There’s an old adage that says that leaders are learners. That statement is particularly meaningful for followers of Christ because learning is absolutely at the center of our ability to lead effectively. Since leadership development is so important to our work in small group ministry, how can we help those we are developing to be effective learners? A good starting point is to understand that for our learning to have maximum impact, both the process and the product of our learning must be distinctly different from conventional learning.
Let’s start with the process. The learning process for followers of Christ must be more than just an academic exercise. Our learning must ultimately be about life change. Here’s what it should look like:
I DISCOVER KNOWLEDGE WITH MY HEAD: Learning starts with discovering new knowledge, a primarily intellectual activity. In conventional learning, knowledge discovery is often the entire learning process but, for followers of Christ, it is just the beginning.
KNOWLEDGE CHANGES MY HEART: The key to learning for followers of Christ is moving knowledge from our heads to our hearts where it can be absorbed into who we are and help us become the people God made us to be. Moving knowledge from our heads to our hearts takes time and requires a commitment to both reflect on the knowledge and to reprogram our thinking with it. When we do this consistently, the knowledge changes us to be more like Christ.
I APPLY KNOWLEDGE THROUGH MY HANDS: A natural outcome of a changed heart is a changed life. Jesus said that, “a good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart” (Luke 6:45, NIV). A heart that has absorbed godly knowledge will produce godly living. Once knowledge has made the journey from the head to the heart to the hands it can be called wisdom.
I SHARE WISDOM WITH MY MOUTH: Wisdom is meant to be shared. Matthew wrote that, “the crowds were amazed” at Jesus’ teaching, “because he taught as one who had authority” (Matthew 7:28-29, NIV). Jesus’ teaching came from knowledge that had gone through his head, heart, and hands. It was knowledge that had been transformed into wisdom and, therefore, could be shared with authority. This is the kind of learning in which followers of Christ engage and it’s the kind of learning that enables us to be effective leaders.
When we engage in this kind of learning process, there are many positive outcomes, but there are three in particular that provide the fuel for effective Christian leadership: I understand my identity or who I am as a person, I understand my purpose or what God made me to do, and I understand my priority or what I am living for. I’ll describe how these products of our learning become powerful leadership resources in another post.