Many institutions strive to future-proof their educational pathways, so their students will not fall behind the times. However, every graduate soon discovers there are many things they have not been taught in school.
Consequently, keen learners line up for seminars and bestsellers on “What your school did not teach you.” This reflects the tension between two educational philosophies: one advocates formal education in an academic institution, while the other champions practical training in a non-academic setting.
Of course, many wise practitioners think the two philosophies are complementary—students could be equipped through formal education and practical training upon (and even before) enrolment or after graduation. Likewise, our founders and pioneering educators gave due attention to field education by providing weekly ministry opportunities in churches and parachurch organisations, even as they upheld formal education.
Nevertheless, the question, “Can you future-proof your learning?” holds huge significance. As I journeyed through my roles as a student, church planter, educator, dean, and seminary leader, as well as participant in various academic endeavours, I have gleaned three principles for future-proofing our learning:
1. Manage yourself well
We have been called to serve the triune God and his kingdom. Having ascertained our sphere of ministry, we seize every opportunity to serve, offering our gifts without reservation, giving our utmost to the last day. Inadvertently, this results in burnout for many from the immense pressures and busyness of trying to make each moment count for eternity.
Ministry veterans know that spiritual, emotional and physical health is imperative for preserving our sense of mission, direction and satisfaction. Only by nourishing the spirit, improving emotional health, and strengthening physical stamina will we experience continual renewal, determination, and persistence in our ministry.
Moses and Aaron often had to stand before God for confession, sanctification, and renewal before they could go out to serve the Holy One. We in ministry, through Scripture and the Holy Spirit, must firstly know ourselves and manage ourselves well, before we give of ourselves to serve our Lord.
2. Learn every day
Irrespective of our ministries and duties in our church, organisation or society, we are bound to face stressors and challenges from our responsibilities. How may we build up resilience under the weight of overwhelming workloads? The key lies in three facets of healthy ministers:
- They are first shepherded by God’s word and his
Spirit before seeking to shepherd others.
- They cultivate habits of lifelong learning in
ministry-related knowledge, skills, and experience.
- They continuously strive to overcome personal
weaknesses, blind spots, and emotional baggage
in their life and character.
This is aptly illustrated by the apostle Paul as he faced death in prison. Besides his coat for warmth, he made sure to remind Timothy to bring along his scrolls, especially his precious parchments (2 Tim 4:13). This is the spirit of Paul: even in the face of death, he focuses on learning!
Each time I send off a graduating cohort, I remind myself that if life is a journey of unending learning, then graduation only marks the beginning of another phase of learning.
3. Build your team faithfully
The graduate stepping out of the college is entering another social network, whether in the church, an organisation, or the marketplace. Normally, it is the team that assigns roles, authority, responsibilities, and reporting lines according to the team member’s sense of calling, gifts, and qualifications. So, one is either a supervisor, a subordinate, or both.
Whatever the case, ministry is done within personnel and administrative systems. Are you concerned about whether you will measure up to the calling of God? Or be able to make the best use of your gifts and expertise? Or realise your personal ideals while also experiencing continual personal growth? Let me share advice distilled from the wisdom of many other ministers: regardless of your role, take it upon yourself to firstly be the best team member you can be and build an effective team; this will minimise unnecessary personnel disputes and administrative problems.
Now, here is my parting word of encouragement to our graduating students—to truly future-proof your learning, always rely on God’s grace and seek self-improvement daily, so by excelling in virtue, you can shoulder great responsibilities.