Entrust Equipping Leaders
Formal, informal, non-formal training: what's the difference?
July 27, 2022
Amber Simpson on formal, informal and non-formal ministry training: definitions, pros and cons
Guest Amber Simpson. What do we mean by formal, informal and non-formal ministry training? What are some pros and cons of each? Where do a museum, a webinar and a university program fit into those categories? 

Amber is an Entrust certified training facilitator. When this interview was recorded, she was our mid-Atlantic regional training coordinator. She now leads our Virginia training hub. Amber is married to Ben and mom to two delightful teenagers.

Amber’s podcast, Sacred Spaces: 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;11  | Welcome to Equipping Christian Leader. A podcast resource from trust and trust exists to equip and multiply leaders for multiplying churches worldwide. Stop by our website, www.entrust4.org, that's entrust4.org, to learn more about us. And now here is your host Laurie Lind to introduce today's guest.
Laurie  | 00;00;28;10  | Thank you Todd and yes welcome to the inaugural episode of the inaugural podcast Equipping Christian Leaders from Entrust. I'm Laurie and it's my privilege to invite you into conversations with key leaders in the world of Christian leadership training. Now, that might sound like a daunting topic, but no worries. We're here to provide practical, real life resources in the form of friendly dialog with down to earth people who happen to be pretty well-established experts, which brings me to today's guest, Amber Simpson.
Laurie  | 00;01;03;06  | Amber is an in trust certified training facilitator, and she's the regional leader for the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S., which includes, get this, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. Amber is responsible for scheduling ministry training events for women on a regular basis to allow those women to complete the four core training modules that in trust has to offer.
Laurie  | 00;01;28;11  | She also has a lovely website and podcast of her own called Sacred Spaces. We'll talk more about that at the end of today's episode. And so without further ado, let's meet Amber.
Amber  | 00;01;43;06  | So, Amber Simpson, welcome to the Equipment Christian Leaders podcast. Delighted to have you with us today.
Amber  | 00;01;50;28  | Thanks. I am so excited to be here and have a chat with you, Laurie.
Amber  | 00;01;55;05  | Today, our topic is the idea of formal and non-formal ministry training, and maybe we could start by defining our terms. How would you define formal in the context of Christian ministry training?
Amber  | 00;02;10;14  | Well, I think when you think of formal education, you want to think of structure. And so a formal educational setting in Christian ministry would be there's a classroom, there's trained and licensed teachers, there's a set curriculum and since all of that is structured, it's also governed by a governing body, whether it's the state or an accreditation body for continuity and kind of the integrity of the course.
Amber  | 00;02;47;01  | So people know what they're getting and you can expect like a license or a degree coming out or a diploma coming out of that kind of a situation. And so all of that needs to be regulated with guidelines and standards so that it's uniform.
Amber  | 00;03;07;00  | Mm hmm. Yeah. Basically, school, we might say, is.
Amber  | 00;03;12;19  | Again, that's very concise.
Amber  | 00;03;15;00  | Well, but yeah, that's kind of but those all of those definitions you gave do really tell us what that all can mean. And generally does. And by contrast, how would you define non-formal for Christian ministry training?
Amber  | 00;03;28;29  | So actually, I would go to and there's kind of a spectrum from you go from formal, which is like a school, and it's very standardized and structured to all the way to the other end, informal which is like it's a museum or it's a it's a cultural park or battleground or it's a place or it's the home, you know, and so it's a place where learning takes place.
Amber  | 00;03;56;29  | But there are no, quote, teachers and students. There's no curriculum. But people learn. And so that's kind of the the two ends of the spectrum. And then non-formal is when you kind of bring those two together in in a middle ground. And so you you do have maybe not teachers and students, but you might have facilitator and participants where they may have a certification, but not a license or a degree.
Amber  | 00;04;31;05  | So you're still in a you're a little bit more structured than just going to a museum or a field trip together, but you're not following as a curriculum that's set by certain standards and guidelines. So non-formal can be a conference or a seminar webinar these days, or it can be, you know, when the Christian settings, it can be like a one is where it's, you know, those they're not licensed teachers, but they are they're quality volunteers that are committed to the kingdom.
Amber  | 00;05;13;03  | And, you know, and so it's, it's kind of non formal is a mix and more of a middle ground of the formal and informal.
Amber  | 00;05;23;06  | Mm hmm. What are some scenarios where like formal training might be preferential or more beneficial to a certain kind of a learner?
Amber  | 00;05;34;01  | I think of pastors and counselors where the people that they are caring for rely on them for a certain level of expertize, and they are directly caring for a not necessarily a large group of people, but as a specific people are depending on them for specific expertize we expect of our pastors and a level of biblical knowledge. Right.
Amber  | 00;06;08;09  | And and theology, because they are leading Sunday mornings in that in, in preaching and in teaching us the word and bringing us insight into the world. We also depend on our pastors for character. These you know, and so that he would shepherd the flock in a in a humble way and that we could look to him as a model of of character and spiritual maturity and growth and that he would be leading other people in that way.
Amber  | 00;06;43;06  | So we look to our pastors for a certain level of of knowledge and skill and maturity or character. And I also think of counselors. We look to them for a certain level of of training to get people through traumatic instances or to get people through emotional issues and, and processes. And so when you're looking to a leader for a specific skill, level and you depend on them for a particular competency, I think in that case, formal education is also seminary professors.
Amber  | 00;07;33;01  | And you know, because of that structure and that the oversight, the standardization, you know, our seminary professors, our college professors need to have a degree so that they follow that formal education and those guidelines and standards of operation.
Amber  | 00;07;55;14  | OK, and that does raise a question, though, because I believe in that answer, what you said, I completely understand and agree we're kind of saying that like for a pastor to be theologically, biblically prepared to lead a flock, he needs formal education. He needs to go to a seminary. Yet in much of our world, that's just not feasible.
Amber  | 00;08;20;03  | There are no seminaries or it's illegal or someone can't afford to uproot and move somewhere and pay a lot of money. And in fact, Entrust is providing what we call equipping for pastors in non-formal ways. How do we how does that work? And is there a way to keep the quality of formal training in non formal training?
Amber  | 00;08;45;15  | That is a very good question.
Amber  | 00;08;47;28  | I kind of threw that at you there, but that's a well, that troubles me at times. I'm really curious your thoughts about that.
Amber  | 00;08;54;23  | It is a troubling thing, and I've heard that formal education, we it comes back to that formal education is a privilege and that you could have that that standardized and structure and opportunity given to you is really a privilege that you can take the time that you can have, the resources you can have the teachers and the books and the classrooms and the availability of both you and them to take time out of your day to take part in in a formal education process.
Amber  | 00;09;37;04  | And so when that is not available in many parts of the world, and then you you do need to go to a non formal and that's the thing about non-formal is it's not less than it just it's it's when it's when there's not the overall governing body structure. But you you can still have high quality highly trained people teaching students or pastors or participants.
Amber  | 00;10;13;07  | It's just not as standardized and governed like it like it may be in other places of the world. And so, you know, I think for example, of our one of our ministries that entrust more than a mile deep and they do phenomenal pastoral training that's a high quality that's very interactive and taking and taking what they already know learning something new about the Bible and theology.
Amber  | 00;10;48;27  | So they do action, reflection, action. So they are they they experience the, the act of preaching and what it what's all involved. And then they go and reflect on scriptural truth and theological truths. And then they, they go back and, and act differently or they act based on their new reflections. And so that's a phenomenal model of non non formal education.
Amber  | 00;11;20;04  | And is it less than what I got at Dallas Theological Seminary? Absolutely not. And it may even be better. And so just because one is standardized and structured and governed doesn't necessarily mean that it's a higher value or or better than the non formal.
Amber  | 00;11;47;00  | That since yeah I agree not less than but different definitely.
Amber  | 00;11;52;26  | Right.
Laurie  | 00;11;53;15  | Aha, not less than but different. Hold that thought. We need to leave off for today because we want to honor your time as a hardworking learner or instructor in Christian education. But Amber Simpson and I will pick up next time with discussion about when formal or non formal training are preferable. Will and for whom and in what circumstances.
Laurie  | 00;12;15;16  | Meanwhile, I'd encourage you to check out Amber’s podcast called Sacred Spaces, where you'll find practical conversations about small group leadership and how to make your group more and more life giving. And you'll find that at amber4entrust.com/podcast. That’s amber4entrust.com/podcast.   And now because Entrust is all about question based discovery learning, I'd like to leave you with this question to think about and talk over with people around you.
Laurie  | 00;12;52;22  | What are some of the methods God has used to equip you for the ministries you do? What are some of the methods God is used to equip you for the ministries you are involved in right now? Talk it over, think about it and we'll see you next time. On equipping Christian leaders.
Intro/Outro (Todd)  | 00;13;10;26  | Thank you for joining us today. On Equipping Christian Leaders, A Podcast Resource from Entrust. We invite you to visit our website, www.enrust4.org, to discover more tools for popping the leaders in your world and to find resources to strengthen you as a Christian leader.