One of the main objectives in the implementation of Institute Training involves application and contextualization. The trainer helps the students to understand and to be able to use the content through specialized group dynamics that focus on application and contextualization. This could be called a classroom experience but is quite different than most classes.
Applying and Contextualizing the Content in the Classroom
If the primary purpose of the classroom experience is not to transmit information, then what is the goal of this time together, and how does the Institute Trainer accomplish it?
One of the main goals of the small group meetings is to help the students relate the content of the Institute lessons to their own experience in ministry and in life. We want to relate the content to their behavior and character in life and ministry. People understand concepts and new information better and more meaningfully when they are able to relate them to their own lives and when they hear how other people relate them to their lives.
We might call this a process of applying and contextualizing the content. Application and contextualization are like two sides of the same coin. Application begins with the biblical content and shows implications for individual and collective thought, obedience and character. Contextualization begins with the context of ministry — the culture, the church, the people and their situation — and calls forth from Scripture answers to questions the people from that context are facing.
So application asks questions like, “What are the practical implications of this lesson for your context? What does it mean for your ministry? What does it mean for your church? What does it mean for your involvement in the world?” Contextualization asks questions like, “How can this lesson based on the Bible help me face and deal effectively with this particular situation or problem I am facing?” You will find questions like these in each Discussion Guide that come with each Module. There is a full explanation of the Discussion Guides in the Trainer Orientation Manual. Application and contextualization are very similar, and it’s impossible to separate them completely. The difference is a matter of emphasis. In practice, it means (1) taking seriously the implications for thought, obedience and character suggested in our Discussion Guides and (2) encouraging the learners to take initiative in asking and seeking answers to their own questions. The former is a focus on application, while the latter is a focus on contextualization. In other words, don’t assume that the questions and suggestions for action in the Discussion Guides are the only ones. Encourage the learners to think about their own situations and come up with their own.
There is an important sense in which you don’t really understand content until you know how it applies to you in your context. You may be able to pass a test on the content, but you are not able to use it effectively in God’s kingdom until you understand at least to some extent how it applies to the contexts of your life and your ministry in your part of the world.
The second main goal of the classroom experience is to promote loving and supportive relationships between the Institute Trainer and the students, and among the students. This goal is no less important than the first. As mentioned earlier, it is this bond of love and respect that keeps the trainees wanting to be in the program even when the training becomes personal and uncomfortable. It is this bond of love and respect that encourages people to be open about their experience and allows them to learn. Without this atmosphere, it is difficult to learn. This is an atmosphere that opens them to the teaching of the Holy Spirit.
Here are some suggestions about how to achieve these two main goals of the classroom experience: