Sunday, 16 March 2008

Training and education

In an article about John Caligari, a rising star in the Australian Army, in the Sydney Morning Herald on the weekend there was an interesting quote about training. He explained that the modern army is putting more emphasis on education which helps people know how to think, rather than training which tell people what to think.

It pulled me up with a start and made me wonder if I have become too apologetic for theological education. I've been convinced for a long time that the a theological education which helps students develop skills in handling the scriptures and thinking about issues and ministry is the most significant type of ministry preparation available. However we live in a society which is obsessed with 'how to' and it rubs off on the church and we often value 'training' above 'education'. I find myself focussing more and more on 'training'. Then I read that the Australian Army is discovering that education is primary, something which reformed Christianity has known since its inception almost 500 years ago.
It isn't that I think that there is no place for training. Resources such as the Ministry Papers are terrific. We want people to come into PTC with well developed ministry skills and to leave with even better skills. However for the long term skills need to be underwritten by theological thinking.


Pete Moore said...

John - it's an interesting use of terms. Knowing HOW to think sounds more like a skill to me, which would make it training, whereas knowing WHAT to do, a la Ministry Papers, sounds more like information or education. I really see a theological degree as very much about gaining skills and personal transformation, rather than inherently about gathering information - although of course their is a body of knowledge our graduates do acquire. Do you think I am on the right track here?

John McClean said...

The army have been very good at training: breaking down everything in small steps and making sure that every soldier can replicate them. In Christian ministry I think the equivalent is to make sure that people know how to welcome newcomers and do follow up Bible studies. At college we could make sure that every student had a formula for church planting.

Education invites people to become thinkers. Theological education, because it brings people into deeper engagement with God in his word should mean personal transformation as well.

Ian Smith said...

It is not possible to write a narrative without an overarching meta-narrative - otherwise the bits don't fit together. The same is true of good theological education. A degree that is full of "how to" or "what to think" is like a lot of inter-related bits. A degree that teaches people "how to think" is going to be more valuable that a degree that teaches either "what to think" or even "how to do". A degree that examines why we think the way we do, will have a more over-arching and longer term value.