September 25, 2014

Why a Doctorate, Why Durham? WARNING: This is a post for nerds like me. :) In all seriousness, this won't be of interest to everyone, but several of you have asked why I'm doing a doctorate and why I've chosen Durham University, England. I've answered these questions before, but I realize that my answers have been inadequate. For one, I am still learning to understand my own heart and motivattions. And, what's more, I had some incorrect information about this particular program at Durham. So, in order to understand myself and to communicate more clearly for those interested in post-graduate studies, I thought I'd write about it. (Actually, this is always why I write: to help me understand my own thoughts, and to be of some help to others.) ------------------------- Why a Doctorate? As best as I can know my own heart-- and this is tricky business-- this is what I would say: To make the most of the gifts which have been entrusted to me for the glory of God and the good of the Church. This is not Christianese to me. When I was a little boy, my mum used to say to me, "Glenn, if you can achieve (x), then don't settle for (y)." This wasn't said in a performance-ish, pressured sort of way. This was said with utmost love. It came out of her deep belief in who God had made me to be. And it wasn't unrealistic stuff. (She never said this about my dreams of being the next Michael Jordan, for example.) She-- and my dad-- saw things in my sister and me as they prayed over us and talked with us. And they wouldn't let us stop short because of laziness or apathy. I'm reminded of this quote from the late John Stott about ambition: Ambitions for God,...
What Church Small Groups Do Best...And What They Don't. As church leaders, many of us don't have the time to stop and reflect on what we're doing. And even if we did, our reflections are often not enough. We are too close to situations, too immersed in real time ministry, to properly evaluate it or to ask the right questions. We need perspectives outside the pastorate. Yet, some pastors are reluctant to learn from non-pastors, routinely dismissing anything from an academic simply because he or she is not a pastor. But researchers may offer a better picture of our ministry than we have as pastors. They can spot trends or patterns that we can't see because we're so close to the trees that we miss the proverbial forest. Conversely, pastors can help add more nuance and colors to 'data' that a researcher may be struggling to interpret. They may map the forest, but the miss the subtle differentiation from tree to tree. Small groups are a perfect example of how pastors may learn from researchers. At many church conferences, pastors speak confidently of their latest, greatest small group model, sure that it is the new breakthrough in discipleship. But their only 'sample size' is their own congregation, and they all-too-often have no metric for its effectiveness-- except for the number of people in groups. Oh, and they may just be a little biased about their model. :) (I know: I've done this.) Enter the researcher. Below are the results of a study done by Dr. Roger Walton, a theologian (former faculty at Durham University, England) and the District Chair at West Yorkshire District of the Methodist Church in England. ------------------------- Walton conducted his research in 2011, working exclusively with church small groups. The study involved 700 people. This was a closed survey; people answered questions that they were asked....

Glenn Packiam

Lead Pastor, new life DOWNTOWN, New Life Church, Colorado Springs, CO. Author and songwriter.

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