How to Create a Learning Cooperative by xsl18466


									                 How to Create
             a Learning Cooperative
The Strategic Framework for the development of           This work should be done in conjunction with the
the life and work of the Diocese has recently af-        ongoing development of each Mission Commu-
firmed the development of Local Christian Learn-         nity’s Mission Action Plan (MAP). The direction
ing Cooperatives throughout the Diocese, and cur-        of a church’s mission will suggest many relevant
rently sets a target of at least 12 operational Learn-   and timely ways in which the members’ under-
ing Cooperatives by the end of 2008, with at least       standing of their faith may be developed. See the
two in each Archdeaconry.                                MAP supplement ‘Including Teaching for your
                                                         Adults in your Mission Action Plan’, on the dioce-
The following guidance is designed to help clergy        san website.
and other local church leaders to review how they
help their church members mature and grow in             A more general introduction to Local Christian
Christian understanding, and to assist them in con-      Learning Cooperatives can also be found on the
sidering how a Learning Cooperative may                  website, or can be obtained from the Parish Devel-
strengthen and enhance this.                             opment Advisor.

                          Teaching and Learning in the Church
The education and training that the Church needs         in public worship, house groups and other meet-
to provide can be seen as three strands of training      ings. And the development of discernment helps
and three strands of education/learning:                 established Christians understand their faith more
                                                         fully, both in its own right and in its relationship
Training                                                 with the world in which they live. This is some-
Traditionally this has been the training of clergy.      times called ‘education for discipleship’.
But in recent years we have added the training of
Readers; and most recently the training of Local         This last element, the development of Christian
Ministry Teams. Such training primarily focuses on       discernment, is weak in many churches. A Learn-
preparing people to fulfil recognised roles, al-         ing Cooperative is an initiative by several churches
though this inevitably includes the deepening and        or Mission Communities to work together and pool
strengthening of faith. Clergy and Readers are           resources in order to provide better Christian for-
trained on formal schemes, monitored nationally.         mation and education for their established mem-
The training of LMTs in this diocese is the respon-      bers.
sibility of the Local Ministry Advisor, and a new
range of training courses is in preparation, deliver-    There are many different forms of catechesis, re-
able locally, normally on a Deanery level.               flecting the traditions of participating churches and
Education                                                the culture to which they seek to relate the gospel.
In terms of more general learning about the Chris-       Similarly there are many styles of exhortation and
tian faith, it is helpful to discern three aspects.      its relationship to liturgy, from brief reflective
Catechesis gives basic instruction in the faith to the   homilies to long passionate sermons. Equally the
young and to new believers, and has developed            style and character of Learning Cooperatives will
enormously in recent years through Alpha, Em-            reflect the spiritual traditions and mission priorities
maus, and other courses provided in local                of the member churches. There is no blueprint,
churches. Exhortation encourages all Christians to       syllabus or regulations about what a Learning Co-
be faithful to what they know, and is expressed          operative should look like on the ground. What is
through the weekly teaching by clergy and others         important is that it should meet local needs.
                                    Auditing Local Provision
It would be sensible first to take stock of what is          the concerns of their workplace, their local
already happening in the locality to help Christians         community, political, social and moral issues,
development discernment. This might include:                 and so on?
    Lent courses, often ecumenical
    House groups in some churches                        All this will give a measure of the extent and na-
    Churches with a strong ‘teaching’ tradition          ture of the deficiency locally, and thus the scale
    Occasional meetings with visiting Christian          and character of the work that a Learning Coopera-
    speakers                                             tive will need to do. In some situations a Learning
    Churches with established links with Christian       Cooperative will simply enhance much good work
    teaching programmes (such as SEAN or a bi-           already being done; it may incorporate this provi-
    ble college ‘extension’ programme)                   sion, or simply work alongside it. In other cases
    Churches of other denominations, with some           the Learning Cooperative may be the only signifi-
    or all of the above                                  cant provision for the development of Christian
                                                         discernment in the locality.
Some assessment of the range of teaching avail-
able is also important.                                  Determining the local ‘lie of the land’ in regard to
    Is it all bible study, or all church doctrines, or   this kind of Christian learning would be an appro-
    all spirituality? Is there a proper balance be-      priate topic for discussion at Deanery Chapter
    tween these?                                         and/or at Deanery Synod. There is no need for a
    Is it all about the church’s ministry, and little    neat ‘deanery plan’; vibrant local initiative must be
    about the church’s mission?                          allowed to take precedence over administrative
    Are people helped to grapple with questions          convenience. But it is right that there should be
    about the Christian faith, especially those          some negotiations to try to ensure that every con-
    posed by their friends and neighbours?               gregation has good access to Christian discipleship
    Are people helped to relate Christian faith to       learning.

           Determining the Membership of a Learning Cooperative
It is important that churches that form a Learning       Some Learning Cooperatives will be strictly geo-
Cooperative have a good working relationship and         graphical, and others will work more on the basis
a strong sense of common purpose. If a Learning          of a network of churches. But geography will be
Cooperative is to avoid being an extra burden on         particularly important in rural areas, otherwise the
church life, it is important that it creates a synergy   distances that need to be travelled will be unman-
with other aspects of the church’s life and witness.     ageable.
A ‘Cooperative of convenience’ is not likely to
provide local Christians with creative and stimulat-     Some churches, especially larger ones, may decide
ing learning opportunities to deepen their life of       that provision for developing the discernment of
discipleship. It is important to have a realism about    their members is already well catered for. They
this, whilst keeping an open mind about what             may continue to serve their members well, allow-
structures of cooperation may become possible in         ing churches around them to develop a Learning
years to come.                                           Cooperative, perhaps supporting them initially to
                                                         do so. Or they may offer to become the ‘centre’ or
Thus a Learning Cooperative may be composed of:          ‘host’ for a Learning Cooperative, allowing their
   All or most of the Anglican churches in one           strength to serve others and benefiting themselves
   Deanery                                               from the wider teaching that would become avail-
   Several churches in a locality which share a          able to their own members. If the latter, a genuine
   common spirituality or outlook                        sense of service is important, to allay fears of ‘em-
   Several rural Mission Communities                     pire building’; but if done well, such an arrange-
   All or most of the churches in a town, of any         ment could be a quick and effective way of getting
   denomination                                          a Learning Cooperative up and running.
                                             Making a Start
The simplest way to get a Learning Cooperative            A Learning Cooperative can be an evolving or-
going is to consider things that have already been        ganisation. How it starts does not have to be how it
done locally on a smaller scale, but which contrib-       continues. It is better to make a small start and then
uted to the need for discipleship education; and          review, than to decide on a grand scheme intro-
then to consider whether some of these might be           duced with fanfare and smart publicity.
developed further. So:
    If Lent programmes have run well as a coop-           It is also important to communicate that the Learn-
    erative or ecumenical venture to develop un-          ing Cooperative is part of the life of the church. It
    derstanding and faith, perhaps Advent and             is ‘our’ Learning Cooperative, not something we
    Pentecost programmes could be run as well. So         just encourage people to go to if they fancy it. And
    instead of only five weeks a year given to fo-        discerning what it means to be a better disciple of
    cused teaching and spiritual growth, there            Christ is integral to the Christian life, not a bolt-on
    could be 15 such weeks.                               extra for the very-keen. So it needs to appear in the
    If a church with a strong teaching tradition has      church magazine and news sheets as part of ‘our’
    a Sunday evening service or mid-week meet-            activities, part of our ethos and culture (‘the way
    ing for teaching the ‘more committed’, perhaps        we do things around here’).
    it could allow this to become a provision of the
    Learning Cooperative.                                 On a practical level, a Learning Cooperative will
    Churches that tap into an outside provider for        need a small steering group. This might be com-
    Christian education could make this available         posed of:
    to the whole membership of the Learning Co-             • 2 or 3 clergy, especially those who have a par-
    operative, perhaps as only part of that Learning          ticular concern for or gifting in the teaching
    Cooperative’s work.                                       ministry of the church. If it is essentially a
    Where occasional meetings or series of meet-              deanery Learning Cooperative, this should
    ings for special purposes have been appreci-              probably include the Rural Dean, at least in the
    ated, a Learning Cooperative could simply                 first instance.
    make these more regular and more inclusive.             • 1 or 2 lay leaders, probably Readers but not
                                                              necessarily so; people who have a gift in teach-
It is important to celebrate local initiatives and tra-       ing, especially from the ‘lay’ perspective of
ditions, and build on them, rather than setting up in         relevance to world issues.
competition with them.                                      • 1 or 2 interested lay folk, people who are likely
                                                              to be keen ‘users’ of the Learning Cooperative,
                                                              or who have caught the vision for it.

                               Deciding the programme content
The riches of the Christian tradition are very exten-     Two issues deserve a high priority in the pro-
sive. And relating even the simple truths of the          grammes of Learning Cooperatives:
Christian faith to our modern world is complex and
demanding. There is no right place to start – except          Vocational development in the broadest sense:
that it needs to be relevant to local Christians at           helping Christians discern what God is calling
this point in their lives.                                    them to do and to be, for His Kingdom pur-
                                                              poses in the world.
The discernment of local church leadership is vital           Personal development and life-skills educa-
here. Our lay people need to grow into the Chris-             tion: helping Christians relate Christian truths
tian disciples they need to be for our particular vi-         to how they life their lives, at home, at work
sion for the outworking of God’s purposes through             and in the community.
the Church to be fulfilled. So what people need to
understand better depends in part on their present        One Learning Cooperative started off with a short
state of knowledge and perception, and in part on         series of teaching sessions on the mission of the
the vision of the Mission Communities of which            Early Church in Acts, based on Emmaus material,
they are a part. Local church leaders need to bring       as they felt it important their members recaptured
these two things together, and discern what is rele-      the mission perspective. Another started with a
vant and timely for the Learning Cooperative to be        short series of objections to the Christian faith, as
offering to its member churches.                          many members were finding it hard to answer the
critics of Christianity at work and in the commu-      In terms of programme, getting started is the hard-
nity. Yet another started with concerns about the      est part. Once the Learning Cooperative has gained
meaning of life from a Christian perspective, and      some momentum, people will catch the vision for
how Christian faith opens up the ‘fullness of life’    it and begin to ask for what they need. Also, previ-
that Jesus talked about.                               ous learning sessions will throw up areas that need
                                                       further learning and exploration.

                                          Who will teach?
The Diocese of Exeter has over 200 full-time           Advisor; back issues are on the diocesan website.
clergy, at least as many other clergy (NSMs,
House-for-Duty, active retired), and over 200          Not all clergy feel particularly gifted in teaching.
Readers. A huge proportion of the diocesan budget      Yet if every clergyperson, Reader, or lay person
is spent on sustaining the ministries of these theo-   with Christian training or expertise, planned and
logically trained people on the ground, so that        delivered each year just one brief set of teaching
God’s people can be well taught. There are also lay    sessions into which they pour their heart and soul –
people with significant Christian understanding,       and offered it as a contribution to Christian learn-
either from formal training or from long Christian     ing in their area – no Learning Cooperative would
experience and reading, who have important per-        be short of good material to offer its members.
spectives on how Christian faith relates to our        Many clergy say that they spend too much time
modern world. All these form the primary re-           doing things they were not trained to do and to
sources for a Learning Cooperative. Many feel un-      which they have never felt called. Here is an op-
der-valued in terms of their gifts of helping and      portunity to buck that trend!
supporting others in discernment and discipleship.
                                                       Having said all that, the Learning Cooperative can
Some local areas are more blessed in provision of      be greatly enhanced by occasional use of gifted
resource people than others. Where there are fewer     teachers from elsewhere. This can be particularly
resource people, and the Learning Cooperative          useful if a whole Saturday or Sunday is given over
cannot be made any larger for geographical rea-        to a teaching programme with an outside resource
sons, a group of Learning Cooperatives may ‘lend’      person. Such a day could ‘kick off’ a series of eve-
resource people to each other. There are also many     nings resourced by local people. Particularly gifted
Christian teaching and learning resources avail-       people from other Learning Cooperatives could be
able, which make the process of constructing           ‘lent’ across the diocese, and the Adult Education
whole series of teaching sessions more manage-         Advisor will retain a bank of offers of this kind.
able. Ideas for these often appear in the quarterly    But it is important to see these as an enhancement
Adult Education Update, from the Adult Education       of the local programme, not as the staple diet.

                                       Support and advice
The Adult Education Advisor is available to            Ministry as an Enabler’, to help clergy and others
emerging Learning Cooperatives, to help with the       explore the various ways in which adults learn.
processes described above. He will also want to        March 22nd 2007, at the Great Hall, The Old Dean-
keep in touch with each Learning Cooperative,          ery, Exeter. Book in via the CWM office.
visit from time to time as appropriate, and will be
happy to offer advice and help on how to make a        The 2007-2008 CME programme will contain a
Learning Cooperative more effective.                   day specifically on the setting up of Learning Co-
                                                       operatives to meet the needs of ongoing disciple-
He is developing a central resource centre, so that    ship education. Date to be confirmed.
good teaching and learning materials can be bor-
rowed by Learning Cooperatives.                        The Diocesan Adult Education Advisor, the Revd
                                                       David Muir, can be contacted at: The Old Deanery,
The 2006-2007 CME programme contains a day             The Cloisters, Exeter EX1 1HS, 01392 294908,
entitled ‘Tools for Teachers: Developing your          07854 845067,

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