June 18, 2009
You can never get enough training
I'm sort of a space buff. I love looking and learning about God's creation, and have a couple of telescopes that help me do that (which I don't get out as often as I would like). I also keep up on a few astronomy websites and take note when Shuttles are being readied for launch, as one is right now.
As part of that passion, I have paid some attention to NASA's astronaut training program. Astronauts live and work in small groups to accomplish the objectives of the particular mission to which they are assigned. Astronauts also train to live in close "community" with one another in the living quarters of relatively small space vehicles. I have found there are some useful parallels with what NASA is doing and what the church can do regarding relational training. I've even borrowed some ideas from astronaut training to incorporate into small-group leadership training, and I wanted to highlight some of these concepts in a couple of blog posts.
First, no matter how well you think things are going in your small group community, ongoing training should never become secondary. You always need to work toward deeper unity and oneness. Check out an interesting quote from a NASA article about astronaut training:
"James Carter, a psychologist at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Jay Buckey, a doctor and associate professor of medicine at Dartmouth, are heading a NASA project...to develop a teamwork training program. â€˜If you have a group of people who are very smart about how to work together as a team, that's a group that's going to do well no matter how bad things get,' says Buckey, himself an astronaut. â€˜If we can provide the kind of training that gives astronauts that 'extra edge,' then we're opening the door to effective space flight.'
"â€˜It's not that there are a lot of these problems occurring,' says Carter. Astronauts are well-balanced people with superb skills at handling conflict and managing stress. â€˜Our program is really just to fortify the crew, to give them extra training and make them even more effective as a cohesive unit.' Buckey agrees. â€˜Astronauts are professionals, but they're going to be in a tough environment. We're trying to make sure that they're able to deal with that environment in the best way possible.'"
Bingo. That could also be said of small group leaders who may be well equipped and empowered by the Holy Spirit, but they still work in a tough environment—the fallen world. In that environment, I find no matter how gifted or experienced or mature the person, a small group leader still needs regular on-going training, support, coaching and encouragement. I don't think it is wise to ever assume that if group leaders are doing well, that we should just leave them alone.
As the article said, small group leaders need that â€˜extra edge' to be effective facilitators of discipleship and outreach in their small group communities. A little more about that next week.
posted by Dan Lentz on June 18, 2009 1:03 PM