In November 2012 we embarked on an experiment that would impact the future of training across Europe and Africa in my organisation. Keen to facilitate mutual support, learning and fellowship amongst the leaders in our network and in our movement, I led a process that resulted in a School of Mission delivered through web based conferencing. As I have said in previous posts, we have had teams from South Africa, Albania, Preston and Oxford taking part. With almost a month to go before the end of training delivery, we have learned a lot. I am excited to spend the rest of 2012 refining the course, sharpening our delivery and facilitation systems, lining assessments up with national curriculum and much more. In five years time I think we will have developed something very precious for those in mission across Europe and Africa, and beyond.
I am quite amazed how, despite being separated by huge distances and sometimes struggling with technology, participants have felt a strong commitment to stick with it. Against the odds a sense of fellowship and connection has grown. I think this has been out of a growing appreciation for each other as we have shared dilemmas, insights, wins and defeats. Most sessions are a matter of presenting data or frameworks and concepts that we then dialogue with together, bringing our own perspectives and experience and learning from each other.
One practical change that we made a month ago was to change the length of each session. We were running 5 sessions a day, one hour each. Given the variety of sessions, the reality of technology and the intensity of engagement required, people found the rhythm exhausting. We decided to change to four sessions a day each of 80 minutes length – facilitators were encouraged not to try and increase what they covered but allow more space for process and dialogue. This has made a huge difference to the experience, I sense too that learning and engagement has been deeper as a result.
Another thing that has become clear is that for team leaders taking part in the School of Mission, finding the additional 3 or 4 hours a week outside of class time in which to prepare assignments or module reading, has not been possible. We will therefore be pushing back the graduation date for the course to November, making it a 12 month course; participants will have 5+ months in which to complete assignments. We will meet for a morning every 6 weeks or so during this time so that participants are encouraged to keep progressing. Every assignment is a practical application of the module it relates to, there by facilitating the integration of the journey of School of Mission into the work of each participant.
So yes, the grand experiment is almost over – well the first phase at any rate – and I am still really enjoying it!!