Monthly Archives: November 2012

Applying conative styles in the church

Dream with me, just for a moment.

Imagine a church, dedicated to the task of Christian education. Our church follows the model demonstrated in the New Testament by adhering to a plurality of leadership. Its elders all fulfill the qualifications of “able to teach,” and each play a different role in the governing and function of the church. In fact, there are five elders of our church, and they all speak on occasion (but one of them does the primary speaking/proclamation during gatherings).

Now consider the following passage, from Ephesians 4:7-16

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he captured captives; he gave gifts to men.”  Now what is the meaning of “he ascended,” except that he also descended  to the lower regions, namely, the earth? He, the very one  who descended, is also the one who ascended above all the heavens, in order to fill all things. It was he who gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God – a mature person, attaining to the measure of Christ’s full stature. So we are no longer to be children, tossed back and forth by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching by the trickery of people who craftily carry out their deceitful schemes. But practicing the truth in love,we will in all things grow up into Christ, who is the head. From him the whole body grows, fitted and held together through every supporting ligament. As each one does its part, the body grows in love.

What if we built a church structure around the bolded parts, with some caveats. Firstly, questions exist as to whether the role of the apostle exists in the modern day church. However, let’s consider that the apostle (1) likely best understood the message of Christ considering he had received it directly from Jesus and (2) continued to diligently search the scriptures to ensure they accurately taught the message of Christ. Secondly, the original language construction might take the pastor and teacher as a single role, or one could take it as separate. I tend to think they are separate roles. Thirdly, the word translated as “pastor” also could translate as “shepherd”. With that, I then see five pastoral titles from this verse

  1. Preaching and Worship Pastor
  2. Administrative and Counseling Pastor
  3. Teaching and Discipleship Pastor
  4. Evangelism and Outreach Pastor
  5. Research and Scholarship Pastor

In the next post, I’ll define these roles, and show how the conative styles as I’ve defined them fit with each of these roles. Until then, consider the diversity of gifts and conative styles, and how they’re designed to help us all grow in Christ, and that He has equipped us for the work of the ministry.

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Applying Conative Styles in the Christian Academy

So I talked about education reform in brief in a previous post, but let me expand on that for a moment.

The Problem: For those who have graduated college, consider your major and the classes you took in your major area of study. Now consider your current job. If you’re like me, you currently work in a job which has little to do with the content you studied as a major, or only has tangential relationship to that content. What you carried forward from job to job was the methodology you learned in the process of studying that content.

The solution: Why don’t we rearrange our academies around the methodology instead of the content?

Our educational system organizes around the cognitive (knowledge) domain, so we have math and science and English departments. Imagine, for a moment, a school designed around conative styles. Instead you have  five departments: teaching and learning, policy and evaluation, leadership and management, communication and rhetoric, and research and modeling. This school emphasizes the methods, applying them to the various content fields. We then integrate the content through the various conative fields. For example, in communication class, one might spend a unit studying written communication. In that context one studies English grammar to develop the proper forms of written communication, several pieces of literature in order to analyze various examples of good communication, and the historical context of that literature to examine the effects of written communication.

History, English, and Literature, all in the context of one communications class.

Clearly, one would need to develop a curriculum in a developmentally appropriate manner. Also, one would need to consider the use of each methodology in the various content fields (communication in natural science works differently than communication in a behavioral science context). Now consider if you apply the contative styles to the faculty of the Christian university. In such a university, I would hire five kinds of professors:

  1. Research Professor: This professor works to create, organize, and run research projects. They have a teaching load and serve on committees, but they chiefly work to deepen knowledge of their field, guide graduate and undergraduates in the research process, and to find grants to form research.
  2. Teaching Professor: This professor works to advise and teach students. They have a smaller research load, but the bulk of their responsibilities lie in training students.
  3. Administrative Professor: this professor works as administrative faculty. They have a greater committee load and will often serve as department chair or in other administrative duties, with smaller teaching and research roles.
  4. Clinical Professor: This professor works in their chosen field, and brings real-time and practical experience to teaching. They have the smallest administrative load of all, but will often have a business which serves as an internship site. They also work, much like the development professor, with members of the industry to create relationships between the academy and the businesses who hire the graduates of the academy.
  5. Development Professor: This professor often works in (or runs) the institutes and “think tanks” sponsored by the university. In addition, the professor often sits on various government boards and consults with policy-makers. They work to find and develop projects in cooperation with the industry professionals to make the research relevant to current problems.

Admittedly, this is a radical rethinking of educational practices, but I can dream, can’t I?

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Applying conative styles in the home

At this point, I know some may wonder about the practical value of discussion conation and conative styles sounds. Today, I want to look at how this might impact the way we do Christian education in various places. Firstly, although I think through the conative lenses of the philosopher, practitioner, educator, scholar and administrator, we need not fear “pigeon-holing” students or children. Labels help us to categorize and identify characteristics for the purpose of creating understanding. Labels cause problems when it becomes about the label rather than the person. Labels help us say, “When you see this pattern of behavior, consider these things.”

Let me start with the obvious. Parents (and teachers of children) need to recognize that few children will exhibit all of these styles, but rather one or two of them. That bossy child who runs the playground? Teach her how to channel that administrative energy. The curious child who constantly asks why? Teach him how to research in a scholarly manner. The tinkering child who  breaks things? Teach him how to apply his knowledge in a practical way. The key for parents is to observe the natural tendencies of the child, and then help the child to employ them in a helpful manner.

For example, I would self-identify as a scholar in my primary drive. I want to know why and I constantly seek to increase and integrate my understanding of the world. Consequently, I constantly went to my parents for answers to my many, many questions. My mother, quickly reaching the limit of her own knowledge of my questions, introduced me to the encyclopedia. Once she taught me how to use the set, whenever I had a question, she responded with, “Good question: look it up and come tell me about it.” My questions soon shifted to, “I read in the encyclopedia XX and YY, but I don’t understand how that can be true when ZZ.” Note that she matched her budding scholar with his primary methodology (research and modeling).

I believe, similarly to Kolbe, that people tend to operate out of their primary drive. A scholar (like me) will default to research and modeling when encountering a problem, and will operate out of their secondary drive (educator for me) when actually dealing with the problem. Even as an academic  adviser, I first research the person and their issue and try to build a mental model to predict behavior, and then I teach the person what I’ve learned, based on what I understand of their primary learning mode. For me, I default to a research/teaching practice in all that I do, no matter the setting. My practitioner/administrator spouse begins by first developing or examining operating principles, and then organizes people and processes when encountering problems. This means that when I present a problem to her I present it as “how do I…” rather than “tell me what you know about…”

We need to realize, however, that we teach not for the sake of teaching, or encourage learning for the sake of learning. Let us recall the task of Christian education, and shepherd our children to carry out that task.

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