Category Archives: Foundations

“Biblical” Womanhood and Manhood

In his concept of biblical womanhood and manhood, John Piper describes “the heart of biblical manhood as ‘a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for, and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships.'” Firstly, and with respect to Piper, this is a description and not a definition (as he will call it elsewhere in his book). Secondly, Piper (and Grudem) argue for protection as a pre-Fall mandate. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to have someone explain in an adequate manner how they see the protection mandate in a pre-Fall environment. From what danger was the man supposed to be protecting the woman? Some will say the temptation of the serpent (as if the man is the woman’s overseer) or from her own ignorance since God gave the command not to eat to Adam. Unfortunately, this falls short since Eve’s response indicates she understands eating the fruit is a Bad Thing.

In his explanations goes on to describe what I would identify as specific cultural expressions of masculinity. For example, he says “Consider what is lost when women attempt to assume a more masculine role by appearing physically muscular and aggressive. It is true that there is something sexually stimulating about a muscular, scantily clad young woman pumping iron in a health club. But no woman should be encouraged by this fact. For it probably means the sexual encounter that such an image would lead to is something very hasty and volatile, and in the long run unsatisfying. The image of a masculine musculature may beget arousal in a man, but it does not beget several hours of moonlight walking with significant, caring conversation. The more women can arouse men by doing typically masculine things, the less they can count on receiving from men a sensitivity to typically feminine needs. Mature masculinity will not be reduced to raw desire in sexual relations. It remains alert to the deeper personal needs of a woman and mingles strength and tenderness to make her joy complete.”

  1. Regarding his “hasty and volatile” point, I’m going to suggest that—within the bounds of marriage—hasty and volatile sexual encounters can lead to much satisfaction (and fun) for both parties if done correctly. As a wise woman once told me, “if you know what you’re doing it doesn’t have to take all day.” Granted, a steady diet may lead to dissatisfaction, but I’d say the same thing about cookies. I love me some cookies, but I can’t make a meal of it. But every now and then…
  2. Moonlight walking is well and good—if you’re into that sort of thing. What if a woman doesn’t like moonlight walks? Does that mean she isn’t a woman according to Piper’s understanding? Also, what about my athletic sisters who enjoy running and working out? Will he assert that they should stop running and take up some other, more sedentary activity? I’m proud of one of my friends and former co-workers who just posted that she ran 35 miles this month. I think its an awesome accomplishment, and in no way detracts from her femininity.

Ultimately, want I want people in the BWaM camp to remember is that the particular North American, Caucasian, suburban, protestant, expression of masculinity and femininity may not be (and should not be) the standard by which we measure what is good and right. If you’re going to claim the Biblical adjective, then please stick to the Bible.


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3 Reasons for Failing Mentoring Programs

Why Mentoring Programs Fail | Blogs.

Blogger Laura Singleton wrote recently on the reasons she saw why mentoring programs fail. Essentially, she argues that they fail because they emphasis the program aspect of mentoring rather than the relational aspect of mentoring. Without disagreeing with her, the blog prompted me to consider other reasons why mentoring programs fail.

  1. Wrong purpose. Some people claim they want a mentor when they really want someone to follow. They want to be a disciple rather than a protégé. The character Mentor acted as an adviser to his protégé, sharing wisdom and insights. Similarly, in the mentor/protégé(e) relationship, the protégé may or may not adopt the viewpoint of the mentor. In contrast, in the disciple/master relationship, the disciple wishes to adopt the methods, philosophy, and ideas of his master. The disciple patterns him/herself after the master. The mentor/protégé(e) relationship is about guidance and growth; the disciple/master relationship is about imitation and duplication. A program will naturally fail when someone wishes to be a disciple rather than a protégé(e).
  2. Wrong program. Related to the reason above, some programs fail because they have the wrong programmatic elements. According to Dr. Michael Lawson of the Christian Education department at Dallas Theological Seminary, “Programs are just excuses for older Christians to get together with younger Christians.” In a mentoring relationship, the program (and any associated curriculum) needs to draw out the knowledge, values, and drives of the protégé(e); it is a student-centered approach to education. A master/disciple relationship needs to draw out the knowledge, values, and drives of the master; it is a teacher-centered approach to education. While there’s nothing wrong with studying the Bible, if the protégé(e) has needs and desires that go beyond Biblical study (perhaps they need career direction) then a curriculum exploring all 66 books of the Bible will fall short.
  3. Wrong people. Quite frankly, some people give bad advice. A mentor is an adviser, and must have the capacity to offer wisdom unattached from the need to see it adopted. In the Odyssey, Odysseus placed Mentor in charge of Telemachus, Odysseus’ son. Mentor acted as a guide and encourager rather than a father figure. It takes a particular skill-set, disposition, and personality to act in that capacity. A mentor must consider the needs of the protégé(e) and help the protégé(e) develop according to their own pattern. A master patterns his/her disciples according to the master’s way.

As you consider building a mentoring program or looking for a mentoring relationship, consider the purpose. Are you looking to make disciples, or are you trying to create opportunities to share wisdom? Are you looking for someone you can imitate, or do you want guidance on how to develop? Are you looking to be a disciple, or do you wish to be a protégé(e)?


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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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Defining Methodologies in Christian Education

Two of my favorite professors, Drs. Glenn Kreider and Mike Lawson, have impressed upon me the importance of defining terms. When you have uncertainty as to what you mean, then others will too. Therefore, I want to talk about the five methodologies in Christian education and what I mean by them.

Why would I want to do something as dull as that?

For one, because I want to be clear in communication. Two, as I work through this idea, this process will help me solidify my own thinking and distinguish it from other lines of thought. Three, as I think through the implications of how to apply it in various settings, it will help that process the more precisely I can identify the methodologies themselves. Four, I realize that I conceive of these definitions in their ideal sense, recognizing that when you take institutional realities and sin nature into account, distortion occurs.

My caveat: these working understandings may change as I gather more information and incorporate it.

  1. Communication and rhetoric: strategies for persuading others for behavioral change. This involves a good faith transaction on the part of the hearer and the speaker, where the hearer acts in good faith to assume the speaker has something useful to say, and the speaker acts in good faith that the hearer will give consideration to the words of the speaker. These fall under the broader term of dialectics.
  2. Leadership and management: strategies for organizing people and processes for the purpose of creating an meaningful change, or resisting change, in the environment. Leadership involves the people side while management tends to involve the process side (although it’s difficult to draw a hard line between the two). These fall under the broader term of administration.
  3. Teaching and learning: strategies for shaping the mind (knowledge, values, and will) of the individual. Teaching refers to the acts and strategies of the teacher while learning refers to the acts and strategies of the student. These fall under the broader term of education.
  4. Policy and evaluation: strategies for developing and implementing operational principles and determining the effectiveness of those principles. These fall under the broader term of governance.
  5. Research and modeling: strategies for gathering information, and for predicting outcomes based upon that information. Recognize that specific research methodology varies by field, even though the general strategies remain the same; natural science research looks different than social science research, even though both generally employ the scientific method of hypothesis, testing, conclusion.

Parents, your children use these strategies when encountering the world, and you need to encourage and cultivate them. Churches, consider how you might use these to organize your volunteers, to structure your ministerial strategies, and to train the people in your church. Teachers, recognize these as the primary drives of your students and teach them how to harness these drives in order achieve academic success.

May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts help others to be acceptable in God’s sight.

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Conative Styles and Christian Education

Having introduced the concept of conation (will, volition), I want to look at conative styles today.

Major Player: Kathy Kolbe seems to have done the most work in modern times, having identified four conative styles, developed an instrument to identify styles, blogged, and created a consulting company. Kolbe primarily works with businesses in her consultations, in the field of industrial/organizational psychology, to help teams run better and more efficiently. She looks at the conative styles of teams verses the expectations of those in authority and the perceived culture of the organization. She essentially examines how the individual team remembers operate instinctively in light of the assigned task and the managerial and cultural expectations.

Theoretical Basis: Kolbe’s work rests on two pillars. Firstly, she credits John Dewey and the idea that thinking and doing work together in the analysis of behavior. Secondly, she built the idea of the four styles (plus one, but more on that later) on the work of Carl Jung whose work undergirds the famous Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). While the MBTI looks at issues of thought and values, Kolbe’s work examines the manifestation of action and modes of operation.

The Four Types: Kolbe identified four types of conative (doing) styles. In other words, she says that people tend to approach problem-solving (in the sense of imposing order on their environment) in four different ways or using four different strategies:

  1. Fact Finder: Strategies to probe, formalize, evaluate or define.
  2. Follow-Through: Strategies to organize, coordinate, structure, or plan.
  3. Quick Start: Strategies to improvise, reform, invent or devise.
  4. Implementor: Strategies to construct, build, practice, or demonstrate.

Additionally, she suggests that within each of these four behaviors, there are three operational zones (initiation: beginning an action, response: responding to a situation, and resistance: maintaining the status quo or resisting a change), meaning that there are twelve (four strategies times three zones) ways in which people solve problems. Kolbe views these actions as instinctive responses that do not change from person to person. For those who combine actions (for instance, the primary Fact Finder and secondary Follow-Through) she has identified specific patterns of behaviors or “insistence patterns” which have attached labels. She also identifies a fifth style, the Mediator, who does not initiate actions but tends to work with or against actions.

Relevance to Christian Education: Without speaking against Kolbe’s work, when I consider her theoretical foundations through the task, aim and theology of Christian education, I come to some differing conclusions with regard to her model. I think she’s done great work (not that she needs me to tell her that) and I believe Christian education can benefit from her approach. In the meantime, I can see parents using this as part of the child-rearing process to identify a child’s conative style and help the child develop and grow within that style. Church leaders can use this style info when seeking volunteers, while the academy could identify conative styles for students and tailor teaching methods to those styles.

Christian educators: consider the instinctive operational modes of your students.

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