Whether you know it or not, there is a movement afoot in education. Some point to an origin in the 1970s. Others point to a 1990s timeframe. Regardless of the when, as one author puts it, “The idea of improving schools by developing professional learning communities is currently in vogue.”
Historically, in education, the individual was considered the “unit of instruction.” This movement has switched that unit from individuals to groups. These groups are referred to as Learning Communities.
In the academic world, a Learning Community is defined as:
– a group of people that shares common academic goals and attitudes, – that meets semi-regularly to collaborate on classwork. There are three “big ideas” or “core principles” for successful Learning Communities:
- Ensures that participants learn
- Creates a culture of collaboration
- Focuses on results
CSO recently tested this Learning Community model to help Sports Ministers become more gospel-centered. The project began in Charlotte last spring when Brent Williams, Director of ROAR Sports in Rock Hill, SC, asked CSO to gather together other Sports Ministers specifically to discuss coach development, one of his greatest challenges. The idea culminated in July with eight Sports Ministers from 6 different churches (Scott Tyson, Legacy Sports – Weddington, NC, Brent Williams and Lulu Merrill – ROAR Sports, Russell Dulin – Hopewell Baptist Church, Monroe, NC, Jenny Young – SOAR Sports, Christ Covenant Church, Matthews, NC, Chris Baity – SOAR Sports, First Presbyterian of Stanley, NC, and Tinsley Jones from Crestwood Presbyterian Church, Richmond, VA) for a day and a half of meetings and the launch of our first Learning Community.
The time together really stimulated all the attenders. It included experiential games, worship, prayer, work groups, presentations by each of the churches attending, evaluations, and brainstorming about common struggles as the group looked at the “Ideal Coach” and how to actually develop him.
At the end, we briefly evaluated the event from which came a unanimous recommendation of two parts by the attendees:
- -This group needed to keep meeting (we decided on quarterly).
- -CSO needed to expand this Learning Center idea to other locations.
In fact, each of the Sports Ministers in attendance offered his support to help launch other locations by visiting them personally so that other Sports Ministers could experience this energizing environment.
Since that time in July, a second Learning Community launched in September in Birmingham, AL with one of the attendees from Charlotte “seeding” that meeting. Also, discussions were initiated with interested parties in Indianapolis, IN, St. Louis, MO, and Richmond, VA. The Carolinas Learning Community also met for the second time in early December. All of these efforts were followed by similar reviews by the participants as we attempted to implement the three “big ideas” mentioned above.
“Being with like-minded folks that understand and speak the language of sports ministry is always an encouragement. Likewise, the environment of meeting together provides an excellent opportunity for growth and learning as we challenge and support one another along the way.” Tinsley Jones, Crestwood Presbyterian Church
“When we get together, it is not “just another meeting”; it is a time for us to encourage, love, and inspire each other in the ministries we work in. Knowing there are other leaders going through the same issues helps me get through the hard times. It also keeps me focused on the topic at hand to help me continue to mold it in a way that God wants me to.” Brent Williams, Westminster Presbyterian Church
“For ministry leaders who are facing the challenge of time, technology and busyness, it was invigorating to discuss and be creative about how we can begin to make progress in the area of DEVELOPING LEADERS.” Tommy Lunceford, Dawson Memorial Baptist Church
“My favorite part of the learning community is spending time with other sports ministry leaders while also walking away feeling energized and refocused. “ Scott Tyson, Legacy Sports
“Throughout the time together I realized the importance of influencing the coach to be able to help transform kids and parents with the gospel.” ML Woodruff, Istrouma Baptist Church
These Learning Communities are a further effort of our long held belief in “communal learning.” In the late 1990s and early 2000s, CSO developed the idea of SOD (Sports Outreach Development) and then SOLD (Sports Outreach Leadership Development) groups. As the technology became available, we began using webinars to gather Sports Ministers together attempting to overcome the geographic barriers to such groups. These Learning Communities are our most recent effort in this communal learning as we pursue our mission to “redeem the idol of sports and those who play them by leading a global movement of gospel centered sports ministries in local churches.”
We are excited about the possibilities.
If you are interested in attending an existing Learning Community or explore the possibility of starting one in your area, contact Bob Schindler – firstname.lastname@example.org.