Back to school

Growing up I was terrible at keeping new years resolutions. Now I think I’m getting better at it. I’m not sure why this is so important to me, but the last couple years have been really important to me. I chose the resolution for 2015 (let’s be honest, one resolution is enough) by browsing through Pinterest (I think I searched “awesome quotes”). This one grabbed me:

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Simple. Succinct. Direct. Stay rad: my resolution for 2015.

I took stock of my behaviors and values in 2014. Were they rad? Since graduating in 2012 from Luther Seminary with a MA in systematic theology, I served at Trinity Lutheran in Stillwater, MN in lifelong/adult learning and helping churches collaborate with each other over a theology curriculum. That role ended in August 2014. I got to be a coach, an editor, a trainer of trainers, a facilitator, a learning experience designer, a creator, a preacher, and a colleague.  Since then, I joined a team of workshop facilitators/coaches at brightpeak financial (Thrivent is the umbrella company) and serve young couples in their emotional connections with money.

In the last couple of years especially I’ve discovered that I love helping adults see that God isn’t done forming and molding them. School might be done or almost done, but the opportunities to learn from life and people and experiments are just beginning. Facilitating adults in their learning was (and is) fun, but without the leadership identity as an ordained person it felt like I was a fish constantly hitting the glass of its fish tank.

In the realm of married life, things were not as rad. Timothy weekly heard my complaints in the car after church about worship that he would design at Woodlake Lutheran as an interim worship and music director. Why did you use those words of confession? That part of the service doesn’t align theologically with that part of the service? Why is communion so short?

I realized that I could complain about how the church is “doing it wrong” (what does that even mean?) for the rest of my life, or I could contribute my leadership by making a significant contribution in the role that church people currently turn to for guidance, vision, direction (whether they should or not): the ordained pastor. In order to curate a community of faith that truly embodies the priesthood of all believers and takes vocation as a core vehicle of learning, growth, worship, and leadership – I have to jump into the sandbox and step into the leadership that most congregations recognize as “the” leader: the ordained congregational pastor.

I hope in this I can have that first-hand authentic experience of being a pastor so I can best coach and walk alongside pastors in their own lifelong learning, journey to health, growth, leadership, and contribution. I’ve done coaching/facilitating with kid and adult leaders here and there, but not in so focused of a way that I hope to do. Put simply: I want to stay rad.

I have ten credits left. This consists of coursework in spring, summer, fall 2015, and internship starting January 2016. I will turn in my M.A. in systematic theology (and will still draw a lot from that experience) for an M.Div. with a concentration in systematic theology. Yes, I feel weird about it, but I honestly feel more hopeful than mad; this will position me to be the most Allison, be rad, and make the biggest impact I can hope to make with these people and these places I call church, my home, my people. The church is called to big things. I want to be a part of shaping that response, and I want to help others see (pastors or not) that they’re capable and worthy of shaping that response, too.

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This is the lens that I bring to my second round of seminary. I think the catalyst for shifting to wholehearted living and healthy living in congregations comes from walking alongside adults. Kids watch them like sponges, and emulate them as they grow up. If adults don’t know their gifts, their capacity for leadership or the roots of their theology and sense of spirituality, how should we expect today’s youngsters to have lives of faith, self-awareness, curiosity, adventure, and service? This leadership vacuum, articulation of your personal theology vacuum, naming your gifts/strengths/stories vacuum – we have a lifetime-plus of effort/work/energy to do, and I just might find my life’s work in this.

That’s why I’m grateful that Prof. Mary Hess agreed to instruct an independent study with me called, “Adults and Lifelong Learning” (.5 credits). I’ll be honest, I don’t get how adults do it: be responsible, autonomous, community-serving, approachable, leading, retreating, confident, full of questions, vulnerable, courageous, all without slipping into deep depression or anxiety. I’m an adult (sort of?); should I know how to do this “adult” thing already or did I miss a class along the way? I don’t understand how our culture expects adults to be done learning after they graduate from school, and they should be done vocationally discerning because they should have careers by now. If they’re in careers should they stay there because why would they want to leave that security? These are the questions I’m wrestling with right now.

The outcomes of the learning experience this Spring with Mary are:

1. Demonstrate a new understanding of the challenges and opportunities of adult lifelong learning ministry & 2. Create and curate material for degree portfolio.

I have a feeling that what I learn will ripple out into more questions and more curiosities and more learning about what it means to be an adult, and what that means for how churches interact with them. I’ll have four posts on the topic of adult learning between now and May. I hope to share with you what I’m learning, and hear what your wonderings and such are about adult learning too. I hope you learn and ask question with me!

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