Tuesday, February 07, 2012

thinking in straight lines

I am currently teaching an intensive on Church, Ministry, Sacraments, which is a compulsory course for Uniting Church candidates. Co-teaching actually, working with Michelle Cook, from Congress.

As part of the course, we are experimenting with a different approach to tutorials. (I have written more about this here, where I first sketched the idea). Here are the instructions given to the class on the first day.

The tutorials will have the following format:
• each tutorial the lecturer will offer a case study statement/question, along with some readings and resources.
• each tutorial the lecturer will stand at the board and prepare to take notes on the student discussion
• each tutorial discussion will evolve using the following framework. Each student will be given a set of cards and be expected to play one of their cards (an experience, or a Scriptural reflection, or an insight from tradition, or some reason, or an artifact from creation/culture)/tutorial.  All must be in relation to the case study question and should expect discussion and interaction by all the class.
• in the last 20 minutes the class will switch from discussion to reflection on the overall process. Overall, how do the “cards” integrate? Are there missing or overabundant parts? What are the implications for our processes as minsters and leaders in theological reflection?
• Student will write up one of the tutorials. This will involve providing a one page response to the case study statement/question. This should be in form of “Pastors’ paragraph.” While references are not expected in this, a separate Bibliography is expected. The one page is to be handed in one week after the tutorial. Students will gain extra marks if they show evidence of extra research over and above the set readings and class discussion. In other words, if a class finds a weakness in one tutorial in say tradition or Scripture, and the student goes away and does extra work in this area, more marks are gained.

The approach is based on the Wesleyan quadrilateral – experience, tradition, Scripture, reason.

(Hat tip: Diagram from Scott McKnight). However we’ve added a fifth element, culture, because it’s so significant in how we do theology and so often unrecognised.

Here are the five Church, Ministry, Sacraments tutorial questions Michelle and I drafted, based on what we think are current issues facing the church:
1 – “It’s not that the church of God has a mission, but that the God of mission has a church.”
2 – Is Uniting Care church?
3 – I’m not into the word leadership because I’ve seen too many leaders misuse power.
4 – All of life is a sacrament.
5 – We restrict the Spirit if we only baptise those who have been through a discipleship process.

With two tutorials over, it is proving a great way to teach. Students are highly engaged and seem to be reading more than normal. The discussion is wide-ranging and robustly critical of each other. There is an evident and growing appreciation of what it means to think in straight lines, using the breadth of the Christian resources. Which is essential, because as folk head into ministry, the tutorial questions will change as society changes. So the skills needed are not in knowing content, but in knowing how to work with content in the face of life’s changing questions.

Posted by steve at 01:41 PM

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