The Preacher Teacher
I recently attended the Competency Based Education Network’s (CBEN) annual conference, “CBExchange”, this year held at the Omni Barton Creek Resort in the spectacular Hill Country of Texas. I had been invited by CBEN’s fearless founder, Charla Long, to speak about my book, “The Daily Undoing: Being Better at Being Human”. I was honoured to be invited - it’s always reassuring when your work is validated by a true thought leader in the field.
Among the many incredibly delicious conversations I was able to have with some the wide assortment of delegates from across North America, was over breakfast one morning with a teacher who taught, among other things, preaching. He was a preacher teacher! I couldn’t resist diving deeper into this subject with Reverend Dr. Erik Ireland from Kingswood Christian University in Sussex New Brunswick, and when he told me that character was one of the areas of focus in his course, well, you can imagine how further enraptured I became – character being one of the 8 Pillar competencies I preach.
I was fascinated to learn that Erik and his institution have developed processes to gauge character at an admissions level, further develop it through curriculum, and expect graduates to continue advancing it throughout their lives. I was fascinated, but secretly I again felt somewhat validated, as I had being invited to the conference in the first place.
Of all the lists of all the competencies I have researched over the past several years, from which my Pillar 8 competencies were derived, I had not encountered any which included character. I thought this was an oversight, and felt compelled to fill that gap in my own small way. Now a preacher was backing me up! It was as if my list had been touched by divinity itself. Whether it was the magnificent rolling green backdrop of Hill Country, or the the collective caring character vibe of the conference itself, I was indeed feeling some strong connections between my work and that being forged by these education disruptors.
I emailed Erik earlier this week, after I had returned home, and asked him for a little more background on his course about preaching and specifically how character is learned. He was gracious enough to share what he calls the three formational components. These are shared in his words below:
Community. This is a big one. A person's character is not shaped apart from a community.
Time. It won't happen overnight. While a minister (in my context) is one we have spent four years forming in a traditional on-campus setting, they have generally been working at their character before applying to our programs. We establish that this work has been ongoing when they write their admissions essays, and by nature of our "business" they are monitored and built-up after graduation in this area, too.
Accountability. While on the traditional side we don't formalize this in every student's case, it certainly is required in Competency-based Theological Education.
There was a significant voice of imposter syndrome within me throughout the week at CBExchange ’21. As I stated at the beginning of my opening address, “I feel like I’ve been invited to a convention of architects…and I like to doodle”. However, encountering the likes of Reverend Erik was both gratifying and welcoming. And, as has been the case in my cathartic journey since releasing my book earlier this year, I find opportunities to be better at being human are everywhere, and on offer from everyone, as long as you allow your own character to do its job. To lean on and lean in to community, to consciously put in the time to care, and to hold yourself accountable to the high road.
From the beginning I have referred to curiosity as the “gateway” competency. After my chat with Dr. Ireland, and attending the CBEN conference, I’m thinking character may have pulled into a close second place.
With that I leave you with one of the character actions from "The Daily Undoing".
Best wishes in being better.