Entrust Equipping Leaders
Formal vs. non-formal training: role of the Holy Spirit
July 27, 2022
Amber Simpson on formal and non-formal ministry training and how our triune God works in it all
Guest Amber Simpson. What might be some of the roles of the teacher, of the participant and of the Holy Spirit in any type of ministry training? How can we best assist our learners in both gaining knowledge and allowing that knowledge to transform them? And what does the nature of our Triune God have to do with all of this?

Amber is an Entrust certified training facilitator and leader of our Virginia training hub. She’s married to Ben and mom to two delightful teenagers. She loves to knit socks and Fair Isle sweaters. 


Amber’s podcast, Sacred Spaces: www.amber4entrust.com/podcast

Amber's Entrust Equipping Leaders article: https://www.entrust4.org/post/formal-or-nonformal-some-thoughts-from-your-educational-tour-guide

Speaker Name  | Start Time  | Transcript
Intro/Outro (Todd)  | 00;00;03;12  | Welcome to Equipping Christian Leader. A podcast resource from Entrust. Entrust exists to equip and multiply leaders for multiplying churches worldwide. Stop by our website, www.entrust4.org, that’s www.entrust4.org, to learn more about us. And now here's your host Laurie Lind to introduce today's guest.
Laurie  | 00;00;28;15  | Thank you Todd and yes welcome back to equipping Christian Leaders. I'm Laurie so glad you're joining us again today. Going to pick up our conversation with Amber Simpson from Entrust. First of all, I left you with a question last week. Curious if you had a chance to think about that at all. Or talk about it with friends or coworkers.
Laurie  | 00;00;48;19  | What are some of the ways that God has equipped you for the ministries that you are doing now? Has he used some formal methods, some informal, some non-formal and which of those has impacted you in which ways keep thinking about that as you listen in, as Amber and I pick up our conversation today as we did continue talking, we got into things like long term working memory and short term immediate memory and what the ultimate goals are of Christian ministry training and even why do pastors preach sermons?
Laurie  | 00;01;24;09  | I started by asking Amber for her thoughts on the advantages and disadvantages of formal and non-formal ministry training.
Amber  | 00;01;35;08  | I think for the formal, some advantages are, you know, what you're going to get and because it's it's tried and true, they've been doing it for years. And you know what? You're walking into some of the disadvantages of formal education is that it can become an expert student relationship where there's very much lecture like, I am the expert and I know this, and now I am going to kind of like pour all of this content into your bucket so that can take place in our short term memory and we can kind of keep it there in our bucket.
Amber   | 00;02;17;21  | But until we have an opportunity to process it and summarize it and dialog about it, debate about it and move it from our short term memory to our working memory into our long term memory, of actually behaving differently. And then and sometimes that can't happen in a seminary classroom or a college classroom because it's just not designed that way.
Amber  | 00;02;47;25  | It's designed that the the expert, the professor will give you his knowledge and his experience, and you will take that in. And then sometimes they do get pretty creative with their assignments. But at that point, you're you're engaging with more material on your own and handing back in a paper or a project or something like that. And so they're hoping that that you do all of that summarizing, debating and processing on your own.
Amber 3  | 00;03;22;27  | They're trusting that the student will do that. And that's a lot to do on your own. And and so we can tend to be all knowledge and not work that into our our being. And in doing so, I think that might be one of the disadvantages of formal education and non formal education. You know, it's kind of the just the opposite you know, where are the teachers certified, teachers certified or, you know, what is the training of of the leader or the facilitator or the teacher and and, you know, you may not know as much of what you're getting into because it may not be as standardized and as regulated and but as I said,
Amber  | 00;04;21;06  | yeah, I'm a bit of a fan of of non formal as long as it gives people opportunity to take content and and wrestle with it together and that that non formal provides a space to for different people with different backgrounds, different knowledge levels, different faith experiences. Everybody brings something to the table. And so when you take the content of the teacher or the maybe the, the leader and you allow them to process it, summarize it, debate it, dialog about it.
Amber  | 00;05;01;08  | And I think that that leads to more of a long term learning and in character change and transformation, because isn't that what we're truly after when we really want to educate? Do we really just want to know something or do we want to know it in order to be different? And I think especially in Christian education, that was a rhetorical question, is that we want to know something so that we can be different, so we can be more Christlike.
Laurie  | 00;05;37;10  | And that raises an interesting thought, too, because you were saying, you know, in the formal scenario, it's it's almost individualistic. It's the teacher imparting his his or her wisdom and knowledge into the one student. And I think you're kind of indirectly referenced in non-formal. It can be more of a group thing where people are grappling with thoughts together and learning from one another.
Laurie  | 00;06;03;09  | Are we then saying that we are more transformed in a in a social setting, in a group, a relational setting, as opposed to one to one? And then in other words, why do we have pastors that stand in front of a church and preach for half an hour if that isn't the most effective? Or are we not saying that?
Amber  | 00;06;21;17  | I think we are made in the image of the Trinity. And so regardless of formal or non-formal, I do think you've hit on something specific there that we do learn knowledge and transformation and in the context of community, you know, after the fall we have the opportunity for sanctification, we have the opportunity to become because of Jesus, we have the opportunity to become new creations.
Amber   | 00;06;53;08  | And that happens in the context of community so when we are when we are doing rigorous learning of deep Bible study or deep theological study, or if we are just if we are doing spiritual disciplines or whatever, we are studying I believe since we are made in the image of the Trinity, we are re created and we are becoming new creations in the context of community because we we need one another to, to do that whole process of working out the content and the truth of the short term memory into how does that work into the, the working memory and into the long term behavioral behavioral change.
Amber  | 00;07;50;11  | And I think that does happen in the context of community just by the nature of how we are designed.
Laurie  | 00;07;56;03  | You know, it's interesting that you brought up the Trinity and we know that's the father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. So there's relationship there. Relationship. We are relational beings in God's image. When we talk about how we learn, we do want to recognize that the Holy Spirit is our teacher and I'm curious what your thoughts would be about sort of the role of the Holy Spirit in our learning, whether that's formal in a classroom or in a church sanctuary.
Laurie  | 00;08;25;14  | Area, or non formal in a seminar or a workshop, a Bible study, whatever. How do we see the it's more than just us human beings teaching one another. How do you see the Holy Spirit working in our learning?
Amber   | 00;08;40;21  | I love this question because I do see the Holy Spirit present and the Holy Spirit is present. We don't have to invite him in. He's already here. And what we have to do is attune ourselves to his presence. And so when we when we want to and pastors will ask us to pray for me as I, you know, let me speak the words of the Holy Spirit and may the Holy Spirit guide me in this sermon.
Amber   | 00;09;12;06  | And I've heard professors at seminary pray the same thing. May I be led by the Holy Spirit. And so we want to tune in to the Holy Spirit, like, what is the truth that the Holy Spirit is bringing through this message and through this Bible study or expository preaching in a discussion. And we we do well to attain to the Holy Spirit and each person there and recognize that each person, if you are a believer, a group of believers, has the Holy Spirit living in them, guiding them in truth, and in for me to a tune to the Holy Spirit in each person and be listening for the Holy Spirit in each person, in each
Amber   | 00;10;02;01  | person, whether that's in formal education, where I'm listening to the Prof or I'm listening to a sermon at church, or I'm listening to the participants in my small group discussion. And we do well to listen for the Holy Spirit and acknowledge that each person has the Holy Spirit and not to quench it or shut it down just because one person has more of a degree than another.
Amber   | 00;10;31;11  | I have a really great example of a pastor who did this. He was leading a small group and he had taken on one of the interests facilitating courses called Facilitating Relational Learning, and he took a coed module, we call them. And so he was doing a small group and he thought, Well, I'm going to try this out. I'm going to try leading the discussion by asking questions instead of just telling people what I got out of the passage.
Amber   | 00;11;00;13  | So he, he did that and he led to the discussion and he said this woman in the group brought truth to the passage, that he never could have done it. Because it was based on her life experience, her faith experiences, and brought out a facet of truth that he was like, I never could have gotten there. I never would have brought that insight to the group.
Amber   | 00;11;27;22  | But it was true and it was deep and it was beneficial for all of us. And I just think that that's such a beautiful example of acknowledging the Holy Spirit in each member of the group, regardless of educational background or degree. Wow.
Laurie  | 00;11;48;25  | What an interesting story. A pastor kind of backing out to allow the Holy Spirit to guide the conversation in a small group Bible study and then actually seeing it happen. Like, not that pastors don't do that, but what a beautiful example of humility and of our living God at work. In the midst of this people, you can hear more about that module that Amber referenced at her podcast, which is called Sacred Spaces, at www.amber4entrust.com/podcast
Laurie  | 00;12;26;08  | That’s www.amber4entrust.com/podcast. The module is called Facilitating Relational Learning. You can learn more about that as well at our website. www.entrust4.org. And now here's a question to ponder until we meet again. What might be some ways to allow or sort of make way for the Holy Spirit to do his work and a formal Christian education setting or in a non formal setting.
Laurie  | 00;13;03;24  | Think about that journal pondered discuss among yourselves and we'll see you next time right here and clipping Christian leaders.
Intro/Outro (Todd)  | 00;13;12;12  | Thank you for joining us today on Equipping Christian Leaders, a podcast resource from Entrust. We invite you to visit our website, www.entrust4.org to discover more tools for flipping the leaders in your world and to find resources to strengthen you as a Christian leader.