VII. WE MUST HOLD PRACTICAL WORK CLASSES
The theological institution, resident or extension, formal or informal, must deal regularly with the student’s practical work. The pastoral student must continually orient himself in sessions which deal with his reports and plans. His teacher supervises his activities and enables him to apply everything he learns. Everything taught should contribute to the student’s present ministry. No professor is teaching well unless his student is enjoying a fruitful ministry. The practical work class does not train the man for the futures; it relates his training to a present pastoral experience.
An effective practical work class will begin with detailed reports by each student, of his work. This limits the class to few students; one is ideal. If many others wish to study, they may do so in a separate class taught by one of the regular students. Only mature men should be enrolled in a serious pastoral work class, because of the nature of their work (I Tim. 3:1-7). In this class the teacher gives each student studies and counsel to meet the needs expressed in his report. In a resident seminary these studies may be arranged with the professor of the subject involved.
The teacher of the practical work class should file the needs reported from the field. These records serve to prepare textbooks and foresee problems. In a resident institution every professor should keep in touch with the needs of the churches of the student-workers and relate his classroom studies to them. But many professors lack the qualifications for the practical work class: only experienced pastors should attempt it. Perhaps only a few men will qualify. Time may not allow these few professors to hold many small practical work classes. The students, however, can form teams, each with a captain in his final year. The professor has only these captains in the practical work class; they in turn hold classes for their teams. Cooperating pastors can also hold the practical work classes in their churches. These pastors should have a checklist for each student’s required activities.
Both extension and resident theological institutions must verify each student’s progress in his practical activities. A checklist or register of his progress should depict each activity that he must do to raise up a church, edify its members and deal with the problems that every pastor faces. This register is not simply a list of pastoral skills: it is a guide for helping a congregation to grow. Our aim is to edify a church. The register or checklist presents a projected history of a church as it grows from infancy to maturity. It mentions congregational activities; duties of parents, deacons, Bible teachers, services for special occasions, congregational visitation, missionary projects and community development.
The new student-worker, not yet a pastor, wins a group of people to Christ and leads them through all these activities into maturity. He starts with personal witnessing and takes on more and more responsibility until at graduation he is, in fact, a pastor. The student who begins a new church and brings it to spiritual maturity (or does the same for a group within and older church) deserves his diploma. He has dealt with those needs which truly test the theory of his pastoral course: he has related his studies to a living situation.
The Honduras Extension Bible Institute offers only practical work classes. Student-workers do almost all their own theoretical studies during their own time. Each student keeps a Register of Progress for each congregation with which he is working. It lists 35 activities, each of which requires several weekly studies. Each weekly study combines theory with a practical assignment in one small textbooklet. These texts are pocket-size for carrying and reading during the week. There are no long-term courses in Bible, history or doctrine. The units for each activity combine relevant elements from these different areas. Some units are strictly biblical studies; others combine elements of history, theology and homiletics all in one brief study. Some weekly study booklets treat definite congregational needs which may arise any time. Over the years the same needs reoccur. Although every congregation’s career differs, a general pattern emerges which enables us to foresee most of the needs in the Register of Progress.
The teacher of the practical work class shares the responsibility for the effective weekly ministry of his student. If his student fails, he fails; if his student succeeds, he succeeds. The proof of effective teaching is in the spontaneous growth and development of the student’s congregation. The student’s progress is measured primarily by the results of those activities for which the church has made him responsible.
FIVE STEPS FOR THE DIRECTOR. 1) Verify your qualifications. To head up the program requires a pastor’s heart and experience, plus a knowledge of education. If you lack these, work closely with someone else who has the qualifications.
2) Set up the first Paul-Timothy link in the teaching chain. Meet at least every two weeks with one, two or three student-workers. Enroll only adult men who are serving their local church.
3) Make it a program of the local church. The congregation must approve and support the worker and the program, help the church to define her area of responsibility, to state Christ’s orders for her work in this area, and to agree on a workable plan to carry them out.
4) Break the plan down into short, simple steps. Explain it carefully to all involved.
5) Continually cultivate love and mutual confidence between all teachers and students. The two-way communication needed for edifying the student’s church requires a warm bond of mutual respect, interest and sharing. Each worker must also give regular reports to his own church so the rest will appreciate what he is doing.
1) Reports and plans. Your student-worker reports his church’s progress and needs. Help him plan the next step. He may also report his own students’ progress, needs and plans for their churches. An obedient, biblical teacher is responsible for his student’s effective ministry, and his student’s students’ ministry.
2) Oral evaluation. Your student-worker gives a brief talk, previously assigned to deal with the most urgent need of his congregation. Evaluate this presentation before he gives it to his church or students.
3) Materials. Assign study materials which facilitate your student’s practical work assignment. Limit it to your student’s available time and capacity for study. Assignments may include work in a self-teaching textbook (which may or may not be “programmed”), chapters from a conventional textbook (or 2 or 3 books), portions of Scripture or outlines jotted down at the time, to meet some pressing need. Use materials written for the lower educational level) not your student’s level, but his flock’s). Most leadership training programs teach jargon and methods unfamiliar to the common Christian. In Honduras we prepare materials on the semi-literate level, often with a comic-book format.
4) Progress recorded. Chart your progress on two check lists, one for each church and another for each student-worker. The church check list records the practice of those congregational act ivies ordered by Christ or his Apostles. The student check list records pastoral skills and vital truth acquired. An example of a church progress chart is inserted in this book. This constant evaluation of church and worker enables both to progress, at their own speed, toward mature edification. Train men of different educational levels in separate classes. A student-worker in an established church may be unable to train the elders or members as a whole. He must win new believers and form a new cell or growth group in the church. You chart their progress on the same check list of congregational activities as for a church.
5) Prayer. Class participants pray for one another and for the plans they have made.
(or a group of new believers in an established church)
1) Show your student-worker what to do. He must observe and imitate you. (I Cor. 11:1; Philip. 3:7).
2) Witness to men first. Go first where your student already has friends or relatives. Hold no public meetings; start no “preaching points”. Just witness to men. Baptize these men, with their families when possible, as soon as they repent and believe in Christ.
3) Organize the sober, adult men, among them as a provisional board of “elders” (Acts 14:23). Give these men the responsibility for further growth and edification of their group. A new group in an established church would not elect “elders” but “Officers’.
4) Enroll them in training classes. Your student will teach them, just as you had taught him. He shows them everything they must do; they take on more and more responsibility as they study and complete their practical work assignments. If more than 3 or 4 want to study, teach one or two of the most respected men first, and let them reteach the others in their own, separate classes.
5) Hold public services only when these new student-workers can take charge. They do not “preach” at first; they may serve the Lord’s Supper, give testimonies, read Scripture, exhort, sing, pray and direct the others in congregational activities. No outside teacher should preach or direct these public meetings. Neither should he teach a large class nor in any other way do what these new leaders are training to do, or he weakens their ministry. This way the mother church, or parent growth group, does not lose members to the daughter group; both grow faster.
(or new groups in the same church)
1) Encourage each new group or daughter church to start at once to reproduce daughter groups or churches. Don’t let the enthusiasm cool.
2) Instruct each new student-worker, as part of his regular assignments, to imitate his own teacher, repeating the same steps. He, too, will soon have his own students who can form new groups or daughter churches.
3) Promote the student-worker to teacher as well, when he has won men to Christ who are “elder” material. Give him the check lists, to chart the progress of his own students and their churches.
4) As he reports their progress, provide materials for his students’ congregation’s needs, his students’ students’ congregations’ needs and his students’, students’, students’ need.
Figures are in the original booklet which can be ordered from the author.
For help with materials or further information write:
CHURCH PLANTING INT’L
9521-A Business Center Drive
Cucamonga, California 91730-8002