Churches as Learning Hubs

I first heard the phrase ‘every member ministry’ when I sat on an interview panel in 2018. One of our candidates used it. We were there, you see, to select a new minister for the church I was part of. Unlike swathes of leadership jargon, this little mot du jour has actual meaning. In ‘every member ministry’, based on the notion that everyone has a contribution to make, the pastor encourages the Faithful to discern what spiritual gifts they can bring, as in 1 Corinthians 12. Teachers, like Doctors Livingstone and Williams, get a mention in this chapter (vv. 28f.).

But it isn’t only those with intellectual gifts who nourish our life as a Church. Ye left-brained people, rejoice! Practical knowledge – or technē, to supply the Greek – is equally valuable for mental welfare. It isn’t all about history talks in the Mitchell Room of a Tuesday night, which broadens the field a fair deal.

Even the mobile farm we sometimes hire for the Sunday school, Phils, accommodates technē learning, broadly defined. As it sweeps into the rector’s garden on a pungent breeze of horse-musk, Phils Farm is a harbinger of exultation! (Yes, ‘Phils’ lacks an apostrophe; perhaps a black lamb ate it, or a brown alpaca.)

What sort of lessons do kids pick up on the farm? Well, for littluns who come from Northern Ireland, a mostly rural nation, to learn that one shouldn’t poke and prod things able to deploy hoof or horn in vengeance is all to the collective good.

And so, there is more than enough to keep us learning side by side, in our faith communities, for life. God has filled this world with many things, both visible and invisible. ‘The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands’ (Psalm 19.1). Our shared home is an inexhaustible object of enchantment. ‘It deserves all the attention you can give it,’ wrote Marilynne Robinson. How better to spend our time here than in the common pursuit of learning?

2/8/2023 2:26:09 PM
  • featured writer
  • Matthew Allen
    About Matthew Allen
    Matthew Allen is a writer and musician based in Northern Ireland. He is a graduate of Queen’s University, Belfast, where he studied Theology and Liberal Arts.