Learning Models
Support and Caring in Congregations, Career Development for Ministers, Becoming a Minister

In care systems are informed by the work of of three educators:

  • Maria Harris, who wrote that the congregation is the faith development curriculum
  • Peter Senge, who described learning organizations
  • Parker Palmer, who wrote of living an undivided life, which is the capacity to be in the world as who we truly are

Students enter powerful learning communities, grounded in congregational life, committed to the ongoing practice of living an undivided life as they pursue their call to ministry.

Maria Harris: Congregation as Curriculum

Using Maria Harris’ model, the in care system treats the congregation as the curriculum for learning. Students get involved in congregations and begin to hone their skills in leading worship, teaching, pastoral care, social change and administration. In the process, ministerial candidates and congregations enrich one another's ministry.

The Rev. Gordon B. McKeeman wrote, “Ministry is a quality of relationship between and among human beings that beckons forth hidden possibilities.” In care programs enhance the faith development and spiritual formation of all who participate.

More about Harris’ philosophy (PDF) can be found in the Curriculum Renaissance Module Reader's Guide.

Peter Senge: Learning Organizations

Peter Senge says learning organizations are communities where

  • people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire
  • new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured
  • collective aspiration is set free
  • people are continually learning to see the whole together.

In care programs provide communities in which ministers, lay leaders, ministerial interns, and theological students experience being part of intentional learning communities which expand the capacities and vision of all participants. More about Senge’s model can be found at infed.org, a non-profit exploring education, learning, and community. 

Parker Palmer: An Undivided Life

Parker Palmer’s notion of an “undivided life” is an important foundation for ministerial health and vitality. By remaining connected with the passion that led to seminary, a student is better able to sustain energy for the vision and motivation for the countless reinventions of ministry required in a long career.

Living an undivided life means continually asking the question: “How do I stay close to the passions and commitments that took me into this work, challenging myself and my colleagues and the institution to keep faith with this profession's deepest values?” Palmer suggests that such questions are best asked in community with a commitment to conversation. He says that our willingness to engage with others in community ‘keeps us in the truth.”

Seminarians involved in an in care program engage in these conversations with ministers and other students. More about Palmer's philosophy can be found at infed.org, a non-profit exploring education, learning, and community. 

For more information contact mcodirector@uua.org.

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