Many churches today feel the tension that exists between providing excellent lay leader training and the demands on the personal time and energy of their leaders. This dissertation seeks to respond to this tension by asking and answering the question: ‘Can effective leadership training take place within an ongoing ministry context by utilizing recent learning theories based upon the concepts of in-house learning, just in time learning, mass customization, experience enrichment and mentoring?’
In order to determine the response to this question, the dissertation defines, examines, and applies current literature related to the learning theories mentioned in the research question. These learning theories are also reviewed at a theological level, in conjunction with the questions of how leaders are made, what is a biblical model of mentoring, and whether or not it is appropriate to infuse current business and learning practices into local church ministry.
The concepts of in-house learning, just-in-time learning, mass customization, experience enrichment, and mentoring were then used as philosophical foundations for developing an extensive leadership training program for use within Parkland Fellowship Baptist Church, located in Surrey, B.C., Canada. The training process developed is modular, non-sequential, just-in-time learning that is intended to fit the busy schedule of lay leaders and their mentors. Upon completion of the training program modules, the process was implemented as a pilot project from January, 2001 to April, 2002.
Using the participants and mentors from the pilot project, the training process was evaluated in the summer of 2002. As well, external evaluators gave feedback on the process and the modules. Overall, the evaluators found the training process and content to be helpful and valuable, giving average scores of over eight out of ten in every evaluation area. The primary concern of the external evaluators was the volume of material to be covered, but their overall evaluation remained encouraging. The major drawback for the lay leaders within the pilot project related to mentors who approached leadership development as reading a manual, rather than as a true experiential learning process.
While the overall results of the project will not be known until a number of years have passed, the initial results have been encouraging. Parkland Fellowship Church now has in place a clearly defined, implemented, and philosophically consistent leadership training program. As well, the evaluations after one year of use indicate that it is possible to develop forms of in-house, value-adding leadership training that legitimately balance the real life stressors faced by many lay leaders within the church today.