Navigating your onramp – Five lane-markers…
Twenty-five things I’d like to say to missionaries serving their first 3 months of a long-term ministry.
by Mark Morgenstern
Without trying to stretch the metaphor of an onramp too far, piece by piece throughout this course I’m going to unpack for you a long list of ideas that will be helpful to you in the place and time you now find yourself. We’ll package those ideas into 5 lane markers, to line you up with the future-looking tasks and fundamental attitudes that this course is all about. Remember, change represents the circumstances that take place around you, while transition represents the healthy process of adaptation that you choose to work through in the midst of that change.
Lane marker 5 – Being an Effective Continual Learner
There are seasons in life for preparing and seasons for doing. You are in a season now where learning is the biggest preparation step that stands before you. The future may be rich with fruit if you learn well now. But more importantly, today you have the unique opportunity to launch a lifestyle of being a continual, everyday learner.
Most of the lessons we learn the best are not learned in a classroom or course, but along the way as we gather what we need just in the moment we need it. Two of those big lessons that can be cemented for you now are to develop an understanding both your effective work style and your preferred learning style. Recognizing these things about yourself will be a great help towards making good ministry decisions now and along the way in the future.
Your attitude of being a continual, everyday learner and your self-awareness of work style and learning style can be coupled well with the habit of creating and implementing a personal learning plan. You probably have created some kind of a to do list that keeps you on track for purposeful ministry. Do the same with a list of all kinds of learning experiences that you’ll add to your work calendar as ways of continually enabling yourself to minister better and better. You may call this something like “my learning list” or a “personal development plan.”
One of the painful things about learning as adults is that it almost always requires humility and involves the pain associated with change. It has been said that the illiterate of today “are not those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Relearning implies release, insecurity, and loss. But it also promises new things, better things.
Who do you learn from? You’ll need to broaden your horizons to include your teammates, other expats, local people, other believers, friends, neighbors, strangers, and even children. It might be helpful sometimes to listen to others and their stories of how they learned particular lessons. Sometimes adopting someone else’s method may be new and useful to you. Sometimes not. At the same time, you’ll also want to develop the skill of discerning between good informants and bad ones, especially as you’re gathering information to help you understand your new culture. This would be a good time to get some help from more experienced team members, especially the ones that seem to be spending almost all their time in relationships with local people.
If you are doing it right, your journey of culture, language and ministry learning should also include a healthy dose of learning spiritually about God, yourself, and how God is at work in you and through you. Some above the surface observations of yourself may lead to some deeper revelations of what is going on deep within you. Don’t forget! – God is busy growing you into the disciple He wants you to be, and He’s using this cross-cultural ministry experience as a tool for His process.
- Learn well now, but also develop habits of being a continual, everyday learner.
- Take the opportunity now to gain some understanding of your work style and learning style.
- It will take humility and trust in God to be willing to unlearn and relearn.
- Learn from others, all kinds of others!
- Embrace learning of culture, language and ministry as a vehicle God will use for your Spiritual growth as a disciple.