My dad taught me a bunch of things growing up, most of which I didn't realize at the time because I didn't have a use for it. One of those things was an understanding how people learn new things and apply them to their lives. Educators have discovered three ways people gain knowledge about something, but the application of that knowledge is quite different. Kinda like knowing you should eat your vegetables (ordering the fries anyway) versus skipping the deep fried potatoes and eating steamed broccoli. Yum!
You may not think this has anything to do with the way you train your new small group leaders. However, designing your training around what I'm about to share will make the difference between leaders who are passionately pursuing their ministry and those who do stupid things (or nothing at all) ... which only serves to hurt the small group ministry and the group members, not to mention making you look like an idiot.
Do I have your attention? Good! Take a big sip of coffee and put on your thinking cap for this next bit. Here's a very brief overview of the three domains of learning:
The cognitive domain is knowledge or mind based. A vast majority of the training I have received in church life has been cognitive. Someone stands up and talks and I am supposed to listen intently, take notes, and apply the truths they are sharing. In fact, we all hear a cognitive-based sermon each Sunday. Taking in new information cognitively isn't fun, but it's safe. For example, it's much better to warn a child that the stove is hot and it will hurt him or her instead of watching the toddler learn by being burned and learning about heat the hard and painful way. So, cognitive learning does have it's place in the learning experience.
The psychomotor domain is skill-based. This is where a person participates in the new activity to gain confidence and competence. Facilitating the ministry time in the meeting, praying with a pastor for an hour, or making a visit to a member's home with their leader are all psychomotor activities that help a person fully understand the cognitive information supplied to them. However, do not be fooled... just because they've tried it and even done it successfully does not mean they will do it again in the future! That's a deeper level you must help them move into described next.
The affective domain is based upon behavioral aspects and may be labeled a a core value or a belief. When the leader calls members of the group to check up on them without being asked, is praying alone for a half hour to an hour at a time because he's burdened about something or wants a breakthrough in his group, the knowledge he gained in the cognitive domain has been applied in the psychomotor domain and is now a core value that has been fully integrated into his lifestyle. He doesn't think, "I have to do X or Y because I'm a small group leader." He just does it because he wants to and it's who he has become.
Think about it...
Does your small group leadership training process successfully move members into leadership by moving them through all three domains?
Most small group pastors train by utilizing the cognitive domain alone because they don't have the time to follow up with people after giving them homework assignments to move them deeper into psychomotor activity. Or, they assume the leaders and potential leaders are hanging on their every word and anxiously leave leader training to apply everything they heard.
When Christ walked this earth in human form, he worked with a handful of faithful, able, and teachable men and moved them through all three domains of learning. The proof is not in the expansion of the New Testament church. It's in the fact that the disciples died as martyrs of the faith. When it came down to it, they were more than willing to die a cruel death for the sake of Christ.
That, my small group pastor friend, is where we must find ourselves and lead others to be as well. If your training stops with a lecture, give them a homework assignment to apply. Then, follow up with each and every person to see they've completed it. Ask the leader and coach over their group to help you and watch the person and encourage them.
But don't stop there. They must repeat the activity until it becomes natural and they just do it without thinking about it any longer (i.e., developing a taste for broccoli and craving it when you see it on a menu or on the dinner table).
I think I will expand on this in my book and really drill down to why so many pastors don't train leaders effectively and what to do about it. Reading a book or hearing a lecture alone is nearly worthless if that's all one provides a small group leader.
Ponder this: How much of what you learned in high school was retained to pass a test and then forgotten? Did the cognitively-delivered information in Driver's Ed concerning safety keep you from exceeding the speed limit? How about maintaining a safe distance from other vehicles on the freeway? And do you replace your tires before they're worn out or park your car if you can't afford new tires because they're bald?
You don't have to answer that. Lord knows I'm not gonna confess my driving sins online! Knowing and doing are two very different things, aren't they?
It's time to rethink the way we train leaders and create a transformational learning process for our leaders. To be truly effective, we must remain affective.