Training for Context: Why It’s Harder, and Way Better

School is hard.

But the real world is way harder.

If you are involved in training the next generation of leaders, you know that tomorrow’s leader needs to know how God’s truth applies to the real world. And that’s hard work. Too often education happens in sterile environments without the important feedback and testing that hands-on ministry provides. Once next generation leaders leave the classroom, they often struggle, feel overwhelmed, or consider quitting. Many of them do. But training for and in context can change all of that.

If you are one of these ministry leaders training people in context, then be encouraged! You are on the right path. Tomorrow’s leaders need you right where you are at.

Content Without Context Is Only Theory

Everyone knows that Jesus taught his followers to love each other. This is content that even non-Christians are aware of. But written down on a piece of paper, Jesus’ content about love is just a theory. It’s inspiring, but the real challenge comes when a young leader has to work on a team with other people who do not always share their opinions. Once they meet someone who is different from them and who has different ideas on things, then Jesus’ content about love takes on new meaning and depth. It’s no longer a theory at that point. It becomes deeply personal and challenging.

The same goes for any principle or idea that young leaders need training in. Take preaching for example. Maybe your program is designed to raise up preachers. That’s a great goal. But like a bird in a nest, eventually, your students have to jump out and start preaching. They have to take the principles they learn in class and in books and give a sermon to a very real, diverse group of people. Inevitably it will not always go well. That is real life. But an immersive discipleship program that applies content to context offers something exponentially more valuable than what can be found elsewhere because it has that real world application already built in.

To be sure, it takes a lot of effort for you to train leaders in this way. Sending someone off to school and hiring them after they are done sounds a lot simpler. But you will likely find that that person still needs in-context training. No matter how great their school might have been, they still need to understand your ministry’s particular culture and way of doing things. They still need practice in applying theory to the real world. They need time to develop interpersonal skills and teamwork. In the end, an immersive learning environment requires more forethought and intentionality, but it is much more likely to produce the well-rounded, quality leader you are looking for. Not to mention that by the time some graduates from this sort of program you know them well. You do not have to wonder if they will “be a good fit.”

Real World Training Can Be Worth Real Credit

And just because your training looks different than what might be found in a school, does not mean it’s not worth academic credit. Real world training is immensely valuable. Many schools know this and are eager to partner in helping to train new leaders. If you are overseeing an internship, gap year, or church residency program, you should consider what it may take for your students to earn credit while they work in your program.

You don’t have to be scared or overwhelmed by the academic world. It is overly complicated sometimes, but that just means you need to partner with someone who knows how to navigate you through the process. You are out there doing the hard work of training real world leaders. Those next generation leaders will likely need a degree at some point. You do not have to choose between hands-on training and academic credit (more on that here). Going the extra mile to get them the credit they earn can make a difference not only for them, but for your ministry, as well.

Eleven:6 specializes in building university-level training programs customized for real world leaders. Schedule a call to learn how your training program can provide degree pathways for your graduates.