How to Create a Learning Cooperative Introduction 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, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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