Entrust Equipping Leaders
Formal vs. non-formal training: importance of community
July 27, 2022
Amber Simpson on formal and non-formal training and our need for community
Guest Amber Simpson. Can we gain biblical knowledge or ministry skills on our own? Do we need to learn everything in groups? What role does community play in our head and heart learning?

Amber  is an Entrust certified training facilitator and director of Entrust’s ministry training hub in Virginia. She and her husband Ben are parents to two delightful teenagers. Amber has never sky-dived, but she says she would prayerfully consider it.

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

Amber's Equipping Christian 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;16  | Welcome back to Equipping Christian Leaders, a podcast resource from Entrust. Entrust is all about multiplying leaders for multiplying churches. Learn more about us at www.entrust4.org. That's www.entrust4.org. Now here's Laurie Lind to conclude our conversation about formal and non-formal ministry training with Amber Simpson.
Laurie  | 00;00;30;06  | Thank you so much for joining us again today on equipping Christian Leaders. It's really a pleasure to have you along. Today is the third and final installment of my conversation with Amber Simpson. Amber is with Entrust with our Women to Ministries Training Branch. She's a regional coordinator a training facilitator, and she does a lot of digital media production for us.
Laurie  | 00;00;53;20  | She's really good at that. At the end of today's program, I'll give you the details about her own podcast, Sacred Spaces. In the previous two episodes. We establish the ideas that formal training is, generally speaking, standardized and leads to a recognized degree or a title of some kind. Whereas non formal training may have somewhat less structure and maybe doesn't lead to a universally acknowledged degree.
Laurie  | 00;01;23;12  | So in the most general terms, we might see formal training as being somewhat less personal and more academic and not formal with non formal training, possibly being a little bit more hands on and practical. So let's jump back into the conversation with Amber Simpson How can the two types of training incorporate the better parts of the other type of training?
Amber   | 00;01;53;15  | That's a great question. And I think it's whether it's formal or non-formal, I think it's the way you go about it. And so I think that formal education can still do well when we don't focus only on content, that we focus on how to get that content from the the short term memory from the OK, I've got it all in my bucket now.
Amber   | 00;02;20;20  | What do I do with it and how do I process it and and work with it until it becomes a part of who I am. And I think I see that an example of that, like maybe in a biblical counseling scenario where they do they go through the counseling classes and they do papers and they do study all of the different and counseling methods and and things of that nature.
Amber 3  | 00;02;49;26  | But then they go through practicum and they do small groups and they do group counseling sessions that they need to participate in. And so they do a lot of that practical working it out. OK, so now you you took the class. You have the knowledge, right? But now here's a scenario. So how are you going to work that out or here's a scenario in your own life.
Amber   | 00;03;14;19  | How do you work that out? And so I think bringing the best of both worlds together is when you can take the expertize of the people that have been trained and licensed and degreed. And you can take their their knowledge and their content and their truth, but you can work it out in a group setting to where that content is getting translated into an integrated life or character change.
Laurie  | 00;03;47;17  | Hmm. That's that's really good. Let's get a little bit practical here. Let's just talk about if it's most of our audience, I think here are believers. They are followers of Christ. Some might be in full time ministry pastor. Other ministries, some not. Let's say we have someone who's not in ministry, they're not a pastor, they're not leading anything in a formal way.
Laurie  | 00;04;12;02  | But they're just sensing God, calling them to maybe serve him more full time or in the church. In what? In some manner. What kind of training would you recommend that that person explore?
Amber   | 00;04;25;07  | I think it depends on where that person is feeling called. Are they are they feeling called to a profession that requires a degree, a license or a diploma? And are they or are they feeling called to take the next step towards leading a Bible study or leading a team on a mission trip or leading a ministry or like the Women's Ministry or the youth or the missions ministry?
Amber   | 00;04;58;07  | What what do they feel like they're being called to? And I think you can take pieces of formal education. You know, I know the Dallas Theological Seminary offers free classes online, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a formal class and not getting a degree. You know, you can still that can definitely add to your biblical knowledge base and your theological knowledge base, which, you know, if we are going to become leaders in the church, you know, you do want that reservoir to be to be full and active and flowing.
Amber   | 00;05;43;12  | And so, you know, that kind of formal and you know, in those those would be a formal class that would be a formal class. And it doesn't, you know, bring you to a degree program. There's nothing wrong with that. And it's absolutely a gift to have those out there and that you could also maybe if you're wanting to be think, well, maybe I'll lead a small group, maybe I'll do a life group, or maybe I'll do a Bible study, you know, then maybe look into some small group training where you're looking for a particular skill or you know, maybe I want to lead this team.
Amber 3  | 00;06;21;16  | Well, you know, maybe a non formal class could meet that need for you and, you know, go to a webinar or a conference. You know, the thing about those non formal is it's not whether it's formal or non-formal, it's do you have the opportunity to take that content and, and really wrestle with it to get to the character change of, of really practicing and making this skill, translating this skill or that knowledge into behavior and.
Laurie  | 00;06;57;11  | Living it out or.
Amber   | 00;06;58;23  | Working it out.
Laurie  | 00;06;59;14  | Transformation. I so see that. Yeah. And that's good to know everywhere from enroll in a degree program to find a free class online to I mean, you can just get a good book or listen to some good podcasts, a podcast or I would even think of on the very more non-formal side even or maybe this is even what we might call informal, but finding someone who is doing what you feel like you might be called to do and on your own, just can I shadow you or will you mentor me or could we hang out and just talk about that?
Laurie  | 00;07;37;04  | I will throw in a little plug and Trust has a lovely internship opportunity cost step for people wanting to just explore ministry for two weeks up to two years like step in and spend some time with people in ministry and learn what they do and see what are the ups and downs and explore. Is this something God wants me to do?
Laurie  | 00;07;58;27  | Internships are another great way, I suppose.
Amber   | 00;08;01;11  | They're completely.
Laurie  | 00;08;02;27  | Somewhat formal and somewhat non formal at the same time.
Amber   | 00;08;05;26  | Yeah, yeah. You get the advantage of being with an expert, whether it's a professor or a long term missionary or someone that, you know, in full time ministry and you, like you said, you get to shadow and you have some experiences and work out. Usually you can you'll discuss the book together and try to, you know, and do some some work together.
Amber   | 00;08;28;27  | So it's a phenomenal program.
Laurie  | 00;08;32;20  | Let's talk for a second about a person who is in ministry right now. The pastor the overseas worker, the campus staff member listening in. They want to grow their ministry skills. They're recognizing, well, there's one area that I just don't really do that well or I'd like to grow in more. What might you recommend for that person?
Amber   | 00;08;52;18  | I would recommend anything that they could, whether it's formal or non-formal. I would recommend them pursuing education in community. And if if they are and if they're going to take a seminary class, is there a small group that they could discuss it with and dialog with and work it out with? Or could they do a project that included other people so that they have a way to integrate their knowledge into life?
Amber   | 00;09;29;21  | And or if they're going to go to a non formal training like maybe one of our women's ministry corps modules and interest and bring a friend, you know, or is there another leader in that church that needs some revival or renewal or investment or rest, you know, bring a friend and just pursue that educational process and community so that you have a space to work it out into your life and to integrate it into your life into who you are.
Laurie  | 00;10;07;00  | So we're sort of wrapping up here. What other just final thoughts do you have about this whole concept of equipping people to lead? Well, in in the local church or just Christian leadership training.
Amber   | 00;10;22;17  | I think that the Holy Spirit is key, as you brought up before, whether it's formal or non formal education that the Holy Spirit and community are going to be the keys of how how we process knowledge content, truth, however you want to put it into who we are and how we behave. And I think since we are designed in the image of the Trinity, that that will happen in a social context.
Amber   | 00;10;56;27  | And so whether you're in a formal education program or a non formal class or workshop or module or conference, and when we wrestle with truth in community acknowledging the Holy Spirit in each of us, I think, and that our end goal is Christlike and being in behavior, I think God can use all forms of formal, non formal, even the informal types of education to, to change us and to finish the good work that He started in us.
Laurie  | 00;11;42;12  | Amen. That's powerful. I agree so good to know it doesn't all depend on us and our methodologies. No matter what those methodologies are.
Amber   | 00;11;52;01  | 
Laurie  | 00;11;54;14  | Our God is greater. Well, Amber, thank you. Remind us again, what is how do we find your website and your podcast?
Amber   | 00;12;04;04  | Great. I am at www.amber4entrust.com. That's Amber number four at Entrust.com. And you can find me on Facebook and Instagram at the site of amber4entrust.com. and the podcast is called Sacred Spaces. And so if you look at and wherever you find podcasts, you search for sacred spaces.
Amber   | 00;12;33;08  | If you want to put an amber in your search, it'll come up and you'll see. You'll see where we are creating spaces of trust and depth around God's Word. And how we can go about doing that together in community.
Laurie  | 00;12;49;12  | I must say, I'm a fan. I love listening to your podcast. It's very encouraging and inspiring to me in my own walk with Christ and in considering how to shepherd other people. So I really appreciate the deep and honest content you're producing for us there.
Amber   | 00;13;07;21  | Well, thank you, Laurie. I appreciate that.