Twenty Important Lessons about Missionary Training

General Training

Twenty Important Lessons about Missionary Training

  1. All training of missionaries needs to be based upon the conviction that the primary responsibility of mission leaders and trainers is to develop the worker as a person, then equip him/her for specific ministries (including both for the short-term as well as for the whole of life as an obedient disciple and servant of Christ)
  2. Training needs to be “learner-focused” rather than “teacher-focused” (“learner-focused” requires the trainer to change his/her mindset and methodology from giving out as much knowledge and information as can be absorbed by the trainees to facilitating the trainees’ learning experience so that maximum benefit is gained through a high degree of individual participation in the learning process)
  3. Training includes formal teaching and individual study (ie cognitive input) but is much broader in scope (eg training in adopting godly values and life-style) and uses a wider variety of methods and approaches (eg instruction through formal lessons, practical experience/application and supervised field work)
  4. Teaching children differs in some fundamental ways from teaching and training adults; consequently, training adults requires significant adjustments in both the trainer’s mindset and use of methodology (see separate sheet)
  5. Training will flow out of a particular training philosophy and vision for training; it is imperative that a team of trainers understand together and agree upon a united vision and hold to common goals for all their training activities and ministries
  6. Training missionaries (especially in the context of field-based ministry) is driven by the practical element rather than the acquisition of knowledge, and therefore requires different attitudes and approaches to those used in training Bible School or seminary students
  7. Training needs to incorporate a variety of approaches to appeal to differing learning styles.   For instance, the trainer needs to know his/her own particular learning style and work,  and be willing to adapt his own learning style preferences to the different learning styles among the trainees (eg learning from reading or studying a book versus learning from hands-on activities)
  8. Today’s younger generation are critical of and resistant to a patronising attitude that treats younger workers as “uninformed”, and fails to take seriously the trainees’ readiness and ability to wrestle with tough questions and issues
  9. The most significant “learning moments” in a training program normally happen outside the formal learning environment of a classroom (eg in daily relationships, from local church pastors and believers etc.); consequently, when we plan training it should not focus only upon formal training experiences, but needs to include opportunities to experience a breadth of real-life situations and also opportunities to reflect and evaluate the significance of those experiences
  10. Learning from the trainer’s life (= modelling) is as significant if not more important in the learning process than learning from the trainer’s teaching in the classroom context (cf. the cynicism of trainees towards trainers whose lives lack visible integrity and consistency)
  11. Today’s younger generation of trainees learn most when their trainers are willing to be real, honest and vulnerable about their own weaknesses and struggles (versus trying to convey an image of near-perfection, or strength and confidence in the face of problems)
  12. Learners need time to assimilate new ideas and truths; consequently, classroom presentations and discussions need to be followed up by scheduled time for personal and/or group reflection (N.B. A trainer deceives himself/herself if apparent attentiveness in the classroom is interpreted to mean that the ideas or truths presented have been understood and accepted)
  13. Learning is a “process”, not an “event” to be identified with the content or events of a particular training course or program (N.B. One of the primary purposes of training courses should be to stimulate and strengthen a life-long learning mindset in which each particular course can offer some useful tools and insights towards a person’s life-long development and growth)
  14. Training and ministry to the individual trainees or workers must be held in careful balance.  (N.B. Where an individual has unmet personal needs, little benefit can be gained from a training course focused upon acquisition of knowledge and ministry skills.)
  15. The backgrounds and needs of “short-termers” is often fundamentally different to those of “long termers”; hence trainers need to adjust their expectations of what they should aim to achieve through a training course for both groups (cf. Some “short-termers” come without a clear sense of direction for the future, without strong foundations in the truth or in a biblical life-style; some need a lot of support and guidance.  Whereas “long-termers” generally come with a clearer sense of direction and hence a stronger motivation for service. Training long-termers requires a willingness to adapt a training program to their individual needs and situations)
  16. It should not be assumed that new workers with a higher level of academic training are ready for their missionary service; often superior, “know-it-all” attitudes hinder their spiritual growth and the development of character qualities which are as important for fruitful missionary service as the acquisition of degrees
  17. Previous training experiences do not guarantee that a worker has mastered a particular truth or that he/she has nothing more to learn or relearn in a later training courses on a similar topic (eg subjects like spiritual warfare or cultural adaptation are normally taught in each New Recruits’ Conference; however, this does not mean that such topics have been truly learned or mastered or that later refresher training isn’t needed on the same topics)
  18. Training given to a group of workers needs to be supplemented with help and training for individual workers (ie offering personal and practical support and help in order that the workers are able to give mature responses to the content of lessons taught)
  19. The more opportunity given for individual involvement in a training session, the greater will be the value for each individual trainee (N.B. experience proves that little is gained of lasting value from a training program or session when the trainees are allowed to be passive spectators rather than active participants in the learning process)
  20. Training most benefits trainees when it is closely connected with their present experiences and needs, rather than focused primarily on future experiences and needs

Graham Roberts

December 31, 1999

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