Helping People Experience Transformation

Photo by mindfulness (Creative Commons)Photo by mindfulness (Creative Commons)What’s the purpose of Christian education?  Y’know, Sunday school, small groups, seminars, stuff like that....

Is it just to fill the learner with information?  Or is Christian education about more than that? 


Transformative Learning

It’s really about transformation, isn’t it?  It’s about helping people experience true life change that leads to deeper faithfulness to God.

Thomas Groome puts it this way, “I have been convinced for some time that the ‘learning outcome’ of Christian religious education…is to engage the whole ‘being’ of people, their heads, hearts, and life-styles, and is to inform, form, and transform their identity and agency in the world” (from his book Sharing Faith: A Comprehensive Approach to Pastoral Ministry in the Way of Shared Praxis, p. 2). 

In other words, the purpose of Christian education “is not simply that people know about justice, but that they be just, not only understand compassion but be compassionate, and so on” (Groome, p. 8).

Neighborhood Connection Groups are designed to foster exactly this kind of transformative learning.


How Transformation Takes Place

Transformative learning takes place through a process of action and reflection.  Here’s what I mean by that.

In order for a person to be transformed in some way, the learning must involve more than just reading a book or discussing a topic.  There has to be some kind of active response.  They have to do something.

And when action is then followed by group discussion or reflection, the learning that takes place goes even deeper.  According to Michael J. Marquardt, reflection “is the key to transformative learning” (from his book, Optimizing the Power of Action Learning: Solving Problems and Building Leaders in Real Time, p. 81).

This is the kind of learning that generates people who are not only informed but transformed.


Neighborhood Connection Groups Foster Tranformation

Neighborhood Connection Groups (which I explain here) are intended to lead people into just such transformation.  They help people discover new understanding from the action they take and the group reflection that follows.

NCGs are designed to get people engaged in taking concrete action by participating in a neighborhood activity and then also to learn from their participation by taking the time to reflect on their activity with other NCG participants.

“Experience combined with group reflection,” says Marquardt, “enables the group to throw a net around experiences and capture slippery but critical knowledge and learning” (Marquardt, p. 116).

By reflecting together as a group on a neighborhood activity, deeper discovery and true transformation begins to take place.

When have you experienced life transformation?  As you look back on that, in what ways did you see the process of both action and reflection at work?

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