Teacher or Learner?

I had a phone meeting on Tuesday with Tim Ferrell, a small groups pastor at a local church and staff member with the Navigators discipleship ministry.  He wanted some insight into how we do small groups at National Community Church.

I take calls like this all of the time.  Our pastor, Mark Batterson, is a well-known author and speaker, and by extension, we are a well-known church, the result of which is, people want to know how we do ministry.  The fact that people are interested in our small groups has little to do with my skills or abilities.  I'm really just in demand by association.

On most of these calls, I do a lot of talking, and the folks on the other end of the phone do a lot of listening, which makes sense, since they reached out because they wanted to learn more about how and why we do what we do.  In fact, I talk about our methods and models so much, I can almost do it in my sleep.

A few weeks ago I was interviewing a young woman who applied for a position with us.  She's finishing up a fellowship program with another church (her first post-college job) and looking for what's next.  During her interview she talked about something she's doing in her current role that we thought was a great idea and intend to replicate.

And this morning I was reading A Trip Around the Sun, in which Dick Foth writes:

Engage people and life ramps up. I can learn from anyone: a ninety-three-year-old or a three-year-old, a street sweeper or a scientist.  When I make a friend, I get smarter, when I make a friend, I get richer.

I consider myself someone who's willing to learn from anyone.  Some of our best ideas, such as our Small Group Expo, have come from volunteers and staff who report to me.  And I'd like to think that I'm quick to give credit where credit is due for those successes.

But Dick, Tim, and this young woman are teaching me a valuable lesson.

Tim is in his 50s or 60s and has been in vocational ministry longer than I've been alive.  The fact is that he knows way more about small groups than I do.  That he is not just willing to learn from someone half his age but actually sought out my advice speaks volumes about both his humility and his desire to learn.

While I've been willing to learn from anyone, I usually spend more time teaching and less time learning.  I'm starting to realize that I need to move beyond willingness and begin actively seeking to learn from every person, every interaction, and every conversation.

Posted at 10:03 AM on June 17th, 2015
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