By Matt Norman
Part of my mission work with CBF in Europe includes the great privilege of partnering with European Baptists via the International Baptist Theological Study (IBTS) Centre in Amsterdam.
This past year, I have been working with a small team to develop the initial courses and structure of the Learning Network which seeks to offer training courses to pastors and leaders across the European Baptist Federation to build connections, network and offer practical training that can be used in local ministry and mission.
What is mission and how does our understanding of mission affect the way that we live and serve with and among people? This is a central question of the course “Reimagining Mission and Learning in Community” that is offered by the Learning Network of the IBTS Centre in Amsterdam. The first cohort of students for this 10-week course offering began in April.
In this course, we consider how to lead in a diverse multi-voiced community where learning is central, community formation and teamwork are desired, and God is present before us, calling us to respond. We work on how to integrate the practical theological cycle in one’s mission and ministry and how to develop practices of discernment so that learning can be integrated, evaluated and developed in transformative ways.
The learning has indeed been transformational. We’ve asked questions related to safety—how safe is our church community? Is it a place that people who are not believers will feel comfortable asking questions of faith? And we have asked questions related to community—what or whom do we define as our community? How does this affect the way we live our faith? Questions about leadership ask how we define leadership and discusses the role culture play in our understanding of what makes a leader. And then there is maybe my favorite question: What is learning, and what does learning have to do with mission and ministry?
It has been a short 10 weeks that included many questions, many conversations and the application of what we are learning to our contexts. We also developed plans for mission and ministry. There is still much processing to do as this is just a starting point, A leaping-off place where together as a learning community we can explore ideas about God, our missional practices and how we can become a networked community of faith. May it be so.
Matt Norman is a CBF field personnel who serves in Barcelona, Spain, alongside his wife, Michelle. You can learn more about their ministries and support their work at www.cbf.net/norman.