up bad habits…assuming that when they begin entering the world on their own (outside an environment that we can create and facilitate), they will have magically developed reasoning and critical thinking skills that uses Scripture as their MAIN grid for decision making. We just assume that when they hit the hard and chaotic decisions of life there will be a linear outline by their side telling them how to answer.

And when we see our learners hearing right theology, but then not living it (with no chance to cognitively test it), we turn to them and think what will change them is another lecture!

*more to say on what this mode actually looks like…


~ by Dave Smith on May 19, 2008.

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