Learning Communities (LC) are a central element to long-term movement growth. These venues train through modeling. Leaders learn through concrete experience in small groups of peers and then replicate what they have learned with others.
They usually meet once or twice per month and are comprised of no more than six to eight leaders. LCs are relationally based groups in which people discover what it means to lead others in general and to lead a house church in particular.
These are developed as a 5-5-5 network is created through conversion growth. The leader of the network is the leader in these groups. We have discovered five basic benefits to the essential component.
5 Benefits of Learning Communities
First, LCs protect house-church leaders because they ensure that leaders are not alone. No leader—even the most gifted of us—is meant to lead alone. All leaders need training and support as they serve others. In addition, none of us ever outgrows the need to grow in the grace of God and in knowledge of Scripture. Our research shows that movement leadersrequire ongoing, continuous training as they serve.
A second benefit of LCs is that they provide leadership training while people are leading, not before they lead. Sometimes church leaders are taught in the “just-in-case” model of training, where they receive a lot of information (usually in a school-like setting) that they may someday need to know. In terms of movement growth, this model of training often results in failure and an unsustainable movement. Instead, LCs provide just-in-time training suited to their context.
Also, LC provide more experienced leaders that can serve as mentors to newly minted house-church leaders. Peer learning and peer mentoring comes from people who are from your culture and think like you do. Perhaps they are only afew weeks or months ahead of you in the journey following Jesus and leading his people.
LC’s offer third benefit. They provide real-life leadership training. This approach contrasts methods focus on theoretical information. Most modern-day movements are comprised of oral learners who need concrete thinking and training. They want to learn stories and behaviors that they can live out in their daily lives.
LCs do not depend on experts to effectively train leaders. This is the fourth benefit. We have a shortage of highly trained instructors, when dealing with fast growing movements in the receptive nations. We simply cannot get our best to the villages and towns of Southeast Asia and Africa.
Experts may have received specialized training about theological issues founded on abstract thinking. However,practically speaking, when such experts are required to train leaders, like all of us, they only know how to pass on content in the way that they were taught, which may have been in a classroom setting.
The classroom is not available, nor desired, as we use home environments and sit in a circle facing each other. Training that depends upon an expert nullifies the primary power of communal learning through dialogue and story.
Fifth, LCs are easily reproduced by those who have been trained. The best way to learn is to teach others what you have learned. Common sense dictates that repeating training in exactly the same way you learned it is the most reproducible. (The research was from a WW2 study of teaching women how to save important ward materials… I saw it decades ago 😊).
Process is everything
Process is everything. However, if the way that you received the training cannot be easily replicated, then it will not be highly transferrable.
For example, consider an outsider who use a PowerPoint presentation for his teaching. Will all the participants receive a copy and have the equipment and technological skill to teach it in just the way that they learned it?
The Western church relies increasingly on technology. That’s just our reality and it fits our culture. However, in the massive movements of peoples to Christ, often it isn’t an option. Learning Communities meet people where they live. They are peer driven, story oriented, biblically based with a focus on obeying Jesus Christ and His teachings.
No one is required to leave their communities to learn God’s Word. Indigenous leaders are minted in these settings and thus LC’s provide a realistic and competent alternative to Bible Schools, seminaries and other formal training institutions for the huge harvest that the Lord is calling home.
The five benefits of training in LCs are all rooted in one thing: they do not assume a classroom approach to training in which trainees receive information without conversation, context, and story.
Usually this occurs as people sit in rows, with each student sitting alone listening to a teacher or other expert telling them how to think and behave. The educational system in many cultures strongly discourages questions and independent thinking. Rote memorization is the path to success, and comparative, analytical thinking is discouraged.
In contrast, Learning Communities are designed so that training occurs in circles, where leaders are actively learning together. They are doing together what they will repeat with others, and the Word of God is able to instruct, inspire, and challenge everyone. Because this is experiential learning, almost everything that occurs in the Learning Community can be repeated in a house church.